The DeHavilland Blog

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Community engagement in education

Came across two interesting articles on community engagement that I wanted to share.

The first is a commentary in the The Providence Journal. Titled "Tough choices; system can't be fixed, needs to change," it begins:

The trouble with the long-standing tradition of “local control” in American public schools is that the control is not nearly local enough.

What “local control” actually means is that the decision-making powers of a district’s schools are shared by four bodies, none of which deal directly with students. The four are: the municipality, the school committee, the district’s central office and the labor unions.

In the best of all possible worlds, all four of those entities have their eyes unswervingly trained on the kids’ well-being and academic achievement.

In reality, however, they all tend to respond first to the demands, concerns and egos of grownups. Politicians, elected officials, bureaucrats and unions all need to make themselves indispensable to their constituents just to stay in the game. They jockey for control of resources and power. You can listen to a lot of heated debate among these groups without once hearing any mention of the kids.

As a system for supporting schools, this is useless.

The next, from The Times Online (UK), is titled "Parents' direct access to teachers by text message is 'key to success'." From the article:

“It’s revolutionising the way that teachers can communicate with parents,” Mr Johnson told The Times. “In the old days, parents would only know what was going on when they got the end-of-term report or went to the open day.”

He said that a greater involvement of parents in the education of their children should have a dramatic impact on standards. “Parental involvement in education trumps every other factor in terms of whether a child is going to do well,” he said. “It is more important than ethnicity, more important than social background.”

Many parents, particularly from poorer backgrounds, do not get in touch with schools because they are intimidated by the educational establishment. “Parents are sometimes loath to trouble a school unless they feel welcome, so a strategy that encourages people to express their concerns is really sensible,” Mr Johnson said.

“When you talk about the most difficult to reach, it’s the parents who don’t feel particularly empowered, are not as pushy as they might be because they are inhibited or lack confidence. This can help to break down those barriers.”

While not directly related, both articles do emphasize the importance of parents and other community members in the education process, something I intend to write more about in 2007.


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