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The Public School Insights Blog

A New York Times analysis finds that schools led by principals trained through non-traditional routes “have not done as well as those led by experienced principals or new principals who came through traditional routes”:

The Times’s analysis shows that Leadership Academy graduates were less than half as likely to get A’s as other principals, and almost twice as likely to earn C’s or worse [on the city's grading system for public schools]. Among elementary and middle-school principals on the job less than three years, Academy graduates were about a third as likely to get A’s as those who did not attend the program.

This kind of analysis has the potential to redraw battle lines and unsettle ideologies held by educators and reformers across the political spectrum. ...

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 ...

Editor's note: Over the few days, we have published guest postings by Renee Moore and Larry Ferlazzo on how teachers view parent engagement in public schools. Today, Larry responds to Renee's posting. 

Renee’s point about how teachers are intimately involved with parents on a day-to-day basis outside of school in her rural area is a good one. In many (if not most?) urban schools, teachers never see parents (or their students) in a non-school situation since most of us don’t live in the same communities where we teach.

I’d say that rural-urban difference emphasizes the particular need for urban schools to embrace home-visiting by teachers and/or other types of “engagement” efforts. The personal trust that parents have for Renee and her colleagues in their rural community, I think, is less likely to occur in ...

Editor's note: This is the second in a series of guest blogs on how teachers view parent engagement and involvement in public schools. Yesterday, Renee Moore offered her perspective on how much parent involvement educators really want.  Today, Larry Ferlazzo shares his thoughts on the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement. 

“When it comes to a breakfast of ham and eggs, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed.”

This old saying is roughly analogous to the issue facing schools today as they consider the kind of relationships they want to build with the parents of their students. I would characterize it as a difference between parent involvement (the chicken) and parent engagement (the pig). I first become aware of this contrast through a study of organizing work by the Industrial Areas Foundation in Texas schools. Boston College professor Dennis Shirley wrote about the IAF’s decades-long efforts in his 1997 book Community Organizing For Urban School Reform.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines involvement as “to enfold or envelop.” It defines engagement as “to interlock with; to mesh.” Those definitions get to the crux of the difference. When schools involve parents they are leading with ...

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of four guest blogs on how teachers view parent engagement and involvement in public schools.  Stay tuned for a contribution from teacher-blogger Larry Ferlazzo.

I grew up in a big city and graduated from a magnet high school that had 5,000 students. My teachers barely knew who I was, much less who my parents were. How different from the Mississippi school districts where I’ve taught for nearly two decades. The total population of one town was just under 2,000, and half of them were students in our schools.

Parent involvement takes on a very different meaning when I see the parents of my students every week ringing me up in the grocery store, rinsing me out at the beauty shop, tuning up my car at the local garage, or delivering my mail. I worship with them, bowl with them, sit in the waiting rooms with them. I know them, and they trust me.

Trust is the issue with most parents. Here in the Delta, over 40% of the adults are illiterate; others have ...

Robert Pondiscio at the Core Knowledge blog recently summed up the findings of a new study on the impact of family conflict on student achievement:

Children from troubled families perform “considerably worse” on standardized reading and mathematics tests and are much more likely to commit disciplinary infractions and be suspended than other students, according to a new study. Writing in Education Next, Scott Carrell of UC-Davis and the University of Pittsburgh’s Mark Hoekstra offer evidence that “a single disruptive student can indeed influence the academic progress made by an entire classroom of students.”

Robert adds his own thoughtful interpretation of the study's ...

In Miami, educators and community members have joined forces to mount an innovative parent education program for immigrant families: ENCHOR AKOR. I recently had the privilege of speaking with several people intimately connected to the program, which serves primarily Haitian parents of children attending North Miami Middle School.

Immigrant parents generally have access to few parenting education materials that address their specific cultural concerns. ENCHOR AKOR aims to fill that void by helping parents build more constructive relationships with their children and thereby more effectively support their success in school. ENCHOR stands for “Encouragement, Consequences, Honor and Respect”—the program’s four pillars. AKOR is the equivalent acronym in Haitian-Creole.

The program’s workshops and resources have won a strong following among middle school parents. In the process, they have breathed life into the school’s PTA, which has grown from zero to 55 members in only a year.

The national PTA recognized ENCHOR AKOR with an honorable mention in its prestigious Phoebe Apperson Hearst-National PTA Excellence in Education Partnership Award program.

In the interview, you will hear from four people:

  • Pastor Georges, who has shared the lessons of ENCHOR AKOR with his congregation;
  • Ms. Wilhel Jean-Louis, a mother and school psychologist;
  • Mrs. Smith, a Bahaman immigrant and mother who went through the program; and
  • Dr. Guilhene Benjamin from Miami-Dade Public Schools’ Parent Academy, who helped design the program.

Download the entire interview here, or listen to 6 minutes of interview highlights:

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialise correctly.

[A transcript of these highlights appears below]

You can also listen to the following excerpts: ...

Yesterday morning, I emerged long enough from our newborn's diapers and wipes to catch up on some reading. My jaw dropped when I came across this paragraph from David Brooks's Friday op-ed:

[The impressive results of charter schools in the Harlem Children's Zone] are powerful evidence in a long-running debate. Some experts, mostly surrounding the education establishment, argue that schools alone can’t produce big changes. The problems are in society, and you have to work on broader issues like economic inequality. Reformers, on the other hand, have argued that school-based approaches can produce big results. The Harlem Children’s Zone results suggest the reformers are right.

What?!?  

Did Brooks really just argue that the Harlem Children's Zone's success supports the schools alone approach championed by "reformers"? That's like arguing that the Surgeon General's reports discredit the link between smoking and cancer. ...

Editor's Note: Soiled diapers and a desperate need to consult Dr. Spock on the matter of newborn sleep schedules will keep me from blogging today, so I thought I'd bring back an oldie but goodie: our interview with Canadian education leader Raymond Théberge. As I get into the parenting groove over the coming week, Public School Insights will feature guest blogs by leading teachers, new interviews with education innovators, and my own occasional commentary. In the meantime, enjoy Dr. Théberge.

(First published November 7, 2008.)

As we swoon over Finland's celebrated education system, we often forget about another high achiever just to our North: Canada. Canada scores among the top three countries in PISA assessments of 15-year-olds' reading literacy and science.

What are the reasons for this success? Canadian education leader Dr. Raymond Théberge believes they include Canada's commitment to education equity and its strong support for struggling schools. He also credits the country's general dedication to the health and well-being of its children and families: "We cannot expect the schools to solve all of our society's problems."

We recently spoke with Dr. Théberge, who in 2005 became Director General of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC). (In Canada, responsibility for education rests entirely with the thirteen provinces and territories. The CMEC helps provincial education ministries collaborate with one another and the federal government on strategies for improving Canadian schools.)

You can download our entire 17-minute conversation here, or listen to just over 5 minutes of interview highlights:

[A transcript of these highlights appears below]

Alternatively, you can listen ...

The title of this interview, which is also the title of Robyn Jackson’s recent ASCD book, is sure to raise a hue and a cry among those who believe we should urge teachers to work more, not less. Yet Jackson is far more concerned with how teachers work than with how much they work.

We recently spoke with Dr. Jackson, a National Board Certified Teacher and former school administrator, about her book’s big lessons. She uses an old adage to sum up an overarching message: “The person working hardest in the room is the only person learning.” Even the most dedicated teachers fall short if they do the work their students should be doing. Master teachers, by contrast, inspire students to do the important work on their own.

By no means does Jackson excuse teachers from hard work. Master teachers, she argues, must understand where students are, where they need to go, and what support they need along the way. They must hold themselves to very high expectations for promoting student success and seek feedback on their performance.

Jackson’s work holds important lessons for policymakers, not just teachers: Support educators’ capacity! Simply urging people to work harder is not a feasible reform strategy.

You can download the entire audio interview here or listen to six minutes of interview highlights:

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialise correctly.

[A transcript of these highlights appears below]

Alternatively, download the following excerpts from ...

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