"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Final Review Question Answer

In the flurry that has ensued since I attended the Union Forum on March 12, I forgot to post the last response to the Review series. So here it is.

Question 6: As parents of school aged children (either now or in the past!) please share with Review readers, a favorite (or most meaningful) shared Evansville School District experience you've had with your child/children. Adding too, your opinion of the District's encouragement level toward parental involvement. If you feel they do a fine job-say so and why. If you feel they need to do more-add what you would recommend they do.

We have actively partnered with ECSD in educating our children for over thirteen years. Last year our oldest child graduated from EHS, which was by far our most meaningful shared experience in the district to date. Our family motto has always been, “Do your best work, no matter what the task.” Teachers who went out of their way and often their job function to mentor our children have contributed untold value to their education and perfectly complemented our educational philosophy. They have been the highlight of our family’s educational journey.

Bill and I spend lots of time and effort every year to convince teachers and administrators that we are active members on our children’s educational teams. In a district the size of Evansville, one has an expectation that this effort would naturally wane as the younger siblings enter similar situations over the years. That has not been our experience. In our case, efforts to advocate for our children’s best interest continue to remain very high. I know I am perfectly equipped to do the job for my children, being self-confident and capable of expressing myself as needed. I also know many other parents are unable for a number of reasons to get in the ring every year to insist on an education that meets the needs of their child. It is for this reason I believe the process is flawed. Every time an occasion arises where I have to intervene to prevent complacency in my child’s education, I think of the kids whose parents can’t challenge the system and how underserved they may be. This is unacceptable to me.

Based on the number of times staff has expressed surprise at our unwavering support for our children’s education, it seems to me that instead of expecting ALL parents to support classroom efforts at home, the district expects NO parents to support classroom efforts at home. I presume that this shift happened because it’s so painful when people disappoint you, especially where children are involved. It’s much more psychologically soothing to expect nothing and get scraps than to expect everything and fall short. From there it is a very short trip to give the impression that parental involvement is considered parental interference and it is undesirable in the district. A number of our friends have received the same “butt out” messages in many ways over the years. In reality, they are “we can’t do that because” messages, but “butt out” is what we hear. “Please don’t walk your five-year-old to class anymore; it’s disruptive of our educational process.” “Parents are to wait in the lobby for their student” “Your child does not meet the criteria to receive services at this time.” “Medically necessary and educationally necessary services are not the same” “You will have to sign a waiver absolving us of responsibility if your child fails to excel in this class.” “Your kid lost achievement level because they started out higher than their peers.” “Your kid is already on the accelerated English and Math track, now you want them to have science enrichment? That will make them stand out too much, which is terrible to a middle schooler.” These may or may not be valid statements, but the experience would be much more positive if a can-do approach were accompanied by phrases like, “Welcome! It’s so nice to see so many moms/dads/grandmas/grandpas here today!” “It must be so nice to be able to walk home with Aunt Ann!” “Let’s see what we can do to serve your child.” “I’m sure that we can come up with a plan to help with this issue.” “Let’s give him or her a chance to flex those brain cells and see where their limits are in this safe and FREE environment.” “Let’s challenge your child so he or she has the opportunity to gain achievement level as does his peers!” “Let’s celebrate your child’s abilities and skills and help them continue to build on the joy of learning they already have.” After we hear these words, we’d like to know what we can do to help the teachers make it a reality. Finally, we want to see tangible evidence that the plan is coming to fruition.

Parental involvement is a factor that has shown positive correlation with student achievement, which is currently a factor in District and School Report Cards and will comprise fifty percent of teacher and principal assessments in 2014-2015. It is in the district’s, the teachers’ and the principals’ best interests to seek better ways to encourage and respond effectively to parental involvement and concerns. Done well, perhaps the number of families leaving the district will decrease, revenues will increase and everyone wins. Especially the kids. 

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