Monthly Archive for March, 2007

Parent Participation Key to Reform

The United States Senate and House of Representatives has just introduced the A-PLUS (Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success) bill to improve student achievement, March 15, 2007.

Unique to education reform, this bill, if passed would NOT mandate WHAT but HOW to bring about improvements. A-PLUS would give more decision-making power to parents and teachers at the local level. The introducer of the bill, Senator Cornyn from Texas said,

We must move education decision-making out of Washington closer to where it belongs—with parents and teachers. States should be given the flexibility to design educational programs that fit the local needs of individual districts, parents and children. This bill will reduce the bureaucratic red tape that often stands in the way of results, accountability and superior schools.”

For more information, please see:

Cornyn, March 15, and Cornyn Discusses Plan for Education Reform.

Stereotyping in Education

Stereotyping and discrimination in education concern the total school community. On Nov. 13, 1976 in Nanaimo, BC (Canada) a conference on the topic was sponsored by Malaspina Community College and the district teachers’ association.
[The following notes, though 31 years old, are posted here for two reasons: 1) to provide a historical record and snapshot of an area of concern in the 70’s, and 2) to assist in comparing past concerns and issues with current practice and climate.]
Tunya Audain, coordinator of Education Advisory, led the workshop on Beyond the Stereotype: Parent Participation in the Formal Education Process.
Q. Are there conditions in the formal education system that could be detrimental to the education of children, and which parents should know about, and take a part in correcting?
A. Yes. Parents should be concerned about the following:
1. teacher/school board collective bargaining
2. student suspensions
3. student records—labeling, mislabeling
4. vandalism, “disrupted” youth, alienated youth
5. stereotyping of parents
6. “innovations”, experiments, psychological and pseudo-psychological techniques
7. down-grading of the basic skills
8. absence of meaningful standards, evaluation, assessment
9. lack of parent participation in education
10. lack of long-range planning
11. inadequate educational and career counseling
12. teacher education unrelated to the realities of the classroom
13. poor information services, little two-way communication between system and consumers (parents, students, other public)
Q. What can parents do about their concerns? Are there opportunities where parents, teachers and other community members can get together on common concerns?
A. Yes. Here are a few areas where parents and others who care about children can develop positive routes to understanding and problem-solving:
1. Formation of parent and school advisory councils in every school
2. Useful information services, genuine two-way communication
3. Parents and other lay people involved in assessment procedures
4. Parents to be prepared (through materials, workshops, etc.) to participate meaningfully in discussions in each school
Q. What is the basic minimum each parent should expect NOW in their child’s school?
1. Easy, comfortable access to the child’s school, teacher and principal
2. All information the school has on the child; all information on the programs the child is in.
3. No negative effect or reprisals to the child because of parent’s involvement.
Q. Is there any evidence that there will ever be a shift toward a greater voice for parents in education and in the education of their children?
A. Yes, and the initiative is coming mainly from two thrusts—parents themselves and legislators. At least, that is the experience in the United States. The recent National Conference on Parent Involvement (Nov. 7-10, San Anselmo, California), which I attended, produced the following ground-breaking achievements:
1. A massive base of information, examples, networks, supporting parent involvement
2. The beginning of a list of influential people willing to be counted as supporting parent involvement—legislators, superintendents of education, trustees, senior educators, community leaders.
3. A permanent organization to promote future conferences, disseminate information and promote meaningful parent involvement
4. Adoption of a statement of principles supporting the inalienable right of parents to be involved in the education of their children and the community’s children
5. A call for:
Legislation and Policies supporting the principle that parents should be involved in the decisions that affect them and their children.
Information for all parents about their rights, services, options
Professional Responsibility to assist parents to serve as their children’s primary educators and advocates
Support for parents to obtain those skills and competencies required to carry out their parental obligations
Sense of Community to respect individual and cultural differences
6. A letter of protest to the National Education Association (the largest teacher union in the US) about their handbook, “The Teacher and Parent-Teacher Conferences which tends to stereotype parents as “Hostile, Aggressive Parents”, “Help-rejecting Complainers:”, “Overwhelmed”, etc.
7. The beginning of a Handbook for Children of Involved Parents to help children understand why their parents have to be involved on their behalf and that there may be problems in the school for them as a result, and how to deal with their concerns.

Education Choice #1 Parental Right

As we hear and read about school choice being the the answer to reforming education performance and satisfaction we need to be aware of some basics.

1. It has always been, except in totalitarian states, the duty of parents to educate their children.

    England: It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability, and aptitude, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. (Education Act, 1944)

    United States: The first School Laws in America (1642) underlie the system to this day: “Universal education of youth is essential to the well-being of the State. The obligation to furnish this education rests primarily upon the parents.”

    Canada: “The responsibility is placed by law upon the parents or guardian to educate their children.” (You and the Law, 1973)

    The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) support this parental duty.

    2. The public schools do have a statutory duty to provide a free education to all students whose parents choose to register them. However, it is made clear in all school law that parents are to be kept informed of the progress of the child. This information must be accurate and understandable to the parents so that they in turn can exercise their duty by supporting, augmenting, intervening or withdrawing from that school.

    3. Public schools serve a two-fold purpose: to assist parents in meeting their parental obligation in the education of their children and to serve the broader public interest in seeing that citizens are educated to a certain standard.

    4.School Acts should clearly reflect this intent and support parental duty.

    5.School Boards in private schools and in the past were representatives of the parents who had enrolled their children in a particular school. Now, that school boards have grown large and supervise immense numbers of children in many schools, are elected from a broad population and often represent vested interest groups, we can see how far they have strayed from their original mandate.

    6.Bureaucracies and complex channels of communication have grown to the point that the basic parent-child-teacher relationship has been so compromised that frustrated people are looking ever more seriously for alternatives.

    The above points start to explain the ever growing movements for choice, for vouchers, for parent involvement, for charter schools, for home education, for separation of school and state, etc.

    After Hurricane Katrina threw into disarray most of New Orleans’ school system, authorities decided to start rebuilding school opportunities with a clean slate. The January/February issue of “The Atlantic” has a 12 page article: by Amy Waldman that is worth reading:

    Katrina washed the slate clean, providing a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent public education.” The result was the fastest makeover of an urban school system in American history. …the neighborhood school had been banished–parents would have total freedom to choose which school their children would attend, no matter where they lived. Introducing school choice and weakening teachers’ unions had both long been goals of many educational reformers.

    Leslie Jacobs, a member of the state Board of Education, said:

    This is huge. What’s happening in New Orleans is turning into a national model on choice.”

    School Board president Phyllis Landrieu said:

    This is a cause for celebration. Students and parents have a very wide choice of options for selecting schools this year.”

Expansive Voucher Program to Start Fall 2007/Utah

The story in The Salt Lake City Tribune by Nicole Stricker

uses glowing terms to describe the signing into law of HB148, Utah’s new voucher bill:

  • “The watershed program rolls out in the fall”
  • “landmark school voucher bill”
  • “the nation’s most expansive voucher program”
  • “first-ever universal school choice program”
  • “Utah’s program dwarfs voucher programs in other states”

The funding for the program will come from general funds, not education funds, and will apply to “all incoming kindergartners, all current public school students and private school children from low-income families.” It will not apply to students already enrolled in private schools other than those of low-income. “The program will cost more each year until all private school students are using vouchers in 13 years.”

ELIGIBLE SCHOOLS: Must employ college-educated or skilled teachers, operate outside a residence, enroll at least 40 students and not discriminate based on race, color or national origin. They must give parents the results of a standardized test once a year and submit to a financial audit once every four years.”

The opening words of the bill state:

parents are presumed best informed to make decisions for their children, including the educational setting that will best serve their children’s interests and educational needs.”

PS: It’s a wonderful world when people who feel they are just a “voice in the wilderness” can communicate so readily with other like-minded people. Of course, this is due to that great invention, the Internet!

Not 12 minutes after I posted my first draft of the above message, the Technorati picked up this post:

Utah’s New School Voucher Program

Tammy Bruce by · 12 minutes ago ·

A post by Maynard This could turn out to be very important news, so it should be on your radar. Two weeks ago, Gov … at limited areas or limited applicants. Naturally, the opponents of vouchers are moving quickly … vouchers may go to schools with a religious orientation. (For the record, this issue was resolved long ago