Thursday, February 05, 2009

Parental Involvement

This morning during our collaborative meeting we discussed about another framework for teaching: Professional Development and Collaboration. Most teachers zeroed in on parental involvement as a major problem.

Why is it that only less than 10 parents show up during Parent's Night?
This is not something new to DCPS. I have heard and read in blogs of DCPS teachers the same stories with other schools. What is the problem?
Last November 11, 2008, I blogged about Homework and Parental Involvement. There were a couple of parents who responded to my entry and they both gave essential points that should be considered:
Parental involvement is a combination of commitment and active participation on the part of the parent to the school and to the student. There are many problems concerned with involvement. Many secondary schools simply do not know how to deal with the nontraditional family and the areas of concern that it represents. Parents feel unwelcomed at school, lack knowledge and education, and may not feel that education is important. The number of solutions that can be used to improve parental involvement are substantial. The most important of these, however, is for the teacher and the student to be totally committed. When these solutions are implemented the effects are great, especially for the student. Improved student achievement is the key objective. --M--

This next comment from a parent made me reflect for awhile; there are questions that concerns the entire school.

Congratulations on your success--and on your list of positive strategies for engaging parents. As a parent, I might add one more. Listen.
I tend to show up for whatever the school wants me to show up for, within reason (I balk at taking time off from work--especially with no notice in the middle of the day--especially if there are other options). But, I would say that seldom is there a good match between the needs that I am aware of and the offerings of the school, in short, a lot of time wasted.
I want to know things like--what is the school doing to improve achievement as a whole, or for special ed students as a group? There is a place for individual evaluation and problem solving, but when I look at poor scores across the board, I think that it is reasonable to know how the school sees this problem and what they are trying that is different. When teachers complain that they don't have training to deal with students who have special needs, I want to know how they are going to get that training. I truly believe that things will not improve for my child until they improve for all the children. I am willing to fight for that (write letters, go to the school board, etc)--but I cannot do it in an environment that says everything in the school is OK--they just need better students and parents.
So much of the parent involvement literature is aimed at fixing parents. I think that you have succeeded in operating out of a belief in fixing the relationship between parents and teachers--by focusing on positive messages, frequent communication, etc. Just know that you are swimming upstream. Many of us have been beaten by the school hammer many, many times. Just remember, every parent has a story. Listen to them. ---Anonymous---
Thank you so much for your insights, I learned a lot from both of you.
I am a parent of a child who used to be a DCPS student, now she's in Charles County Public Schools in MD and is successfully achieving with advanced scores in the MSA and benchmark assessments, high ambitions and goals in life. The school's scores in state assessments are soaring high across all areas including SPED and ESL.
My daughter was just an ordinary student who liked to skip doing homework and to watch TV when she was in DCPS (5 years ago before the Chancellor came in). I remember during one of our first PTCs when Rae was in Kindergarten when the teacher told us that my daughter was so lazy that she did not talk in class and when she called her to recite she did not know what to say. I'm sure this homeroom teacher knew that my daughter was an ELL student and just moved here from the Philippines. My husband was so furious when we left the school, and he never went back with me during PTCs. He wrote the principal a letter who replied that everything was fine.
What made my daughter reach her highest potential now? I know in my heart that it is her current school environment, the principal, the teachers and all the staff are very positive, they care for the students and believe in them, and they see us parents as partners with the education of our child. I feel their sincerity, and I believe most parents of the students in that school do feel that they are important like their child, so the school is very much supported. The school is very bright and vibrant, with many choices of clubs and extra curricular activities that are beneficial, and every classroom has all the resources that a child needs to be successful. It gives me a message that they are determined to help my child learn and become successful. My husband and I are really excited to attend PTCs and feel a little guilty when we miss the Parent's Night or any of the events for parents, they're so much fun for the whole family! Simple things like "Doughnuts with Dads" in the morning during breakfast in school, and "Math Nights" to discuss how to help with the BCRs and State Assessments review at home, mean a lot to parents like me.
This is I think what is missing. In my school, we're trying in the SPED Department. We had the 1st SPED Parent Workshop last October 2008 and we will do it again next year. I believe things are going to get better soon.
Training for special education teachers? One of the answers is getting in touch with people from the Council for Exceptional Children, they changed my life as a special educator.
More ideas for parental involvement?


Milton Keeps said...

Parents should be with their children as they grow up. Their presence helps in the development of their kids academically.


Dorit Sasson said...

A lot of parents dread phone calls from teachers because teachers often call when there is a problem and nothing more. I wonder why is that? As a teacher trainer, I tell my in-service students to call not only when there is a problem and to keep a poractive approach. This encouraged parents to show up to meetings more and more. So many parents really appreciated when I phoned to tell them that their son/daughter made wonderful progress at school. It can make such a difference.

Dorit Sasson
The New Teacher Resource Center
"Helping you Become a Successful and Confident Teacher"

Promethean Planet


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