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Getting parents involved

By Eric Braxton on Jul 22, 2009 04:03 PM

Parents drop their kids off at the first day of the 2008-09 school year at Southwark Elementary. What can we do to engage parents more?

Over the summer I have been thinking a lot about parent involvement in high school reform. 

I continue to believe that involving more parents in multiple ways is critical to turning our schools around. Parents need to be not only supporting their own children, but also holding schools accountable for providing quality education.

Getting parents out, however, has not been easy at any of our schools, especially high schools. I attended a parent meeting at one neighborhood high school in June that was attended by only one parent. 

I often hear people blaming the problems in our schools on parents who don’t care about their children. While I am concerned about the lack of involvement, I don’t think parents don’t care about their children or that blaming parents grasps the complexity of the situation or moves us toward a solution.

I think there are a number of reasons why it has been difficult. 

One reason is that many parents went to the same or similar schools as their children. Many of them felt disempowered by their own school experience and therefore do not feel comfortable talking to teachers and principals now. 

Also, I think we have to take into consideration that many of our families are living in communities that have been decimated by poverty. I don’t say this to make excuses for anyone, but I do think it is important for educators to understand the stresses caused by poverty

Another reason is that our schools often have a very limited view of parent involvement. Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University talks about six kinds of parent involvement: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with community. 

School leaders often want parents to come to meetings, support their children, and volunteer in the school, but rarely really involve parents in meaningful decision making. I think if we want more involvement from parents, we have to give them more meaningful ways to participate.

I have also been reading Dennis Shirley’s book, Community Organizing for Urban School Reform about parent organizing in Texas by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). Shirley talks about how the IAF organized parents to transform some of the lowest performing schools in Texas. 

The process they used started with door knocking and one-on-one meetings with all of the parents in a school to listen to their concerns about the school. From there they would hold house meetings of five to ten parents to talk together about their concerns. Then they would do a Walk for Success where a group of leaders including clergy, students, teachers, and parents would first rally at the school and then go out and knock on the doors of every parent to talk to them about how they could work together to improve the school. 

After doing all of this outreach, they were able to get hundreds of parents to come out to meetings and to participate in school activities in a variety of ways. The results in a number of schools were remarkable. 

It seems to me that if we are serious about improving parent involvement we may need to do the kind of intensive outreach that the IAF did. Beyond that, we have to really listen to parents about their concerns and give them opportunities to talk to each other and learn from educators so that they can be part of the process of creating solutions. I would be glad to hear other people’s ideas about how we can engage more parents. 

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Comments (21)

Submitted by Philly High School teacher (not verified) on July 23, 2009 11:34 am

The AIF model is often what it takes to do the hard work of long term social change - the one-on-one contact over a period of time obviously is much more effective than a letter home. That said, there has to be an organization willing to commit to that type of long term, inch by inch effort that is culturally sensitive to the variety of heritages of the students.

As a single parent and teacher, I am very sympathetic toward parents - it is the most difficult thing I have ever tried to do. The amount of time, energy, etc. a parent has for attending school meetings and events, especially if there are numerous kids, is difficult. For high school teachers, contacting parents is more complicated than a self-contained elementary teacher for obvious reasons - contacting 30 parents is very different than contacting up to 165. That said, in general, most parents that I call, for "good" or "bad" reasons, are receptive. But, finding time to go to a meeting which is primarily "information sharing" versus decisions making is not very motivating.

Ideally, the expansion of parents "ombudsmen/women and more counselors / case workers, will provide additional staff to solicit parental involvement and ownership. Since you work with RfA, why not see if a few smaller high schools will pilot a 2 - 3 year project which uses the AIF model? It will take a significant grant that is well spent versus spent (which too often happens).

Submitted by Mary (not verified) on August 1, 2009 11:26 am

Please read Learning Power, by Dr. Jeannie Oakes & Dr. John Rogers, This book highlight grassroot parents movement that changes Los Angeles, in how schools do business in API 1-3 schools and districts. Read Chapter 7 of Learning Power, that highlight movement of grassroot parents bottom up accountablity, Parent-U-Turn.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2011 2:05 am

What a great blog for communication for all. I came about because I was looking for 21st Century Parent U Turn. It lead me here. Enjoyed the article post. I see the picture and the parents look clueless. For a first day of school they don't look happy. Everyone has so many ideas, solutions, but not motivated to do the long hall. I am a parent I got involved to a seminar at UCLA, by another parent. Since that day I learned students had rights to a quality education and as a parent I wanted a solution and soon. Just like any average parent would do I started asking questions at the school meetings, later got involved in the schools advisory councils (and it was not easy), later attended district meetings, then board meetings. The motivation for attending meetings was because I learned my rights as a parent, a right to be involved in the school to support not only your child but for other students and the involvement of parents. I was involved in the grassroot parents, Parent U Turn.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on July 23, 2009 7:00 pm

The IAF model is powerful but it's unlikely we'll see that implemented at schools systemwide. So it seems like one part of the answer to your question is to address the future of the Home and School Associations. This is still the official, sanctioned forum for parent involvement at schools.  It exists in some form at well over 100 Philadelphia schools, but my guess is that probably no more than a few dozen have really strong, robust associations.

I know from experience that maintaining even a small all-volunteer organization is a challenging job for a busy parent, so it's no surprise that a lot of these groups would struggle from time to time. But that's complicated by the relationships of Home and Schools to the principals and to the district, the fact that they are expected to assume certain ceremonial and official roles whether they want to or not (to sign off on this or that), and the fact that there is extremely limited support for them from central office and schools. At the citywide level, we've seen the weakness of the organization at its worst, with the recent experience of a president raiding the treasury and going undetected for months.

Each year, though, parents who are new to a school are told to join the Home and School as a way to get involved. Something like it (usually a PTA) exists in virtually every school system. And Home and Schools are the operating base for a lot of the system's activist parents. Unless we think that model is totally bankrupt and want to see it put to death, there has to be some more attention to how to give these groups the training and capacity to play a real role in their schools. Doing that is no substitute for the kind of organizing model you're talking about, but I think we'd all be a lot better off if the baseline of parent activity was stronger across the city.

Submitted by Philly High School teacher (not verified) on July 24, 2009 7:15 am

The Home and Schools, as you wrote, are a mixed bag. They are more difficult to maintain in high schools although there are strong home and schools at some schools - especially magnet. It would be interesting to study which non-magnet high schools have viable home and school associations. That said, there needs to be many avenues for involvement - not just meetings, baking, chaperoning, etc. I often tell parents of 9th graders now is not the time to think "s/he is almost grown." Just the opposite - 9th graders, in particular, need a lot of parental involvement. It is unlikely that a parent will volunteer in a class in high school - it is awkward for the student and everyone else. But, having parents present would tame the halls. One time I was having difficulty with a group of boys in class. I spoke with one boy's father - he visited the class. Well, the problem subsided because they knew if there were more problems, I'd call and I'd invite the one father to return.

There are also topics which parents have more expertise which can be shared in a high school class - especially cultural/heritage, life experiences, and any academic or trade expertise.

While the IAF model is very appealing, there are short term, quicker ways to engage more high school parents.

Submitted by Angela Chan on July 26, 2009 1:54 am

Parental involvement is no less of a challenge in the elementary schools than in the high schools. I teach in a K-8 school, and one can see the steady decline of parental involvement as children get to the upper grades. So I think an important question is, how can elementary schools do better so that parents are still involved when their children are in high school? And how do we implement structures in elementary schools and high schools that have more continuity?

I do believe that trust between schools and parents is essential, and no doubt we need to do better on creating an environment that welcomes parents as partners.

Over the years I have tried to use the community during after-work hours to engage our parents, including having our local library host a read-aloud workshop and having a Saturday picnic with families at the Recreation Center. Although turnout was low, the experiences were worthwhile for the families who came.

I also believe that persistence on our part is very important, and I think, with each disappointment, we need to think about how an event could have been made more attractive or meaningful to parents. But that persistence is hard to commit to because realistically, my colleagues and I are too overwhelmed by the demands to make AYP, and I admit that my own efforts to reach out to parents have been less consistent than I would like.

This past school year, though, our parent ombudsman has put great effort into finally forming a Home and School Association. This is all new to our school. For those of you who are more familiar with Home and School, I’d love to hear how the school and staff could support and make it successful.

Submitted by Mary (not verified) on August 1, 2009 11:21 am

Ms. Chan,

If you looking for changes in your school district prevailing model won't do it. There no data that align around current prevailing that show increase in students achievement or decrease in drop out rate or build parent involvement in urban school with API ranges 1-3. In 21st Century parent involvement must move from parent involvement to parent engagement. Move parents to become their children advocate. I like to share with a new model that create by urban parents of children
who attend API 1-3 . This model have just been adopted by State of California as best practice.

TYPE I- Access to Information and Data Collection

Parents need to have access to timely and accurate information in order to best support their children’s academic success. This includes:

• Parents using, analyzing, and collecting data about their schools
• Parents understanding data and using data that drives reforms
• Parents becoming empowered to investigate and document conditions in their schools by becoming researchers in their own communities.
• Parent access to information about the resources, and rights to support their children.

In Epstein’s Six Keys Steps she does not mention anything regarding data collection. We now live in a data driven society and failure to acknowledge this places parents of color at a disadvantage. Type 1 involvement in our model is also aligned with the intention of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), section 1118, and the California School Accountability Report Card (SARC). This element is also driven by the principle that an informed parent is a powerful parent for social change.

TYPE II- Parents in Decision-Making Roles

Parents provide leadership in schools by being at the table with teachers and administrators in multiple ways. For example, they actively set policies and are involved in key decisions along with school leaders. They ensure the schools have adequate resources to carry out their missions and obligations. In addition, parents provide training and evaluation of school structures. Finally, decision making must incorporate input from families and the community. Parents in decision making roles should include:

• Local Advisory Committees with genuine parent participation
• Effective advocacy and education as a direct result of understanding how systems are structured (e.g. how decisions and power are distributed between schools, staff, parents and students)
• Providing parents with knowledge, skills, and opportunities to actively engage them in all levels of the decision-making process
• Representation of parents on the school decision-making teams

Joyce Epstein addresses decision-making in her six types of parent involvement. However, in our estimation, her view of decision-making is too general; it lacks content or suggestions on what it should look like in practice. In other words, it is left too open to interpretation, thus exclusively in the hands of educator who often are the ones who define what parent involvement is. In other words, this lack of clarity leaves too much up to school authorities to decide what this decision-making should look like. Our Type 2, is similar in some sense to Joyce Epstein’s Type 5, “Decision Making: Include families as participants in school decisions, governance, and advocacy through PTA/PTO, school councils, committees, and other parent organizations.”

TYPE III-Parents as Student Advocates

Parents need to know how to navigate and negotiate the school system. We need to support the creation of an environment where parents have access to information and support systems to be effective advocates by monitoring and directing the education of our children. This includes:

• Parents need to know what children need, how to access resources and how to implement a plan of action.
• Parents need to understand a power map detailing the functions and structures of the system.
• Parents need to understand and be able to communicate in an educational setting, using terms spoken by educational professionals.

Our Type 3 of parent involvement is often not addressed in other parent involvement models, Epstein, Comer, etc. We argue that parents from working class communities need to know how to engage professional educators if they are going to be public participants in their children’s education. Only when parents know the rules of engagement, particularly the language of education, can they hold the system accountable.
In our effort to support working class parents and increase their understanding of the public school system, PUT published The Parent Survival Guide in 2005. Its goal was to assist parents in navigating the school system from grades K-16. The Parent Survival Guide, sponsored by Congresswoman Linda Sanchez and written by urban parents who have struggled themselves in navigating the school system, is a map which parents of color can use to understand the ins and outs of the public school structure. For example, it breaks down the different offices at the school and their individual responsibilities. This is because most parents complain about how schools frequently send them from one office to another.
This guide also covers such topics as college preparation, scholarships and grants available for undocumented immigrants and African -American students, the ABC’s for student success, special education, and information about how to work within the school structure. The guide also assists immigrant families and parents of color in finding support for their college-bound children with scholarship information (name of organization, requirements, contact information, etc.).
And finally, a very important feature about this guide is its accessibility to working class parents of color. The Parent Survival Guide is published in both English and Spanish and is written in a manner that avoids jargon and inaccessible educational terminology.

TYPE IV-Parents as Leaders at Home and in the School-Community

Parents need opportunities to build leadership and advocacy skills to enhance student-parent-community partnerships. Schools will serve the family and community needs for health and social service and provide resources and information for accessing those services.

• Parents will learn intergenerational and cross-cultural communication strategies, with a special emphasis for immigrant families.
• Parents will learn “21st century parenting skills” such as how to develop boundaries, parent-child communication, identify risk factors (e.g. drugs and gang involvement.)
• Parents will understand the college requirement and financial aid process.
• Leadership training will be offered that will include meeting facilitation, public speaking, conflict resolution and cross cultural training
• Communications training for parents will be more effective in navigating their children through K-12 to college.
• Parents receive on-going support and technical assistance to equip them for effective participation.

Epstein does discuss parent roles, but it is limited in content and context. In our summation, there is no room in Epstein’s model to broaden the content to go beyond homework to address urban parents’ needs. Parents in urban schools, however, need equal resources in the area of gang influences, drug problems, and criminal activities that go beyond basic parenting skills.

TYPE V- Effective Two –Way Communication

Communication in multicultural and multilingual communities must be translated in languages that parents speak in their home. Communication between home and school must not only be a regular, two-way occurrence, it also has to be relevant and meaningful. These multicultural and multilingual ways of communicating with parents must include, but not be limited to, the computerized machines, newsletters, personal contact, letters/flyers, and the school marquee. Parent Liaison roles in multicultural school must also help bridge open communication between school and home and help create effective home /school relationships. This includes the cultural awareness to ably work with parents of diverse cultural, linguistic, and economic backgrounds and experiences. In many urban and multicultural communities, the Parent Liaison role is the key to fostering relationships with parents and open communication between schools and communities. There is, however, no relationship more important than that between parents and teachers and that is the idea behind The Urban Parent Teacher Education Collaborative.
The Urban Parent Teacher Education Collaborative is a pioneering model for others universities. By creating a space for a university professor and a grass-roots parent organizer to team-teach a class for pre-service teachers, Pepperdine University has recognized parents as experts in the area of how and what is needed to educate children in urban schools. This new model allows future teachers to have contact with urban parents before they come into our school communities. In workshops, pre-service teachers are given strategies for interacting with parents in order to learn how to build a working relationship with them. PUT members and teachers, for example, practice role reversals that allow both teachers and parents to acquire a better understanding and respect for the importance of each other’s roles.
This distinct model of teacher education seeks to build a clinical laboratory for teacher preparation driven by parent involvement with the following goals:
• To increase and sustain teacher’s knowledge, skills and positive attitudes toward families through their participation in a community-dialogue forum with urban parents.
• To move beyond classroom-based teaching methods by offering teachers direct field experiences working with families.
• To enable pre-service teachers to develop effective practices to prepare their work with families and communities.
• To establish a context for pre-service teachers to learn about urban communities.
• To increase working relationships between novice-residence teachers with families and students which break down perceptions of stereotypes and improves student achievement.

TYPE VI-District Level Support

Structures must be provided to build parent capacity that is well-defined and where meaningful participation such as dialogue, empowerment and action are critical components of educational reform. This mid-level structure will be fully funded and led by parent councils that will:

• Provide parents with training and capacity building opportunities to effectively engage in school reform at the local and district level.
• Provide parents with information and resources to meet the needs of the whole child.
• Enable parents to support students and schools programs.

We acknowledge that in Epstein’s six types of parent involvement does engage the issue of parent participation at the district level, including the establishment of “independent advocacy groups” that will serve to lobby for school reform and improvements (National Network for Partnership in Schools, 2006). Our type 6 aligns loosely with Epstein’s type 5 of parental involvement.

TYPE VII- Friendly Schools Atmosphere

Schools will post welcome signs throughout the school in many languages including English. The staff of each school will provide mandatory customer service every year for the entire school. Parents will be asked to fill out a survey on services render.
A friendly school atmosphere was also left out of Epstein’s six keys that were adopted by the State of California. The number one complaint in urban schools from parents is that the school staff is rude and unfriendly. This is the major reason parents give for not participating or volunteering at local schools.

Mary Johnson

Submitted by Charles Washington (not verified) on September 2, 2009 10:17 am

Hi Angela,

I'm guessing this is Angela from George's Sunday class. I remember you discussing your interest in a Harlem education model you were interested in applying to Philadelphia schools.I hope you don't mind me tracking you down in this way. I enjoyed our brief conversations and would like to get to know you better as a friend.

If this isn't the Angela I thought it was. Pardon me.


Submitted by EnoughIsEnuff!!! (not verified) on July 26, 2009 1:16 pm

Chan is right, elementary parental participation is bad. I get loads of parents saying they will be in to help out in the class, but it is ALWAYS a let down. One parent I literally didn't meet until the last day of school! No appearance at report card conferences, etc. That child is going to summer school, but shouldn't have been promoted in previous years. I doubt that the summer school will promote this child if they stick to their claim of making all summer school students pass a Benchmark. Parents should be required to show up in the auditorium for report card day and then sent to the proper classroom at the proper scheduled time. If they don't show expell the child. There will be no increase in parental involvement until the district gets some backbone. No cousins, older siblings, it must be one of the two parents or whomever has custodial control (grandparent, foster parent). The district would never allow such slipshod behavior from teachers so why do they accept it from parents?

Submitted by Mary (not verified) on July 31, 2009 3:06 pm

I agree with you as parent, that we hold parents responsible too. First let hold teachers accountablity that get a paycheck . Let pay teachers by student perfomance data. We would align all the students data regarding perfomance and that what we base teachers salary on. Then we give each teacher a stipend each year and every time they supsend a child we deduct money from teacher stipend. Next step there only one standards for high quality teacher, because as we know that least experience teachers with be place in urban schools, teaching a disadvantage students. Also, teachers must have mandated customer service training and cultural relevant training once a year.

Then we start looking at parent involvement, holding yourself accountablity first before you point the blame. Just maybe parent involvement will improve if you implement the above suggestion.The number one complaint in urban schools from parents is that the school staff is rude and unfriendly. This is the major reason parents give for not participating or volunteering at local schools.

Stop complainting and identified barriers and challenge for parents to attend meeting and then make a plan around those barriers and challenge. Then look at barriers for teachers to do their job properly and make a plan to improve or eliminate them. Stop complainting and move to action for changes,

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2009 10:52 pm

Sorry Mary, but your suggestions are absurd. Maybe you ought to spend some time in the actual schools before you start stereotyping teachers. First off, principals, not teachers, have the ability to suspend unruly students. The fact that you don't know this makes me wonder how much contact you've actually had with schools. Even if teachers had the ability to suspend teachers why would you punish them for suspending disruptive students. You're blaming them for incompetent parenting. Why should they have to pay anything? If a child starts a fight in class what do you expect the teacher do about it? It's this kind of backwards thinking that makes teachers apathetic. No support from administrators or parents. Fine the parents if you expect some to pay.

You've managed to tar all teachers as being rude and unfriendly. Teachers can cite plenty of examples of when parents are rude and ignorant, but we still appreciate the ones that support us and the schools. Maybe it's you Mary that has the problem?

Your remark about paying teachers a stipend is typical of the anti-teacher mentality that Philadelphia has become know for these days. How will teachers be able to buy the supplies the school district is suppose to be supplying for our classrooms, but rarely does if you're only paying them a stipend? Are you aware that Philly can't even get enough teachers as it is? How many do you think are going to attract teachers to a district when you only want to pay them a stipend. Better yet, why don't you step up to the plate and become a teacher yourself. I love it when benchwarmers become experts on the subject of education.

Teachers have been held accountable for the actions of parents, administrators, children and politicians. It's time they were held accountable just like teachers have been for years. I have trouble believing your letter is from a real parent.

Submitted by Mary (not verified) on August 1, 2009 10:53 am

So, it alright for you to bash parents but it not alright for me to bash teacher as parent. You make me laugh. I volunteer 40 hours or more a week in local schools. How many hours do you volunteer in schools activities or community free? Let me tell you alittle about myself . I would with novice-teachers and preservice teachers preparing them to would in urban schools. This is my third years working in Teacher ED program at leading university. I am single mom whom children attended Urban School API 1-3 schools, and all four graduate with BA degree. So, you see I have walk of both side of fence. I have an AS degree, plus I am woman of color. In 2000, UCLA mentor a group of urban parents for 5 years, on what good teaching look like, and in.investigate inquiry of barriers and challegnes to urban schools. I like NCLB because for the first times, parents is talking about what is quality teachers, plus we can inquiry about credential of our children teachers. This is first time teachers qaulity have been highlighted. No more free checks on back of urban children back. Now urban parent have rubric to measure quality work of teachers. Last three years I have greatest opportunity to put urban teachers in my community that respect and engage the community to be equal partners. These are teachers in their first year who are department chairs, football coaches, and there classes are scoring the highest on State test. These teachers outreach to parent in parking lot, home visit, churches, and playground. So how have you out reach to parents others than your classroom??????? How do you define parent involvement, cutting out paper for teachers in parent center? I love teachers who have a passion for their work and not just earning a pay check, so this is how I pay forward to my community that supported me as single mom to navigate my children's beyond K-16 into university.As urban parent I have create pioneer models for leading universities. By creating a space for a university professor tand a grass-roots parent organizer to team-teach a class for pre-service teachers, Some university has recognized parents as experts in the area of how and what is needed to educate children in urban schools. This new model allows future teachers to have contact with urban parents before they come into our school communities. In workshops, pre-service teachers are given strategies for interacting with parents in order to learn how to build a working relationship with them. PUT members and teachers, for example, practice role reversals that allow both teachers and parents to acquire a better understanding and respect for the importance of each other’s roles.
This distinct model of teacher education seeks to build a clinical laboratory for teacher preparation driven by parent involvement with the following goals:
• To increase and sustain teacher’s knowledge, skills and positive attitudes toward families through their participation in a community-dialogue forum with urban parents.
• To move beyond classroom-based teaching methods by offering teachers direct field experiences working with families.
• To enable pre-service teachers to develop effective practices to prepare their work with families and communities.
• To establish a context for pre-service teachers to learn about urban communities.
• To increase working relationships between novice-residence teachers with families and students which break down perceptions of stereotypes and improves student achievement.

It not your fault, your university haven't prepare you properly. These owes you some money back. I am just a parents that believe all children can learn, when they are taught how they learn and not how the teacher want to teach them.


Submitted by Mary (not verified) on September 2, 2009 11:43 am

Sorry that you feel that way. As I stated that everyone must be held accountable on quality of education that impact students acheivement. That mean a quality principals,teachers and resources. My organization donate boxes of schools materials to 500 individuals teachers a year, plus 3000 backpacks full with school materials for students in my neighborhood schools, each year. As a parent ,I led the boycott of several schools to discontinue year round schooling and return back to traditional school that have 180 instructional day instead of 163. In one year all 13 schools return back to traditional calendar. We now see a different in students acheivement.

I am not against anyone , but my concerns focus on what good for children not adult agenda..


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2009 3:23 pm

Once again Mary, you're going off the deep end and stereotyping teachers collectively without knowing who you are talking about? Parents that actively participate in classrooms have my admiration, but in over ten years the collective volunteer hours put in my parents in my classroom, if added up, wouldn't even top a 40 hour week. We have had to have the same parent for our Home and School continue to stay in the position even though her own children were gone. That's in violation of school policy, but something we couldn't avoid. Nobody in our neighborhood could even be bothered to volunteer for that job. PTA? What's that? Parent centers, not around here! We're lucky if there is even paper to cut, let alone having someone volunteer to cut it. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but it's the parent that actually shows up on a daily basis that gets my vote. I know parents that have threatened staff and been banned from the building, but continue to roam the hallways unchecked. Is it too much for teachers to expect a parent to at least call or send in a note if they can't make their requested conference? How is that any different than the rudeness you claim teachers have exhibited towards you?

It's obvious that you have alot of hostility towards teachers. Maybe that's because of your own insecurity or inability to write grammatically correct sentences. You have yet to explain why you want to punish teachers for suspending (which they can't do anyway) when a child misbehaves in class. I guess rules are just suppose to look nice on paper, but god forbid any teacher should try to enforce them, especially if they happen to be white. Why shouldn't holding parents be held accountable at the same time teachers? What is this nonsense of holding teachers responsible before you do the same with the parents? When were you planning to start fingerpointing at the administration? NCLB is a joke, Bush never funded it because its main purpose was unionbusting, not education reform.

No university could prepare any teacher for the crap school districts expect them to put up with these days. Substitute teaching is what I credit with the survival skills that have kept me afloat.

The fact that you got a degree is admirable, but your writing leaves alot to be desired. I find it hard to believe that someone with an AS degree would write the way you do. It weakens your position.

As Ray Charles once sang, "you don't know me". I guess stereotyping teachers as people who are in it for only a paycheck is your way of avoiding complex issues. I have done more than my share of contributing to my students beyond the normal school day. I've run clubs after school, some of them for free and some for the designated EC funds each school gets. Every year I tell my students that they are welcome to stay after school if they need me to go over something again. A few will take me up on the offer, but most can't be bothered. I rarely leave school before 5:30 even though I could walk out the door at 3:10. Not to mention that I have work to grade at home and lessons to prepare when I get home. When do you think I have the time to reach out to parents "outside of the classroom"? Parents have always been invited to come sit in my room. It cuts down on the nonsense factor that goes on when you only have one adult in the class.

Get your teaching degree and put in a couple of years then you can tell me how to do my job.

Submitted by Mary (not verified) on August 2, 2009 12:54 am

First you don't need a degree to be expert. As you may no that book learning is not just enough in urban schools . I have 25 years working in urban schools condition and I lived and participate in same condition and barriers every day for last 30 years. So that might give me some social capital, as expert.

Yes, I volunteer 40 hours a week, but my membership which mandate volunteering have 300 volunteer for total of 12,000 hours a week, 48,000 per month. My parents volunteer through out the school and not just in their child classroom. Parents are on the campus as advocate for teachers and student. We advocate at Special Education and on discipline matters. Another example : we have when to Board Meeting on behalf of teachers for more textbooks and reduce ratios teacher to pupil. All of this with no charge. There many wonderful teachers, but all teachers can't teach in my neighborhood.

I disagree with about what unviversity can do in prepare teachers for urban school. How many hours did your university prepare you on how to out reach to families, or was it one chapter in the book? Second question how many hours do your school provide professional around parent Involvement? This should be ongoing professional develop , along side cultural revelant training.

I prepare my cohort of teachers in one year long class.After completion of my class, I also place them in schools. I place teachers in three or two for support of each others. Plus, I place teachers on campus where my parents participate so they can trouble problems for teachers when they come up. My parents attend conference with teachers when they feel uncomfortable in meeting with certain parents. I do follow up with all the teachers on Friday. This allow the teachers to know they aren't working alone and they are supported. On Friday we reflect the week, and share ideas and suggestion,

The proof that this is working is that our teachers are staying. Research show that most new teachers leave within two years in urban school. Every year I place more teachers on each campus, where there are alumuni be mentors to new placement, a support base.

Yes, my writing isn't the greatest and I have people on my staff that proof read my material. This statement let me know that you are not cultural friendly to black cultural, because you would know that language Art is weakness for us, even for people that have Ph.d and MA. So, why are you teaching in Philadelphia? Maybe because of you bias, or lack of understand who the children you are teaching cause your frusration, not system at all. You have degree but I have better understand of how to navigate the school structure .

Let me suggest some books for your reading "Learning Power" by Dr. Jeannie Oakes and Dr. John rogers, another Peter Murrell "Community Teachers". So please forgive my spelling , my staff wasn't available to proof read this email. I am hoping that you stop beating up your self and listen. I am not against you are committed and dedicate teacher. Again , I agree principals need to be held accountablity too. This is why my organization have remove principal from school site because of lack of leadership and not working collaboratively with all stakeholder. "Botton Up Accountability". Please put Mary Johnson, Parent-U-Turn in your google search engine. I work on behalf of children that lead to more resources for teachers. California school is number 51 on lowest in funding schools, but all our school have parent center, materials and supplies for our teachers, such as white boarda, smart boards, and update classroom technology. I guess we the parents have held the State and District accountability in California.


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2009 5:33 pm

You don't have to be an expert to know how to use a dictionary. It just takes a little effort and time. What were you doing in school during your elementary years? The fact that you claim to have a staff that proofreads your posts, and yet continue to write posts that are riddled with grammatical errors, is truly unbelievable. I can see a mispelling here or a grammar error there, but to continually do it is inexcusable. If you have something you think is important enough to say then it should be important enough to say it well. Have somebody look over your posts first before actually posting them.

Desipte the grammar mistakes it your willingness to play the race card that I find unforgivable. I've taught long enough in urban settings to know how to deal with minority dodges like the one you tried last time. To try and pass off your own failings as some sort of "cultural" chasm is absurd. It is not only an insult to me ("you are not cultural friendly to black cultural"), but to every black person who took the time to learn how to construct a sentence (even those without "Ph.ds and MAs"). Send La Shawn Barber your posts and see what she thinks. She's black and lives in CA too. I think culturally you've been around liberals for too long. Do you think every white person can be so easily bullied?

No, my frustration is with a corrupt administration that would rather spend money to lie to public about all the wonderful things they are going to do (even though, time and time again, these things don't seem to come to pass). I'm frustrated with parents that want me to do their job for them. I teach, but it is their job to keep an eye on their children's work, show up for meetings (especially the ones they set up), and teach their children civility. As I mentioned before, I have little time left to reach out to parents beyond the reaching I am already doing (calling home, Parent's Night, report card conferences, Interim slips, etc.) This blame the teachers mentality has got to go. I've noticed your reluctance to blame the administration for anything that goes wrong too. I suspect it has to do with the position you're in and the wish not to rock any boats. You seem to think that your schools out in CA are the same as in Philly. "white (wipe?) boards, smart boards and update(d) classroom technology" would be nice to have, but right now getting enough copy paper to last the year is the wish for most Philly teachers. We have a lot of copying to do when we are denied the text books and supplies we need to do our job. Your work to provide "more resources for teachers" does have my sincere admiration.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2011 3:49 am

Hello. I am reading the interesting dialogue from the past. I am glad that you care to have current books at your school. My son has an old book, and the teacher thinks this is sufficient. Are some teachers too busy to notice? I think in some schools if the teacher advocates for the students she might not have a job later, and the same too if she advocates on behalf of parents. I told the principal the book was old, he said they are books adopted by the district. I am sad to hear the state of condition the school is in. Personally I think it would be hard to work there. The attitudes and the enviroment need to change also. Most underperforming schools have this problem they, the staff don't work together on behalf of the best interest of the student any many rules, codes are violated at the site that are not in the best interest of the students.

Submitted by Mary (not verified) on August 5, 2009 5:55 pm

I see that you are not open for suggestion. So, this is by last respond to your email. You are so angry and frusrated that you don't listen. So I am wasting my engery trying to outreach suggestion to you.You are a very good teacher and deserve better condition,

I am black single woman, that have raised four childrens that have MA. So, who better can speak on black strengthen and weakest.I feel for you because your written reflection show that you at your rope end.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2009 6:45 pm

In the classroom I can speak better about black strengths. I've been an advocate for black children who want to learn despite the constant putdowns from their own race ("You're acting white"). For a school that is more than 95% black it's amazing the amount of racial animosity I have witnessed by black children towards other black children (too light, too dark, etc.) There is little diversity in too many schools despite the administration's claims to be promoting it. My kids know that I have always been there for them. I just wish I could say the same for my administration.

We disagree, but raising four children that have gotten their MAs is truly a noble accomplishment. However, I do not agree that every problem in urban schools can be boiled down to cultural awareness or race. The basic necessities apply to all races, creeds, and whatever ! It starts with discipline.

Nice sparring with you, Adios.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 12, 2011 4:06 am

Hello. I would like to comment on your statement: you have been an advocate for black children who want to learn. Of course there are students who have discipline problems or a bad attitude; have you ever considered maybe they are jealous of other students who are improving or who are smart or maybe they have not heard much positive reinforcement from home. Everyone in class should count don't you think. For others that have a more serious problems with anger should be involved in an anger management program that the school should provide or include it in the curriculum (others schools have this).

Submitted by king student (not verified) on May 10, 2012 1:53 pm

i think the article is very good, i do think more parents should get involved in schools especially high school . the more parents get involved the more the teachers and principles listen. if more parents step up they will have a say so and get what they want to say out and the principle could take the advice of the parents

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