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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 ...

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:

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[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.


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. ...

Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey believes we can make the college graduation prospects of inner city children every bit as strong as those of their suburban peers. As president of Say Yes to Education, she has the data to back up her claims. Schmitt-Carey recently spoke with us about her model and its astonishing impact in several U.S. cities.

Say Yes topples barriers to college by offering disadvantaged youth comprehensive supports ranging from health care to college scholarships. The results of this work are stunning. In communities where it is active, Say Yes has dramatically narrowed the high school and college graduation gaps between inner-city students and their suburban peers.

Schmitt-Carey emphasizes the need to rally many community partners around common goals. In Syracuse, for example, Say Yes has built a strong a coalition including the school district, mayor, city council, school board, teachers unions, higher education community, business organizations and community-service organizations. Rather than pointing fingers of blame, Schmitt-Carey says, these partners share responsibility for children's long-term success.

Hear highlights from our interview (6 minutes). [A transcript of these highlights appears below]

Or listen to the following excerpts from ...

Jasmine Britton is one of a small but growing group of talented teen documentary filmmakers whose work is winning accolades from educators and critics alike. I recently had the chance to chat with her about her documentary work and its impact on her education and life. Jasmine, who attends high school in Brooklyn, is quite outspoken in her opinion that more schools should offer students opportunities similar to those she has enjoyed.

Together with her peers at Reel Works Teen Filmmaking, Jasmine is working on a new documentary about U.S. national parks that will serve as a companion piece to Ken Burns's forthcoming documentary on the same subject. Reel Works is a Brooklyn-based non-profit organization that helps over 150 teens each year conceive, plan, film, edit and promote original documentaries. Last year, Over Here--a Reel Works documentary about the World War II homefront--aired on New York public television station Channel Thirteen.

In our interview, Jasmine describes her first documentary, a tribute to her mother entitled A Message to Marlene. She also credits her experience at Reel Works with motivating her to think much more earnestly about college. Finally, she urges educators to make the Reel Works experience much more accessible in schools.

Listen to highlights from our interview (5 minutes):

Read a transcript of these highlights below, and stay tuned next week for an interview with Reel Works filmmaker Isaac Shrem.

Interview Highlights:
PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: Tell me about your film.

JASMINE: My film was called "A Message to Marlene," and it was basically a tribute [to] my mother. At the time, ...

In his March 10th speech before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, President Obama repeated his campaign pledge to help states expand and improve early learning programs.

In defiance of skeptics who question the value or feasibility of early childhood education, the National Association of State Boards of Education points to Obama's home state of Illinois. The Illinois program can boast both strong acadmic results and cost-effectiveness, NASBE argues in a recent policy brief:

Illinois met nine of its 10 benchmarks for pre-k quality, ranked... 12th in access for 4-year-olds and first in the nation for 3-year-olds, while spending slightly more than ...

Walter Dean Myers understands second chances. A high school dropout by age 17, he enlisted in the army and worked odd jobs as a young adult. It was his lifelong relationship with books that put him on a path to becoming one of the nation's most celebrated young adult authors. Five Coretta Scott King Awards and two Newbery Honors later, Myers is sharing the lesson of second chances with a new generation of at-risk youth.

Last week, Myers spoke with us about the central themes of his new novel, Dope Sick: personal responsibility and redemption. The novel tells the story of a young man facing the consequences of a drug deal gone wrong who has an opportunity to review and revise his life choices. This story line reflects a belief Myers avowed throughout our interview: We must empower teens to take greater control of their lives.

Dope Sick has become the centerpiece of an effort to do just that. Myers is collaborating with and the NEA on the Second Chance Initiative, which aims to help youth make better choices. As part of this initiative, the novel will be available for free on HarperCollins' website from February 10th through 24th. The initiative also offers Dope Sick reading guides and writing activities along with resources on preventing high school dropout, teen pregnancy and substance abuse.

Underlying this effort is Myers' long-standing faith that reading can offer hope to teens who need it most.

Listen to highlights from our interview with Walter Dean Myers here (16 minutes), or read a transcript below:


PUBLIC SCHOOL INSIGHTS: You're releasing your new novel, Dope Sick, very soon. What's the novel about?

MYERS: It's about a young man who has reached a point of crisis in his life. He goes into a building, running from the police, and he meets another young man his own age. The new young man is a somewhat fantastic creature who can call up ...

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