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Parental Involvement

The Public Education Network‘s email last week included several stories on the impact of parental involvement. Below are excerpts from PEN’s NewsBlast.

Do High School Students Need The Support Of Their Parents To Achieve?(PDF)

"To the 3,883 Lexington, KY Public School teens polled by the Youth News Team — an intrepid group of local students and parents seeking to amplify the voices of young people in education policy discussions — the answer is obvious: 69 percent of them said they believe that most high school students do not need their parents to help them do well in school. But although it may not be readily apparent to the students themselves, a large body of evidence suggests that parent involvement can improve high school achievement and behavior and directly influence a student’s grades. So what’s to explain this disconnect between high school students’ perceptions and the research? Consider some survey highlights: 69% of students with a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher (equivalent to a B-plus) report having parents who regularly help them select classes; Students with GPAs of at least 3.5 are nearly twice as likely to report having parents who sometimes or frequently attend school events as students with GPAs below 2.0 (equivalent to a C); and 61% of students with GPAs over 3.5 report sitting down with their families three or more times per week for dinner. The sense that there is an important, though difficult-to-define place for parents in high schools was underscored poignantly by the comment that students want parents to be involved, not too involved. One senior offered encouraging advice for parents navigating their relationships with adolescents, "Be a little nosey…Don’t feel bad for asking questions, because it feels good to know someone cares."" Read the original article.

Pushy Parents Raise More Succesful Kids

"Children of pushy parents are more likely to excel in high school, graduate from college and grow into young adults who are happier with their lives and more prosperous in their careers. The findings of the latest survey of Michigan’s culture of education blow to bits the philosophy of laissez-faire child-rearing that’s the hallmark of Baby Boomer parents, writes Nolan Finley. The prevailing attitude is that children should be nudged, not pushed; nurtured, not nagged; encouraged to find their own way in an environment of low pressure and low expectations. But that doesn’t produce nearly the results as a firm hand on the shoulder and the parental command of, "Go this way." Few children are getting that sort of direction from their parents, according to the Your Child survey of Michigan residents aged 18-30, conducted by EPIC-MRA. Only 30 percent of the young adults say their parents insisted on them going to college. Young adults who are most content with both life and work are the ones whose parents and teachers helped them to set goals. Few got that kind of help, however. Many indicated they trudged through high school without a care and without a clue. They couldn’t make the connection between their classes and their future. Parents didn’t talk to them enough about the value of education, the survey found, didn’t start the conversation about college early enough and weren’t forceful enough in discussing best choices." Read the original story.

Rethinking Parent Conferences

"In most districts, parent participation in conferences drops off significantly in middle school and high school. In this teacher’s rural district, about 85 percent of kindergarten parents signed up for the spring conferences, but only a handful of 12th-grade parents attended — mostly to discuss their kids’ college plans. Even when parents show up, reports Susan Black, they’re not necessarily satisfied. In a study by Boston’s family literacy project, several parents said schools should make meetings longer, ensure privacy, provide options for attending during the day or in the evening, and hold conferences more than twice a year. Why do some parents, particularly those with children in the upper grades, avoid parent-teacher conferences? Shelley Billig of RMC Research Corp. gives three reasons: (1) Middle schools often put less effort than elementary schools into forging strong school-family partnerships; (2) Communication at the middle level tends to be one-way, mainly from principals and teachers to parents and often dealing with students’ poor academic progress and discipline problems; and (3) Middle school students often discourage their parents from attending parent-teacher conferences and from being visibly involved in school activities. Economic and social realities are also to blame in some single parent families and with non-English speaking parents." Read the full article on ASBJ’s website.

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55 Comments:

  • 1 NYC Educator
    · Nov 11, 2005 at 3:54 pm

    Parental involvement is one of the very best predictors of student success (or lack thereof). If NYC parents were more involved, Bloomberg and his predecessors would never have gotten away with the 30-year degradation of what was once the very best school system in this state, and a model for the world.

    Rudy’s policy of reducing city aid by precisely whatever amount the state increased it was particularly charming, as was his proposal that welfare recipients be forced to work in public schools. Apparently, Sir Rudy felt those chronically unable to find work were adequate role models for the 1.1 million kids in NYC schools. And why not? His kids went to private school.

    Suburban parents insist on good teachers and small classes, and there’s hell to pay when things go otherwise. NYC, interested only in paying as little as possible for anyone available, resorts to 800 numbers, job fairs, and intergalactic searches to meet its already reduced standards, and often fails even at that.

  • 2 Chaz
    · Nov 11, 2005 at 5:09 pm

    I hope nycparent sees this article since it gets right to the point. If the parents don’t care, the children won’t care, no matter what the teacher does.

  • 3 nycparent
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 11:50 am

    I’ve been waiting for any teacher to actually take note of this. Doesn’t seem as popular a subject as all the ways the contract stinks. NYC schools, teachers included, do everything possible to keep parents un-involved in kids education. Parents not allowed upstairs in classrooms, no email addresses for teachers, 10 minute parent teacher conferences, no responses to written notes, terrible communication about testing outcomes and expectations. This is systemwide. You are dealing with parents who are struggling to survive and make a living and there are multiple barriers to involvement. Teachers say parents dont care but that is baloney. God forbid i question curriculum or why the science teacher has an arts background but I will keep making cookies. It’s easy to blame parents but the blame for lack of involvement starts at the school. The environment is parent hostile.

  • 4 Chaz
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    nycparent:

    You are partially correct. DOE does not like our email addresses given out to students and because of safety reasons, parents are not allowed to walk the halls without permission. However, the rest of your complaint is without merit.

    First, I encourage parent communication and call back when contacted.

    Second, I wish more parents would question the cirriculum, the micro-managment, and the DOE mindless Professional Development that does not help the teacher or the student.

    Third, If you have an art teacher doing science then complain to DOE & Bloomberg who cannot attract good teachers because of the cheap and inadequate contracts they impose on the teaching staff. Don’t you think if you paid a good salary, there would be a science teacher teaching science?

    Fourth, I expect ALL MY STUDENTS TO PASS THE REGENTS!!! I meet one-on-one with my students during my lunch period to discuss with them their academic issues and encourage them to take control of their life, not the other way around. Things parents should be telling their teenagers!

    Fifth, the environment is not parent hostile., Parents are encouraged to contact the teacher or join the PTA. I coach two girls’ sports and rarely do parents show up to watch their children play…even in the playoffs!! AND THESE ARE THE MOTIVATED STUDENTS!!!!

    i THOUGHT WE WERE ON THE SAME WAVELENGTH (A SCIENCE TERM) ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE THE EDUCATION OF NYC STUDENTS BUT IT LOOKS LIKE YOU JOINED THE PROPOGANDA OF BLOOMBERG/KLEIN WHICH WILL ONLY RESULT IN POOR EXPECTATIONS.

    I hope your cookies taste good?

  • 5 Schoolgal
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 2:53 pm

    I don’t know if NYCParent is on the School Leadership Team or involved in PA activities. The SLT reviews the Safety Plan which is co-signed by the PA President. No parent is allowed to interrupt a teacher during class time and must have an appointment to see a staff member. This is to ensure the safety of all. Were you ever part of the PASS Review?

    I have made myself available before school hours to meet with parents as well as on my prep period. Most parents appreciate the early meeting due to work schedules. I have already met with 10 parents before Parent/Teacher Conferences.
    Those that cannot meet during school time are contacted by phone.

    If the teachers at your child’s school refuse to respond to your notes, then contact the Parent Coordinator. As for the credentials of the Science Teacher–do NOT blame that on the teachers.

    Standards and curriuculum are posted on-line both by the State and the DOE. Under Princeton Review, you can instantly see how your child did on the assessments as well as on the papers your child bring home. Notes are attached regarding areas that need to be addressed.

    Our PA even runs a babysitting service during meetings and still the turnout is low. Our school has tried Storytelling Night, Science Night and Holiday Sales.
    Notices are sent home in more than one language. We even offer workshops, but still get a low turnout. If you have any positive suggestions to make regarding these concerns, you have yet to do so.

    Most teachers I know would love to see more parent involvement. But you seem more of a complainer than a parent who wants to work in a collaborative manner with your child’s teachers.

  • 6 nycparent
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    Schoolgal, hello I’d like to welcome you to earth. Going to the parent coordinator would be a fabulous idea but here on earth, our parent coordinator does not return phone calls unless he is asking for a favor or volunteer. Do you hear the jokes around parent circles about the parent coordinator role? Ours certainly would never go to a teacher on behalf of a parent. Here on earth, we have never gotten the log-in info for princeton review ( and by the way, many other schools are in the same boat) after multiple parents have demanded. Finding meaningful curriculum and standards in an understable format on the DOE site is a total joke for the average parent of an nyc student. I absolultely have suggestions. I’m not asking for parents to barge in during class time, I am asking for their to be time before and after school for routine communications. Every teacher is given an email address but the UFT won’t allow them to be used at our school, even against the insistence of our principal. Teachers need to reach out to parents. They need to try to understand family dynamics. No one is going to show up to a PTA meeting when they feel disenfranchised and intimidated. I would absolish the use of stupid acronyms. Do you ask parents if they have read the “Pass Review”? How many other meaningless acronyms do you toss around without thinking about it? You think most parents know a darn thing about what Princeton Review is doing? You think parents are getting feedback about the tests. Someday when space travel is cheaper, I will make sure to visit your planet. Finally, about the “complainer” comment, after reading edwize for the past months, I’d say teachers “seem more of complainers than people who want to work in a collaborative manner with the child’s parent and the school administration.” Hi Pot, I’m the Kettle.

  • 7 Schoolgal
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    Still not one good suggestion from you.

    I already told you my school meets with parents before school, as well as makes telephone calls, yet you seem to ignore that. You haven’t answered the main questions: How have you served your school? I never asked you to read the PASS Review, I asked if you served on one.
    It’s unfortunate that your Parent Coordinator is not from this planet. My school has a fabulous one.

    Many of my students already knew that Prineton Review log on before I even handed out the new forms. Last year, I even made time during lunch to review it with the class computer for those who did not have access at home or who could not get to a library. My parent coordinator even offered her computer too.

    I asked if you could make suggestions, which you haven’t. So again:
    Why don’t you list a few ways teachers can reach out to parents besides getting hold of our personal email addresses. I get the feeling on your planet we should be available to you 24-7.

    It must irk you that both teachers and parents at my school do try to reach out because you only have put-downs for all that we do, and I only gave a partial lisitng.

  • 8 NYC Educator
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 4:25 pm

    I frequently contact parents. On test days, if I have a phone, I’ll call the homes of the kids who do not show up while the other kids are taking the test. I have few absentess on test days.

    Without home caontact, I would be unable to do my job. Every one of my kids knows that problems in my class will reach home, and if they speak Farsi, so will the voice calling home. I strongly, actively encourage beginning teachers I meet to contact parents.

    I am available to see any parent who wishes to see me, and so are the overwhelming majority of my colleagues. Those who’d avoid such responsibilities are, more often than not, corralled by supervisors who compel them to do so anyway.

    As a parent, I do not hesitate to contact my child’s teachers, when necessary. If I ever encountered a teacher who did not wish to meet with me, I’d contact that person’s supervisor, and that person’s supervisor, and so on, until I got the meeting I needed.

    I take it very seriously when teachers contact me about my daughter, and so do the majority of parents I contact about their children.

  • 9 Chaz
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    nycparent:

    Let me remind you that the DOE not the UFT discouages the use of giving out the teacher’s email address. If I remember correctly your principal comes from the leadership academy and has little, if any classroom experience. Of course your principal insists that students (widgets) have the teachers (worker drones) email addresses. Since your principal (CEO) thinks the school is a business. Well schools are not a business, it is a learning institution where students are not there voluntarily and good teachers are innovative, not appropriate for the business model. The sooner you get this, the better you can understand what it is like to be in a school.

    By the way, the parent coordinator is useless in my school as well. This position was a creation of the Bloomberg administration and I don’t see you complaining to Bloomberg about it?

    PS. Why don’t you suggest to your principal that he/she should give out his email address to all the students and parents and let’s see what happens?

  • 10 Schoolgal
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 4:59 pm

    Hi NYCEd,

    It seems to me that NYCParent does not want to hear that we do indeed contact parents. And you are right, she does have other outlets like the administration all the way up to Klein.
    However she really doesn’t put her finger on the actual problem. Is it just her or other parents? If other parents, then she yields much power. How dare she insist that all parent do not get the Princeton log on data when I just told her my school hands that information out.
    Klein spent $6 million on that program. That alone would be good enough reason for her to contract him directly.

    Also we have told her that we make early morning appointments and well as nightly telephone conferences, but that does not seem to quell her appetite for complaints.
    At this point, I’m not going to mention our afterschool program that runs 5 days a week til 6pm. It’s a big hit with working parents.

  • 11 NYC Educator
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 5:13 pm

    I gotta admit, I don’t even know what the Princeton Log on data is.

    But I’m very open to parents who contact me.

    Aside from open school, I can’t remember the last time one did.

  • 12 Schoolgal
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 5:44 pm

    Every parent receive a web address and password info. To log in, you type the students full name and OSIS #.

    I’m surprised you did not receive one last year when your daughter was in 3rd grade–unless your wife has it.

    You then get to see how your child responded to all answers on both Reading and Math. When an answer is incorrect, you click it and an explanation comes up.

    It also provides parents with extra help in areas of concern. For example: Main Idea, Decimals, Division, etc.

    It’s also a great tool for teachers because not only do we see the results, but we are able to make up assessments from the site itself.

    If you want more info, let me know and I will contact you from your blog site.

    I had forgotten that NYCParent has a Leadership principal. If that is the case, why is she having all these communication problems when she has open access to the new principal? Also, why did this leadership principal place a teacher out of their license area? I was a member of SLT for 2 years. Some schools meet early morning, some after school depending on the availability of the membership. I also served on the Safety Committee, Pass Review, and C-30 (which met at 6:30 pm at the District Office).

    In our PA’s monthly newspaper to parents (forgot to mention that one) websites are included. Each grade, cluster, OTP, administrators and our Parent Coordinator contribute to this publication. Of course NYCParent will find fault with this too.

  • 13 jd2718
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 5:54 pm

    I wish more Chapter Leaders discouraged the use of the DoE e-mail accounts. They are not private; the DoE can look at your e-mails.

    People say they can use them just for DoE business, but most people forget, or in business correspondence introduce a little personal exchange and…

    I have to use the DoE account (I am my school’s programmer as well as chapter leader) and it is hard to keep straight. If you don’t absolutely need to use it….

    Jonathan

  • 14 NYC Educator
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 6:36 pm

    One of my colleagues sat in the rubber room for three months for emailing a student on a regular email account.

    So there are good and bad sides–the DOE monitored accounts are actually better if you need to email a student or parent, I think, because they are 100% verifiable.

  • 15 Schoolgal
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    I don’t think the issue is the email as much as NYCParent wants access on her terms. On her post she claims she wants answers to curriculum questions, yet on a previous post I recall her not attending her school’s curriculum night conference.
    She also complained about the number of notices that go home each night. That may be true because I always find new notices to hand out each day in my mailbox. But, that doesn’t excuse her from not taking the 5 minutes to review what should be read and what can be set aside each day. That is the responsibility of the parent.

    Do you really trust she will use the email judiciously when she finds nothing but fault on how my school tries to reach out? Just how long should a teacher spend on answering emails at home? Also, I know of many teachers who do not use or have a computer at home. And, that is their right.

    Notes that are sent home are signed by the parent–that makes it verifiable too.

    Will there come a time when teachers are forced to answer all emails on their personal time along with the paperwork we already take home? Lunch duty and dinner duty!

  • 16 Chaz
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    How confusing,

    DOE discourages us from using the email account with the students but the administrators want the teacher to have an email account available to the classes? Boy am I confused?

    For the record, I do not give my school or private email account to the students. However, infrequently, I use the school email to send information to my captains on the sports team I coach (example game changes). My chapter leader has no opinion on this and does not use the school email at all.

    It is disturbing that DOE monitors our school email but I only use it for school related reasons. For all other reasons I use my private email account.

  • 17 Schoolgal
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 8:05 pm

    Just so you know, it’s time to change your DOE email password again.

  • 18 institutional memory
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    Without taking sides on this issue – and I won’t – it’s interesting that NYC Parent disappeared from the discourse as soon as the replies weren’t what (s)he expected. Why am I not surprised?

  • 19 nycparent
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 11:29 pm

    Sorry all. I was passive parenting. Wizard of Oz Night! Wow, the parent involvement story finally has some interest from teachers. This is great OK -let’s take it from the top. 1) For the 100th time, I am an active slt, pta, cookie-baking, teacher supporting parent so I speak with some level of understanding and knowledge. I know almost 100% of the teachers in our building on a first name basis and have supported them on many issues. Again, it doesn’t help with your broad dismissing of my views but that’s the truth 2) Our leadership academy principal is new and is trying to overturn and overcome years of incompetence. I won’t get into the dynamics of previous years but let’s just say the teachers were more than grateful that I am a “complainer” 3) i am not accusing schoolgal of not meeting with parents. Teachers meet with parents. I am saying that for non-involved parents, the environment is not welcoming. It doesn’t set up many opportunities to communicate, outside of problems.Also, sounds like princeton review log-on info happens at schoolgal’s school but don’t generalize. It is not happening consistently and that is my point. 4)Regarding parent meetings, there are always parents like nyc educator and I that will seek out the teachers. I am talking about teachers reaching out first to parents. Proactive, not reactive. I know you will have some examples but I am telling you in my experience that proactive reach out is not the norm. How many times per year do you communicate with parents about the individual child, outside of problems? My experience says not enough. 5) i have sent more than my share of emails to joel klein and bloomberg about their bad policies. As I have stated before, I am equally upset with both parties. Parent Coordinators for one are a ridiculous idea. They are a pawn of the principal. 5) our principal’s email address is broadcast everywhere. He answers email over weekends and at night. However, parents should not have to involve principal’s about their child’s learning. 6)School notes are the baseline of communication. Some make it home and some don’t. We never ever get notices about testing dates in advance. I never know what I am missing, unless I keep reaching out. 7) So i guess from the response, communication is great and there is nothing else you can do. All these many many parents who don’t show up at parent teacher conferences are all crack addicts and there is absolutely nothing you could do different do change the dynamic. I don’t understand why everyone is such defenders of the status quo. It’s not working.

  • 20 nycparent
    · Nov 13, 2005 at 11:31 pm

    instutional memory, the replies were exactly as expected

  • 21 institutional memory
    · Nov 14, 2005 at 7:21 am

    Ah, yes.

  • 22 NYC Educator
    · Nov 14, 2005 at 3:45 pm

    I’m not altogether sure parent coordinators can make that much difference. With thousands of kids in a building, one person can just go so far. Certainly the teachers and counselors know the kids better, and are probably better equipped to help them.

    Communication is a two way street, and either parents or teachers can take the initiative, or choose not to. I reach out when I think I can make a difference.

    And I’ll say again, any parent can contact me about anything, and I’ll meet or speak with that parent. I think it’s the least I can do. I’d be very surprised to see my colleagues, good, bad, or otherwise, avoiding parents who wished to see them.

    Still, I’m sorry to hear about NYC parent’s negative experiences.

  • 23 institutional memory
    · Nov 14, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    nycparent wrote:

    “So i guess from the response, communication is great and there is nothing else you can do. All these many many parents who don’t show up at parent teacher conferences are all crack addicts and there is absolutely nothing you could do different do change the dynamic.”

    Kinda sums it all up, don’t you think?

  • 24 mshalo18
    · Nov 14, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    nycparent seems to perceive us all as lowly public servants without lives of our own, ready, willing, and able to be at the beck and call of the parents 24/7. I send home notes, progress reports, and make phone calls to parents on a regular basis. If your child fails to give you a note, then the problem is the communication between you and your child, not your child’s teacher and you. Sorry, but I am NOT responding to parent e-mails from my home computer every evening. I DON’T owe my every waking moment to the DOE. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but that’s simply the way it is. I give my students 110% every single day. I saw 40 out of 120 parents this afternoon, and I can practically guarantee the other 80 aren’t showing up Thursday night. As far as the “environment not being welcoming”- what exactly would you have us do? Phone and extend a personal invitation to every parent that doesn’t generally show up for parent-teacher conferences?

  • 25 CityTeacher
    · Nov 14, 2005 at 7:23 pm

    I know exactly what NYCparent wants, she wants constant attention and reassurance. I know a lot like her. They love to complain to the wrong people about things beyond anyone’s control and equate loudness with being right. The log I keep with parent contacts is several pages long. My colleagues and I beg parents to contact us and come in, only a few do. This is, apparantly, somehow our fault. And if anyone thinks that I’m giving my e-mail to 150 kids they’re crazy. Give up trying to talk sense to NYCparent, she just loves to be miserable and is only happy when she thinks that teachers are against her. A shame.

  • 26 Schoolgal
    · Nov 14, 2005 at 9:57 pm

    Now she says she is involved with the PA, but she stated earlier she felt disenfranchised by PA meetings. Which is it? (and I didn’t make up the acronyms).
    When I tell her my PA tries hard to reach out, she only finds fault in their attempts. What ideas have you tried to implement to get parents to show up at PA meetings?

    As for being proactive, I always contact parents early in the year if I feel the student is struggling with the material.
    Why is that so wrong? Should I also arrange for early morning meetings (on my personal time) to tell parents what a wonderful job their child is doing? No, they see that from my post-it comments on their work.

    Today was parent conference afternoon and evening (we do it all in one day). Am I to believe that the parents who did not show up are on crack? That’s a pretty disgusting remark to make about the parents in her school. However, the reality is there are some parents who do not take an interest in their children’s education.

    The best part of today was when a student agreed with my assessment over a behavior situation instead of his mother’s. She was trying to place the blame on someone else, and he had to tell her that he bares responsiblility too. For years this parent has been finding fault with everyone but her son. Finally, he set his mother straight!

    Oh, if you want information about the curriculum–show up for the curriculum conference!

  • 27 nycparent
    · Nov 14, 2005 at 10:44 pm

    Please read carefully schoolgal. I did not say “I” am disenfranchised. I am saying some of the reasons parents don’t go to meetings is because they are disenfranchised from the system. Regarding the crack statement, that was called hyperbole. It is a literary technique. Also, funny you should mention the PTA. We are constantly struggling and trying new ideas to bring in parents. We actually take some responsibility and worry about this as a problem. For instance, we are trying phone chains (at night from home- gasp!) and buddy systems. I guess we could throw up our hands and blame it on those parents who don’t attend, but we know that parental involvement is SO crucial to kids success and we feel compelled to try something. It sure would be easy to just say we do enough though. Sounds like there are labels for parents who demand too much and labels for parents who don’t do enough. There seems to be a pretty strict set of rules for parental involvement.

  • 28 Jackie Bennett
    · Nov 14, 2005 at 10:50 pm

    (This one’s long, I’m sorry)
    It’s a funny thing about parental involvement, speaking personally, at least. Both of my parents were teachers. They could not have cared less about my grades. After grade school, they only attended teacher conferences if I dragged them, and they always got me to the winter concerts twenty minutes into the festivities, so that my most distinct memories of chorus all involve slipping onto the stage when the song was half way through. When the teachers tried to skip me a grade in first grade, my parents refused, saying, “Leave her alone, she’s just a little kid,” and when the school had the brilliant idea of sending me to some summer enrichment program for gifted kids (me and every other kid, probably), they told me I’d be nuts if I attended. That was in third grade. And every year, when June came around, my mother would pick me up on the last day of school and say, “Thank God that’s over, now I have you home with me again. Let’s go to the beach.”

    And yet, my parents were deeply involved in my education. I’d step onto the patio, or into the den, and my father would be there reading, so I’d pick up my book. He wasn’t reading so that I would read, of course; he was just reading because he liked to read. It was what he did, and so it became what I did. And then he would put down the book and talk to me about it, not because he wanted me to learn something but because he liked talking and he liked ideas. And my mother? Same thing, when she got around to sitting down.

    The reading was everywhere and all the time, and the trips to the library were ritual. But there was another thing they did that was just as important for my education. And that is this: they ate dinner with me every night. Well, not just with me, of course. I have two brothers and a sister, and there was a live-in grandfather, too. No one listened at dinner, but everyone talked, and it was loud and raucous and mostly it was about politics, and sometimes there were fights, and once or twice my sister left the table crying because my father would tease her about her hair and say she looked like Elizabeth Barrett Browning. No one was trying to educate me, but it was happening anyway because I was spending an awful lot of time in the presence of adults. There were ideas flying about the table, and I heard about the wider world, the world of my father’s war experiences in China, and of my mother’s memories; there was something besides being ten year’s old. And, maybe even more important, there were so many words at dinner, thousands of words, millions of words, and I heard them all in complex sentence. No one had to do a word wall and a share out – I got it all at home, and education, like the words, was (to use some pedagogy parlance) embedded in the text.

    To my mind, my education has always been the greatest gift my parents gave me, but they only rarely took a step inside my schools.

    Can everyone get that kind of education? No. I was lucky (or at least I think I was). Although I do sometimes see my own mother and father in the attitudes of the parents that I meet, it’s a rare thing, indeed. Many parents – -even when they share my parents’ inclinations to learn– are overwhelmed by their own lives. They are learning a new language, or working midnight shifts, or they are dealing with dying parents, or divorce, or illness. Life happens. It doesn’t stop just because a baby’s born.

    But my point is this: It’s not so much concern about our children’s education we need to worry about, as concern about our own. Do we have curious and restless minds? If not, why should our children? If parents look on education as cod liver oil – nasty medicine they are loathe to take themselves; if parents mistake grades for education, and see college acceptance as the appropriate commodity to add to the big house and the fancy car, and the flat-screened TV they spend most of their day in front of, then it isn’t really education that they’re after, and access to the schools (important as that is) might not make much difference in the end.

    None of that is to say parents shouldn’t be involved. I love to see parents at school. Everyone has my email – all my kids, and any parent who wants it. I even give it out on open school night. I’m just wondering if the best involvement doesn’t take place right in the house.

    I leave you with an anecdote about my mom. Always chary of ambition, my parents teased my brother endlessly, because he had this thing where he wanted to be at the top of the class all the time. My mother would say, “What are you, money mad?” She equated the grade chase with the future money chase, and turned her back.

    I didn’t agree with my mother over much in the 44 years I knew her. But I certainly agreed with her on that.

  • 29 nycparent
    · Nov 14, 2005 at 11:02 pm

    Wow. A great post and a great reminder of the joys of learning, outside of “THE TESTS”. Your family was a gift.

  • 30 institutional memory
    · Nov 15, 2005 at 8:50 am

    Jackie, That’s some of the most evocative writing that’s been seen on Edwize. You really nailed how significant a student’s homelife is for developing an inquisitive, involved mind. Your parents really knew what they were doing! Thanks for the inspirational message.

  • 31 madmatt151
    · Nov 15, 2005 at 12:18 pm

    I loved reading KAckie’s comment, but want to comment on my school and maybe its “Not the Norm” policies. We have a prent coordinator who was a school aide before. She is great and works very hard. We utilize for everything parent realted and since she is a parent of 2 current students and a former one, I think the parents appreciate her more. She is always available and chases parents at every meeting, open school etc. At first I was skeptical about this “new position” Klein created, but now I see it working. We still have very little parent involvement in the school, mainly like NYCparent stated it is hard to just “get involved” one day. but our parent coordinator is great and I know things have gotten significantly better in the school with her around. Now me being a dean the first thing I ask a parent when they come for a hearing or suspension is have you been to any open school nights etc. I usually get a blank stare or a “no”. I can clearly see NYCparent is involved and maybe she knows many more parents like her, but I would like her to concede that she is in a great minority when it comes to typical NYC parents. If we all had parents like her in our schools maybe better change would be happening.

    One anecdote and I will finish. We implemented a no shorts policy in school afew years ago and no cell phones, before Kleins ban. We had parents along with students almost rioting outside the school to insist on letting studnets bring phones to school and wear shorts. THIS was important to them. What wasn’t important, which I point out to every parent I meet, is that the bus stop in front of the school was taken away forcing students to walk 3 blocks away where they have been getting harrased and mugged since they aren’t in sight of the school or much of anything else. Also whatisn’t important were the atrocious lunchroom we had (have). Food being cooked early on in the day and kept hot under lamps etc. These are important issues which we as concerned teachers always bring up, but the parents must bring more attention to them. Instead we had news vans in front because we werent allowing cell phones and shorts. Baffling!

  • 32 Schoolgal
    · Nov 15, 2005 at 7:09 pm

    NYCParent may be concerned although in earlier posts she only found fault with any outreach I’ve mentioned to her.
    Now she tells us she herself has tried to improve parent involvement and failed. How are parents disenfranchised from attending PTA meetings when that is a perfect forum for getting information or voicing concerns?

    Why then blame it on teachers?

  • 33 Chaz
    · Nov 15, 2005 at 8:34 pm

    You may agree or disagree with nycparent but she does bring an involved parent viewpoint to an otherwise teacher-dominated website and this is necessary to achieve a diverse school-based discussion.

    I certainly enjoy nycparent’s opinions, even if I don’t agree with her. She probably has more experience in the schools compared to some of the UFT educrats who present articles on Edwiz and therefore her comments should be considered and properly responded to.

  • 34 Schoolgal
    · Nov 15, 2005 at 11:49 pm

    Chaz,

    “Properly responded to”

    Meaning she can put down the efforts the teachers in my school make to reach out to parents.

    When someone makes an “ALLNESS” statement against teachers, I hope all teachers will properly respond.

  • 35 NYC Educator
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    Personally, I’m 100% against “allness,” and I think it behooves us all to promote “someness.”

  • 36 divina
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    I think Chaz’ point is a good one. NYCParent is a parent. She comes to Edwize with her own opinions, her own faults, and her own point of view. It behooves teachers to listen to the point of view of parents.

    FWIW, my parents had a similar experience dealing with teachers. A friend of mine, a current active parent in the P.A. also had similiar comments.

    Those that truly seek to reach out to parents would be interested in hearing the other side of the coin rather than just preaching to the choir.

  • 37 Schoolgal
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 7:07 pm

    My school has bent over backwards trying to reach out to parents. Both the Parents Association and teachers have tried promoting workshops, Science night, babysitting services, Storytelling night, (that’s when teachers wear pajamas and read stories to children and parents) etc. That was cancelled because many parents talked to other parents while the teachers were trying to read the stories. With all the advanced notices, parents still do not show up on Curriculum Night (and in my school, teachers are not paid for this). When we put together ELA and Math Assessments workshops (both days and evenings)the turnout is poor.

    The PA contacted every parent in the school by phone to see if they would be interested in becoming a Class Parent. Unfortunately, some classes were not able to get a class parent.

    Outreach is so important and does impact the child’s success, but teachers cannot be blamed when parents do not show up to meetings.
    So what is the other side of the coin? Blame the teachers?

    If anyone has any wonderful suggestions to increase parent involvement, they have yet to post them–which was the point of this blog. But do not disparage those of us who do truly care and make attempts, even if they fail.

  • 38 Chaz
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 8:18 pm

    Schoolgal:

    I don’t agree with nycparent but what she says is based upon her perception of what goes on in her school, not our schools. Her allness statement is just what she sees in her limited world of her school.

    Our, job is to enlighten her about what goes on in the real world of the NYC schools. What the problems the classroom teacher faces and why it is important for nycparent to understand that the best teachers are innovative, caring, and involved with their students. That Tweed (DOE) works against the best interests of those very students when it tries to micro-manage classrooms, punish teachers by placing ungrievable Letters-in-the-File or worse, and allows students right out of jail to be placed in the regular classroom.

    Maybe if nycparent would go to her local middle or high school, she might change her tune a bit.

  • 39 dump unity
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 8:23 pm

    NYCparent is probably one of those pushy pain in the a** parents who alienates and turns everyone off. Maybe that is why there is a lack of parental involvement. Decent parents, teachers and administrators can’t stand parents who are rabble rousers and take control of everything.

  • 40 Chaz
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 8:54 pm

    dump unity;

    That’s unfair at least nycparent cares. Her real problem she is an apoligist for all the other parents who don’t bother to parent. Most parents dump their children in front of a television and let them watch such wholesome shows as desperate housewives, the O.C. sex in the city, CSI, and Nip/Tuck rather than monitor their homework, friends, and activites.

    Is it any wonder that the students entering high school have a one in three chance of graduating in four years?

    Out with Randi? Sounds good.

  • 41 nycparent
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 9:03 pm

    Charming, dump unity. Thank you for your intellectually captivating response.
    Chaz, you are correct that this is in my limited experience. Who knows if what happens at my school is the exception or the rule? This is true for teachers’ experience also. However, I do know hundreds of parents and, just like teachers, we talk a lot about nyc schools. In fact, i find it exhausting. There is much angst about the education our children are receiving. Some anecdotes are heresay, 2nd hand, gossip, whatever. But many of my gripes are the same gripes I hear over and over from parents. As a humorous sidenote, the princeton log ins were passed out for the first time ever tonight! Ahh – it’s the little victories. I asked one of my teachers how this miracle occurred and she attributed it to the principal “having a clue”

  • 42 NYC Educator
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 10:13 pm

    It’s good the principal has a clue. The problem with many administrators is they became administrators to get out of the classroom, becasue they didn’t much like having to deal with kids.

    And wouldn’t you know it, people who can’t deal with kids don’t deal with adults all that well either, let alone inspiring faculty members to reach for the stars.

    I shudder to think what horrors the Jack Welch Prinipal Factory will be pumping out in years to come. Here’s a bunch of folks who’ve never taught with no idea whatsoever what goes on in classrooms, and now they’re gonna tell both administrators and teachers how to do what they themselves have never seen worth their time to attempt.

    God forbid they should model themselves after a system proven to work.

  • 43 Schoolgal
    · Nov 16, 2005 at 11:14 pm

    I just emailed Princeton Review. For some reason, the students and I aren’t able to retrieve their assessments.

    As soon as I get a response, I will post it here. They are usually good with response time.

    I still can’t believe all the teachers at her child’s school do not respond to her (unless there is a reason).

  • 44 nycparent
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 10:46 am

    NYC educator, remember our principal is a Leadership Academy grad. He is so much better than our former principal who was a long time teacher. He does have teaching experience however, as do many of the LA grads. Again, just my experience but our teachers are thrilled to have him.

  • 45 divina
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 11:35 am

    SchoolGal,

    Just as your experiences are based on what goes on in your school, NYCparent also has experiences based on her school. They don’t necessarily have to have the same circumstances and thus same opinion.

    More importantly, she is expressing what she feels is a problem. And what do you do? You behave in exactly the same manner she describes, by alienating her, and invalidating her experiences.

    Your job is to a) educate parents on what you do, but also b) to listen and find out if there really is some merit to some parents experiences.

    FWIW – I thought Jackie Bennet’s recount of her childhood and parenting rang very true for many working, educated parents. They care about their children, they care about their education. But they don’t care about School Bureaucracy and Politics.

    My child is not yet of school-age, SchoolGal,

    Just as your experiences are based on what goes on in your school, NYCparent also has experiences based on her school. They don’t necessarily have to have the same circumstances and thus same opinion.

    More importantly, she is expressing what she feels is a problem. And what do you do? You behave in exactly the same manner she describes, by alienating her, and invalidating her experiences.

    Your job is to a) educate parents on what you do, but also b) to listen and find out if there really is some merit to some parents experiences.

    FWIW – I thought Jackie Bennet’s recount of her childhood and parenting rang very true for many working, educated parents. They care about their children, they care about their education. But they don’t care about School Bureaucracy and Politics.

  • 46 Schoolgal
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 3:38 pm

    Princeton Review will be online starting next week for parents.

    Again divina, do you have any suggestions or are you just going to keep ranting.

    Also, if her principal is that great, then she should have no problems getting answers to her questions.

  • 47 NYC Educator
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    NYC Parent,

    I’m happy for you, and it’s great you have a good principal. It’s particularly good you have one with classroom experience (other than the stark necessity of fleeing from it ASAP).

    Nonetheless, I’m not joining the Jack Welch fan club just yet.

  • 48 Chaz
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 6:46 pm

    nycparent:

    I believe you really care about the NYC schools and I will not argue with you on that point. However, let me relate a story to you that happened to me today, maybe you can understand our frustration.

    My AP (Assistant Principal) came to me during class time to inform me that I should recollect my midterm tests from the students (I gave them out on Monday- good luck in collecting them) and do an analysis of the 36 Regents questions and determine which ones were hard and which ones were easy. Let’s see, collect 150 papers, spend 12 hours going over their tests and write a statistical report to the LIS. When should I do this? During my zero period tutoring time with students? My prep & lunch periods when I meet with students to discuss their academic progress and other issues? Or should I stay after school and do this mindless report (without pay) for a week and not see my family?

    Well I work hard helping my students and raising a family without some DOE educrat giving me some mindless task. This is the idiocy that the classroom teacher has to put up with under your wonderful DOE

  • 49 NYC Educator
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 7:32 pm

    Frank McCourt writes:

    “In America, doctors, lawyers, generals, actors, televison people and politicians are admired and rewarded. Not teachers. Teaching is the downstairs maid of professions. Teachers are told to use the service door or go around the back. They are congratulated on having ATTO (All That Time Off). They are spoken of patronizingly and patted, retroactively, on their silvery locks. Oh, yes, I had an English teacher, Miss Smith, who really inspired me. I’ll never forget dear old Miss Smith…”

    So remember, Chaz, that may one day be you they’re remembering. And when they do, they’ll express particular gratitude for the time you worked out that statistical report, and helped with question number 37 on the Living Environment Regents.

    Really, Chaz, I’m surprised you didn’t already know that.

  • 50 Chaz
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    Thanks NYC Educator,

    I guess they think they can overload us with this nonsense. What are our rights?

    By the way do I have to do the statistical analysis? Can I refuse?? What are my options?

    I would like an answer from an informed person.

  • 51 nycparent
    · Nov 17, 2005 at 8:19 pm

    Chaz, That is bad. And I would do what I could to help you if I were in a position of power within the system. But (you knew there was a but right :-) here is my problem. I work in private sector and I am asked to do ridiculous, stupid tasks like that all the time. There are so many things outside of the my job that I do nights and weekends. It does not make the request right but i don’t think it’s more wrong than many other places. The difference is that you aren’t paid well either and that, my friend, I agree is a huge problem.

  • 52 NYC Educator
    · Nov 18, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    NYC Parent,

    Thanks for supporting Chaz.

    We need all the help we can get. You may like Frank McCourt’s new book “Teacher Man,” if you want to get a perspective on teaching from a great writer who knows more about it than most experts, and appears to have learned it intuitively, in spite of all the silly advice he received.

    It’s not a masterpiece like “Angela’s Ashes,” but it’s a very good read for anyone interested in education, and Frank’s got one of the very best writing voices I’ve ever heard.

    Every teacher ought to read this one. Costco has it for $14.19, a bargain. The library, I’m told, has it for even less.

  • 53 divina
    · Nov 19, 2005 at 11:23 am

    Schoolgal,

    “Ranting” is a bit hyperbolic to say the least.

    I guess you don’t like to hear the other side of the coin. I tell you, if you were my child’s teacher and you discounted my point of view, I would walk away from you as someone who doesn’t want to hear constructive critics and assumes superiority, and thus, not worth my time. Give and take is the key to dialog. That means you have to be open-minded. Apparently, you are not.

    There are good teachers and bad teachers. There are good parents and bad parents. To pretend that one side has the monopoly on effort is putting your head in the sand.

    Just because you are a good teacher (presumably) doesn’t mean all are good teachers that go the extra mile. Therefore, to invalidate what NYCparent has to say is contributing to the problem of parent outreach.

    When I was in elementary school, my parents asked my teachers to recount in detail how we were doing. The teacher told my parents in no uncertain words, “none of your business” and implied some sort of intellectual superiority. That seems incredulous, but it was true.

    My father, has probably forgotten more things than most people have learned in a lifetime. He is a true brainiac and knowledgeable in a broad array of subject matters.

    You can be certain that he gave my teacher a piece of his mind. In his youthful days in particular, he never felt the need to mince words, or to be politically correct. He has a particular talent to use vocabulary that would take the average educated person a few hours and possibly the use of an unabridged dictionary to figure out that they have been insulted. That incident resulted in my parent’s unwillingness to go to any open-school nights thereafter. As far as they were concerned, it was pointless and a waste of time. It’s a good thing we were good students.

    So rather than take personal insult at NYCparent’s remarks, maybe you can actually listen to what he/she has to say. Even if it doesn’t apply to YOU, or YOUR school doesn’t mean it is invalid. If you want better work conditions, more money, and a general respect from the public, particularly parents, you have to give it in return, no just expect it.

  • 54 no_slappz
    · Nov 26, 2005 at 5:29 pm

    Divina, your preceding post is an interesting collection of non-sequiturs and silliness.

    In response to Schoolgal you wrote:

    “I guess you don’t like to hear from the other side of the coin.”

    That’s a rather mixed up image. Do coins talk? Do they talk from their sides? Or did you mean something about hearing the other side of the story? Try to be clear.

    As for discounting the views of others, well, it may be true that one party in these discussions has nothing of value to say. You seem long on attitude and little else.

    With respect to your parents’ experience with your elementary school teachers, we can say with certainty that you weren’t present for the discussions. Moreover, because you were quite young at the time of these controversial meetings, your understanding of them approaches zero.

    You would have no idea whether a teacher had expressed a sense of intellectual superiority to your parents. Meanwhile, you should open your dictionary. You don’t know the definition of “incredulous”.

    It’s also clear you don’t understand the meaning of the phrase “mince words”, or you wouldn’t claim your father was a straight talker and then describe his interpersonal manner with the definition of “mince words.”

    Furthermore, you might think he’s the Don Rickles of the intellectual set, but if the insultee doesn’t know he’s been insulted, the insulter has wasted his time.

    Moreover, if it’s true your parents refused to meet with your teachers ever again after encountering one elementary school teacher who rubbed them the wrong way, then their refusal states rather clearly that they are exactly the parents who drip disdain for the school system for the flimsiest of reasons. Your father, in his wisdom, concluded all of your teachers were dunces unworthy of some brief attention from him because he met one, in your elementary school, he did not like. From that experience he extrapolated that all of your subsequent teachers were insubordinate egotists with whom he would not converse. What a show of brilliance and open-mindedness.

    If he really thought so little of your teachers, and by extension, the school system in which you were enrolled, why did he leave you in this substandard setting?

    If you think about what you wrote, you will see the point you made was this: he couldn’t be bothered with you or the quality of your education. He threw up his hands and walked away.

  • 55 northbrooklyn
    · Nov 28, 2005 at 9:20 pm

    no_slappz: get a grip on reality. we are not interested in your analysis of another teacher…not only is it waaay off the mark, it is hurtful. You have something to say on these pages, fine, but try to focus your remarks on the subject of education…I wait with bated breath for that truely unique experience.