Education is Becoming More Consumer-Driven
Editor's note: In the final of a series of four guest blogs on how teachers view parent involvement and engagement in public education, Renee Moore responds to Larry Ferlazzo's distinction: Parent Involvement or Parent Engagement?
Earlier today, we published Larry's response to Renee's posting, How Much Parent Involvement Do Educators Really Want?
Larry’s thoughtful distinction between “involvement” and “engagement” of parents is more than just semantics. We agree that the attitude of educators toward parents significantly determines the quality of response we can expect. For a more detailed look at the dynamics of trust in parent/ school relations, read the book Trust in Schools (Bryk and Schneider, 2002).
Larry is also right (as numerous studies and our own teaching experiences show) that any level of school/community/parent cooperation produces some positive effect on student achievement. My concern is that we, as educators, not just look at parent/school relationships in terms of what they can do for us (e.g., make our work easier, make the scores in our schools higher), but ultimately what they can do for public education as a whole.
As the 21st Century unfolds, it becomes increasingly apparent that education will be more and more consumer driven. Knowledgeable parents and students will be making use of a wider array of options to customize the educational services they receive. While many schools are still debating what to do with parents, parents and students may be figuring out how to do without us. Building trusting relationships based on mutual respect may help us move education forward together.
Building trust is especially important and most difficult for those of us serving the rural poor (which includes the working poor) and children of color. Already faced with fewer options than their urban or suburban counterparts, these parents have to become even more effective advocates for their children’s right to a quality public education. I’ve seen teachers and administrators go to great lengths to withhold information from parents about services (such as Section 504 or IDEA rights) rather than helping rural minority parents learn how to advocate for the needs of their children.
Consider these disturbing facts from Why Rural Matters 2007 (courtesy of The Rural School and Community Trust):
- Rural school enrollment is increasing both absolutely and as a percentage of the national student enrollment.
- Rural instructional expenditures per pupil are lowest in Southern states where rural schools face severe socio-economic challenges (rural districts in Mississippi spent an average $3,688 per pupil for instruction in 2006); and
- The poorer and more diverse the rural student population, the lower the rural NAEP scores.
Parents and educators should be engaged and involved in helping individual students as well as in the ongoing fight to fulfill our nation’s promise of quality education for every child.
Click here to browse dozens of Public School Insights interviews with extraordinary education advocates, including:
- 2013 Digital Principal Ryan Imbriale
- Best Selling Author Dan Ariely
- Family Engagement Expert Dr. Maria C. Paredes
The views expressed in this website's interviews do not necessarily represent those of the Learning First Alliance or its members.
Excellence is the Standard
At Pierce County High School in rural southeast Georgia, the graduation rate has gone up 31% in seven years. Teachers describe their collaboration as the unifying factor that drives the school’s improvement. Learn more...
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