Monthly Archive for September, 2007

Why are Parents Excluded from Schools?

Why are Parents Excluded from Schools?

Some reasons parents are excluded from schools are:

  1. Misdirected “Professionalism” – experts know best, “Don’t teach your children, we will have to unteach them.”
  2. Concealment – having a captive audience and a monopoly provides a cover for bureaucratic excesses and little accountability
  3. Political Agendas – a) Maybe the Capitalists are preparing obedient, regimented workers for factories, or  b) Maybe the Socialists are preparing compliant social beings who depend on the collective and are peer dependent, or c) Maybe Radicals want to use schools as vehicles for various reforms: to end racism, sexism or to provide sex education, peace education…..
 Such were some reasons for parent exclusion discussed at a meeting of conservatives, April 24, 1985 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. As a long-time parent advocate, I was asked to give the lead address to start the ball rolling. Present practices plus future policy directions were discussed.

Consequences of leaving the consumer (parents) out of decision-making were serious: dissatisfied parents and public, accountability is questionable, special needs students are damaged when parents cannot advocate on their behalf. 

 Improvements could be achieved through Competition, Alternatives and Choice. School-based decision-making could be adopted as means to provide relevancy and to include parents. Reform of education finance should see the education dollar follow the student through vouchers or tax credits and paid directly to the schools, not school boards.

School systems run by the education establishment were increasingly being seen as inefficient and ineffective. The words of Milton Friedman were recalled when he described the school systems as a Tyranny of the Status Quo, run by a troika of bureaucrats, educators, and politicians.

Have things changed much in 2007, even with mandated Parent Advisory Councils in BC  public schools?




Effective Schools Needed to Counteract Poverty

Recently, the teachings of Ruby Payne have surfaced on how to reach the "hard-to-reach", mainly poor kids in schools.  Below is my reply to this discussion:


Don’t blame the family, the kids, the neighborhood, the class system…..

If we want effective schools, let’s look at the schools.

In 1978, Ron Edmonds of Harvard University Grad School of Education put the term "Effective Schools" on the map with his speech, "Some Schools Work and More Can".

"We can, whenever, and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us.
"We already know more than we need, in order to do this.
"Whether we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.

His Checklist for Effective Schools:
1. Instructional Leadership – Principal an effective communicator, effective supervisor, the instructional leader.
2. Focused School Mission – General consensus by school community on goals, priorities, assessment, accountability. Mission statement specified and reviewed periodically.
3. Orderly Environment – Purposeful atmosphere, not oppressive, and is conducive to teaching/learning.
4. High Expectations – for students and staff. The belief is that students are capable and able to achieve: that teachers are capable and not powerless to make a difference.
5. Mastery of Basic Skills – In particular, basic reading, writing and math skills are emphasized with back-up alternatives available for students with special learning needs.
6. Frequent Monitoring of Results – Existence of a) means to monitor student progress in relationship to instructional objectives (with results easily conveyed to parents); b) means to monitor teacher effectiveness; and c) a system of monitoring school goals.
7. Meaningful Parent Involvement – Parents are kept well-informed re: programs, goals, etc. There is ample opportunity for them to keep in touch with their child’s progress. They are consulted for feedback about the school and when changes are foreseen. Parent-initiated contact with the school encouraged.
8. Avoidance of Pitfalls – Up-to-date awareness of good educational practice plus retaining currency in the field concerning promising and discredited practices. One of the cardinal characteristics of effective schools is that they are as anxious to avoid things that don’t work as they are committed to implementing things that do.

Reference: Social Policy, Mar/Ap’79, Ron Edmonds, "Some Schools Work and More Can"

Folks: That was 1978! How many casualties since? Why are we still re-inventing the wheel?

Tunya Audain

[Posted to Education Consumers Clearinghouse, Sept 17, 2007]