Communication matters --
I am a new public school parent who recently left the cyber charter school community. One of the benefits of cyber charter school is the parent's direct involvement in the education of the student. One cyber charter school website wrote "The Parent/Guardian plays an integral role in student success. Each student is required to have a Parent/Guardian serve as a home facilitator to ensure that the student is (virtually) attending school regularly and completing assignments on time. The Parent/Guardian is an essential partner with the teacher, the student, and the school. Parent/Guardian requirements for home facilitation will vary with age and motivation of the student. Students in primary grades (K-8), students with lower motivation levels, and students with special needs generally require more direct involvement in the learning process. The PALCS model of education requires a commitment that goes beyond a traditional public school." The cyber charter school model is a system that builds accountability for the student by the teacher AND the parent.
The model even points out to the fact that the public school communication model excludes the parent. The standard communication model is student-teacher with the parents' who are able to adjust their schedule to the demand of the teacher during the quarterly check-in. This is a reactive communication model. That model means the parent has little to any options that directly affect the students' educational path because the information is given after the fact.
Most people, like teachers, operate in a system that works best for them. Meaning a teacher's communication style fits the style that works best for the teacher not necessarily what is best for the student. Most teachers have to manage 150 or so students so they build processes that are efficient for them. Having the responsibility for 150 students not to mention their parents is a lot to bear and that is why parents are not included in that mix unless there is a ongoing issue with the student.
There is the clue to problem number 2 - only bad behavior is reported (classroom management) so in order for a student to get the attention of the teacher, they must act in a negative manner.
In the cyber charter school, grades and performance are always communicated to parents which builds a proactive model. I quote, from https://ccaeducate.me/about/parents/parent-responsibilities, "When families are actively involved in the learning process, children realize the importance of their education." The current public school communication model stifles a family from helping the student realize their potential with a reactive communication model. Maybe we can implement a proactive educational performance model mastered by the cyber charter schools into the public schools?
When it comes to education, there is plenty of blame going around. When "Johnny" fails a class, "Johnny" blames the teacher and the teacher blames the student. Now the parent blames the entire system. What I know for sure - "Johnny" can be a part of the problem, "Johnny's" parent can be a part of the problem, the teacher can be a part of the problem and the system can also be a part of the problem. Like I said, there is plenty of blame to go around. The question for me is NOT whom to blame but who will FIX the problem. We have studied and studied and studied, even more, the issues in urban education. But we are NOT implementing SOLUTIONS. As long as we continue to blame each other, we are NOT addressing our individual responsibilities to implement solutions so that "Johnny" has no choice but to blame himself for failing the class.
The solutions to urban education REQUIRE an understanding of the accountability system. An effective accountability system requires at least 3 people. Those people consist of the teacher, the student and the accountability partner which is usually the parent. Luckily for me, my teachers started calling my mother in the 7th grade. Back then teachers taught and served as the communicator to the accountability partner (parent) so I, the student, was not afforded the opportunity to fail. My teachers who I fondly remember by name - Mrs. Baytops at Cassidy, Mr. Grillet 5 grade teacher at Masterman, Mrs. Campbell 6th grade teacher at Masterman, Mrs. Spatzner 9th and 10th grade math teacher EXPECTED that I succeed in their environments.
The teachers' Desk Reference wrote "When parents are valued members of the team in planning, preparation and communication, it leads to positive outcomes for all, especially the student. Parent-teacher communication is a key element in student success." Now, technology makes it even easier for parents to SEE student performance through computerized student dashboards when they are implemented. Urban education systems have been slow to migrate to these performance tools and yet teacher-parent communication no longer exists as a systemic solution. This means students are not being held RESPONSIBLE to meet education expectations from the teacher or the parent. In other technical terms, we have a SYSTEM failure.
Now we have a few choices to implement accountability systems that increase parental engagement so that "Johnny" can succeed in school.
1) At the beginning of the year, teachers can meet with the parents to establish expectations. This would show "Johnny" the importance of education to himself, the parents and the teacher.
2) Then the schools can implement performance monitoring systems that the cyber charter school systems depend on. Urban school systems might require more hands-on training to parents but this would be a long-term ROI to help parents move into technology for the 21st century.
3) Have parents abide by their contracts to volunteer at least 10 hours in school. I know parents have to work but someone has to make sure "Johnny" is on track for success. What if "Johnny" does not have a parent or the parent does not care about education? In that case, "Johnny" needs a mentor who cares about Johnny and his education.
4) Implement intervention programs for behavior and emotional health. Let's face it - to the student in an unstable home environment or who have been affected by instability, schools can have a traumatizing effect. This means we need to train teachers and staff on the typical behaviors associated with trauma. Dr. Ken Ginsburg, pediatrician specializing in Adolescent medicine at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia "Our kids are not broken: Empowering Traumatized Yong people", https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mr8n78giUk, said "50% of depressed youth lash out in anger that is the school to prison pipeline. Youth depression does not look like adult depression."
John C. Maxwell said "Leadership is Responsibility". As a mother of 3 students, I am now the responsible party to stop the blame game and help everyone BE the solution to "system failure." We all have a part to play in implementing solutions for "Johnny", "Elizabeth" and all the other 130,000+ students and parents who traverse through the School District of Philadelphia every day.
As we embark on new academic year, what have we learned from 2016-2017? What are the results from the last school year? My questions, Dr. William Hite and the entire SRC, how do we measure success at school?
The first ingredient for school success is a warm, loving and caring environment AT HOME. Students success is a product of care at home, care in school and care of the community served. The second ingredient is a school that promotes success with high academic standards for studies and participation. To some students that might mean going from a F to a C, for other students that might mean going from a D to a B, for a different students success could be going from a C to an A. It is not the grade that matters but the consistency of effort to measure progress over time.
The article, http://www.wnyc.org/…/researchers-pinpoint-success-factors…/ wrote "The Research Alliance for New York City Schools picked out 25 effective small schools, by using attendance data, graduation rates and other indicators collected from the research firm MDRC. After extensive interviews with more than 100 teachers and principals in 2011, they found three key ingredients:
1) Personalized learning environments. The schools hired key support staff, such as social workers, and [made] student advisory groups that typically consisted of one teacher and 10-20 students who would meet regularly.
2) High academic expectations, along with support for students to succeed. The schools would offer Saturday classes and stay on top of students with attendance issues through regular phone calls and contact with families.
3) Experienced and highly effective teachers. Because of their size, the schools needed teachers who could assume various leadership roles. They also [built] committees during the hiring process that included students and teachers.
Adriana Villavicencio, a research associate at the New York University-based Research Alliance, acknowledged a lot of this sounds like common sense. The report’s authors concluded that many of these success strategies can be used in schools of any size. Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, said the chancellor agreed with the report's conclusions. "Structures that promote strong relationships with students, families and educators are essential,” said Kaye.
Nothing can be improved if it is not measured. I am asking the School Reform Commission - How are we measuring the leadership of schools to build structures that promote strong relationships with students, families and educators?