Monthly Archive for December, 2006

Resistance to Parent Involvement

WHY IS THERE RESISTANCE TO MEANINGFUL PARENT INVOLVEMENT?

Resistance to meaningful parent involvement in schools is very wide-spread. This is so despite long-standing conclusive proof that parent involvement is beneficial both to individual students and overall school performance.

Barriers

1) school system unwillingness to have to parent involvement

2) existing parent groups conveying the impression of involvement;

3) natural shyness of parents and their feeling that they are “interfering”.
With respect to NO. 2 there are Plenty of suggestions in this guide which will help parent groups become more meaningfully involved in the educational quality matters in the school. As for the shyness of parents this can be overcome with the development of suitable opportunities for parents to be involved and with the recognition that parent involvement is a necessity, not an ‘interference’ in achieving educational goals.

With regard to No. 1, school system unwillingness, some of the following analyses will help us understand, and perhaps deal with, this unfortunate situation. (Unfortunate, because it is still the rare experience in North America where a school has a high level of meaningful parent involvement.)
1. Education used to be Part of a community process, with participation of such diverse “teachers” as churches, family, apprenticeship programs, schools, town meetings, etc. Then, 200 years ago, a movement arose to promote free, universal public school education. Well intended though it was, it conveyed the notion that education was something that occurred in a school, with certified teachers, between certain hours of the day. Education became segregated from the community and localized in schools. This narrow view of education tends to limit parent input.

2. Teachers have struggled hard and long to obtain professional status and now jealously guard their rights. Their training and their milieu reinforces their image of being experts in a field of work that only qualified people can do. Many do not take kindly to the notion of participatory strategies that include students and Parents. Sharing educational responsibility with parents is often seen by teachers as an intrusion on their professional domain.

3. Teachers unions, on the whole, have not been behind parent involvement. Donald Myers, in his book Teacher Power: Professionalization and Collective Bargaining sums it up this way: Citizens seek to enlarge their control of schools. This movement comes at the same time that teachers seek increased autonomy from lay control. Thus, laymen and teachers are on a collision course, the final determination of which is uncertain.” Teacher unions, in their efforts to secure teacher power, portray parents as another “boss” in a field of already too many bosses.

4. Many efforts are made to water-down parent involvement. One way is to call it community involvement and some community schools have been known to absorb an active parent group into their activities–activities which may even use public school funds for organizing racial, recreation and education programs for adults. Resistance to genuine parent involvement in schools sometimes takes the route of creating “busy-work” or diverting parent efforts to periphery activities.

6. Some educators feel that they are in a unique position to serve as change agents and that schools should become the primary means for social reform. One “community school” in England aimed to bring about radical change, but after an extensive public inquiry several teachers were dismissed as having strong radical convictions. Parents, on the whole, were excluded in this school. (See Education Advisory 67, pg. 11.). Parents are often viewed as “conservative” and a hindrance to those who wish to use the schools for social change. “We need to achieve for children what their parents want for them.”
-Shirley Hufrtedler, United States Secretary of Education, 1979

Education Abuse

EDUCATIONAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN

Raised awareness helps us see that children’s interests must be protected wherever they are. The schools have their share of practices which hurt children, and parents can be on the alert for these and intervene when needed.

EXPERIMENTATION

One parent group in the United States actually formed to eliminate drug research on children in schools. There are other experiments, sometimes called innovations, pilot projects, etc. anything new which has not been in your school before should have safeguards built in so that children are not used, either for half-baked amateurish efforts or major shifts in educational practice without the public knowing. Two key documents on human experimentation apply as much to schools as they do elsewhere: Nuremberg Code and the Declaration of Helsinki.(l) The key things to look for are:

1) informed consent of all subjects (if children, parents provide the consent)–informed consent means knowledge of the objectives, methods, expertise being applied;

2) there are fruitful results for the good of the group (not obtainable by other means);

3) all prior knowledge brought to bear (pitfalls, problems, improvements from previous experiences taken into account);

4) avoid physical and mental suffering and injury;

5) ability to leave the experiment at any time,

6) safeguarding the integrity of the individual, especially if the subject is in a dependent relationship as in a teacher-student relationship.
HOMEWORK ABUSE

In the recent ‘back-to-the-basics’ trend many teachers are assigning increased homework because they think that’s what parents think ‘back-to-the-basics’ means. Not only are these teachers misreading what parents want, but their homework assignments are taking on a punitive tone. Some of the errors being committed in the name of homework are: overloading, thoughtless or poorly explained assignments, assignments not marked, all students given the same assignments regardless of student’s competence, class follow-up on the assignment done in a way to turn-off students. There is no excuse for homework abuse. There is abundant literature for teachers to know what are good and bad homework practises.

“MILKING” THE EDUCATIONAL DOLLAR

At one time it was easy to show that 100% of the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education dollar was spent on behalf of students K:12. Now, it is harder to justify some of the spending when some of the following are charged: education and social and recreation programs for adults; trustee and officials’ trips to distant locations; memberships for staffs in a myriad of professional organizations ….Without proper monitoring and awareness more and more of the educational dollar will be diverted at the expense of educational programs for children (for whom the money was collected. Accountability, unfortunately is still more theory than practice.

FAILURE TO TEACH FOR COMPETENCE

It is known that most children can be taught the basics of most school subjects. It should be a minor scandal that the methods of mastery teaching are being resisted for inconsequential reasons. It is becoming abundantly clear that citizens need a foundation of basic skills and knowledge on which to continue further learning and active citizenship throughout their lives. Educationally handicapping practices which fail to remediate and educate all children in the basics should not be tolerated.

EXCLUDING PARENTS FROM EDUCATIONAL PLANNING

There is ample proof that parent involvement in education improves both educational and social development of children. Failure to work in partnership with the home handicaps the child’s educational potential.
(1) The Test Score Decline, L. Lipritz, Educ. Technology Pub., 1977 (section on “I Don’t Want My Kid to Be a Guinea Pig” page 128)

(2) Positive Mental Health for Teachers, J. Mackiel, March 1979 The Clearinghouse

(3) How One School District Handles Unsatisfactory Teachers. Better Homes and Gardens, Nov. 1979 page 23

Public Education: An Autopsy

This book was written in 1993 by Myron Lieberman but I do not know its track record since publication. Has it been well reviewed? Has it had any effect on education reform in the US or elsewhere? I need to contact some people, maybe the testimonial people or the publishers. I will review it after I read it.

The book jacket says:

This is the book that professional educators will love to hate. More important, I believe it will be a book that policy makers will read widely. -James W. Guthrie, Univ. of California, Berkeley

Education Reform or Futile Exercise?

When the heat is on, governments will often mount in inquiry, or task force, or Royal Commission, or whatever! We’ve seen lots of these in Canada so that an OECD Report in 1976 commented:

These largely seem to be pro forma exercises.

In 1984 in British Columbia it was announced we would have an “overhaul”.

My letter to the editor was published in the Vancouver Sun, Dec. 3, 1984

Vested interests lead ‘education overhaul’

The “education overhaul” to be undertaken by the ministry of education (Nov. 29, Sun) should really be seen, not as some meaningful exercise, but “business as usual”.
Let the public beware. The 12 member review committee is composed entirely of people with a vested interest in defending the status quo in our school system. They wrote the discussion paper and will also sit in on hearings. It’s more like the foxes guarding the chicken coop than some independent process!
The same old “family compact” that is responsible for bringing education to its present state is now to sit in judgment on public input. How can it avoid being defensive and unbiased?
Not only that, but yesterday and today the troika of power-wielders have been meeting at the Hotel Vancouver to plan schedules, materials, and formats for this public discussion. Who are the 250 people called together to decide on the ground rules? Why, the chairpersons of school boards, the school superintendents, and teacher union leaders!
Milton Friedman in his book The Tyranny of the Status Quo said the iron triangle (composed of those who have a vester interest, that is, petty politicians, bureaucrats, and beneficiaries) is the cause of most of the problems in our social services.
In eduction the iron triangle is composed of the trustees, the superintendents and other school board and ministry officials, and the beneficiaries who are those who get the paycheque, the teachers. The intended beneficiaries–the parents and students–are effectively excluded in such a system.
And whatever fights and differences the public may hear among the three “protectors” are but a cruel illusion. They are only jockeying within their sweetheart arrangements of power-sharing. They are, of course, unified in their opposition to the public, the parents, and students having any meaningful voice in education matters.
Let’s beware this latest exercise in “democracy”. It looks like a trap to me.

Tunya Audain

Abolish School Boards

Press Release April 24, 1985

A parents rights advocate today called for the dismantling of the school board system as one way to help youth better prepare for the future. Mrs. Audain, Co-ordinator of an advocacy service for parents said school boards have become irrelevant to education and in fact were an obstacle to meeting student needs. By being a buffer between parents and their schools, school boards prevented alienated parents from their duty to obtain the best education for their children.

Mrs. Audain said with the removal of school boards, parents would then sit on the managing boards of individual schools and would achieve far greater responsiveness than the present arm’s length system now in place. The school board is a totally unnecessary level of government, which is not only expensive and over-administered but also susceptible to partisan politics and captive of many vested interest groups such as teacher unions.

Parents are told to leave education to the experts but those who feel they should be involved too often are made to feel inadequate and unwelcome. With this hands-off attitude, parents become deskilled in their competencies and the cumulative effect is that parents fail to be useful resources to their children in career planning, character-building and employment seeking. “Parents cannot take their meaningful role in supervising their children’s education as long as we have this colonial structure called school boards telling parents what’s best for them” says Mrs. Audain.