Friday, October 2, 2009

The Current State of Parent Engagement in Public Schools

I found this article interesting due to the breakdown of how many students teachers deal with every year and the need for better parent engagement. I feel that as we keep “reforming” public education, politicians keep focusing on teachers as being the problems, instead of the effort of the parents and students as part of the educational process. Education involves the parents, students, teachers, and district, not just what teachers can do better in the classroom.
Ricardo LeBlanc-Esparza rose to national fame for turning around a classic hard-luck school. A key ingredient of his success? Parent engagement. Yesterday, he told us about his work to bring the parent engagement gospel to schools around the country.
Public School Insights: As people who've read our website before know, you've gained national prominence by helping turn around Granger High School in Washington State. What lessons did you learn from that experience that you really carry around with you now?
Esparza: There are so many lessons. It's hard to say. Public education is so big when you talk about instruction, curriculum, discipline and motivation. The piece that I really want to talk about is the whole family involvement/engagement piece.
I have traveled across the country, from Pennsylvania to Florida to Iowa to Arizona to Texas. Our public schools truly are lacking true public or parent involvement, engagement—whatever you want to call it when parents are active participants in the whole educational process.
Public School Insights: Exactly problems are you seeing in the schools that lack this engagement?
Esparza: I guess I need to frame that question…Because when I look at public schools, I see they typically meet the needs of the middle class and above population.
My wife is a principal of a K-8 magnet school for gifted and talented students. She told me a story that stuck with me. A mom came in and told my wife that she was not happy with her son's fifth-grade math scores. Okay. Why?
Because this mother had basically mapped out math skill sets from fifth grade all the way to twelfth grade, because she wanted her son to be in Calculus AB. I'm like, “Wow. That is a parent involvement and engagement.” But I'm also thinking, how does our system really work?
[That mom] knows the power of education. She's actively involved, and she knows [these skills will] open the doors for her son to do well on the SAT and the ACT. [They will help him with] scholarships, college, post-secondary choices.
But how does our system really work? Every time I've gone to a different state I analyze the schools and ask, are they any different? And really, they aren’t. Here's how [secondary education] works: One teacher is in charge of 100 to 180 students. A counselor, depending on the state, has anywhere from 400 to 600 kids they're supposed to keep track of. I think California has 600-plus. The same with an administrator -- anywhere from 400 to 600 kids. Then you look at coaches. They're in charge of 20 to 30 athletes who want to be there. That's how our public system works.
For more on the article.

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