Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ugly stuff

Years ago, I heard a legislator say out loud, "Some parents are just dumb and lazy." And I thought to myself, "Anyone who said the same sentence about teachers would be out of office in a matter of months, if not hours. "

Why is there a difference?

It isn't because the sentence about parents is true and a matching sentence about teachers (principals, superintendents, school board members, KDE staff, or legislators) would be false.

It's because it's safe to insult the weakest of parents, and not safe to insult the weakest members of the other groups. The other groups stand up for their own.

Parents, though, are comfortable with insulting other parents. We do it ourselves, and we let other people do it. We think that we can bond with educators and other people with power if we join them in speaking rudely about other parents and people without power. I can't remember having made my own cracks like that, but I can certainly remember hearing others do it and letting them think I agreed.

I shouldn't have done that. I shouldn't side with the strong against the weak.

Neither should Signe Wilkinson. Her recent education cartoon, siding with teachers and administrators and against parents, is out-of-keeping with her usual efforts to support a respectful and inclusive society.


  1. To many times I have heard from teachers, administrators, SBDM Council members and the community that parents don't care. All they want is free babysitting and the schools to do the jobs that the parents should have done with 'those' children.
    Or I have heard from the same group about the 'helicopter' parents that want to tell the schools what they should be teaching and how they should be teaching. Fortunately, groups of both of these kinds of parents is an extremely small percentage of parents as a whole.
    I have spent the last two weeks with two groups of parents in Florence and Louisville watching them learn how to read data, disaggregate data and graph their own school's core content subdomain data.
    These 58 parents have committed to spend three 2-day sessions this fall (for a total of 56 hours---all unpaid)to be trained in leadership and communication skills, learn about Kentucky's public education system. Then they will go back and design a project to be implemented at their child's school, based on the following standards: improving student achievement, involving more parents and have a lasting impact. This group of parents, as well as the other groups that have attended this traing for the last 13 year, care about the education of ALL children in Kentucky. They care about not only their child but every child in Kentucky. They are the ones that go back to their schools and ask the tough, uncomfortable questions of the SBDM councils, the administrators, the school boards, and the Kentucky Commissioner of Education why there are still schools and/or groups of children that are not making proficiency. They are the parents that know authentic parent engagement is not the sports/band booster clubs or fundraising or serving punch and cookies. These are the parents that serve on SBDM committees, councils, district school boards and even the state school board for the right reason. They are the parents that know that 'those' children can learn if given the opportunity to be successful.

  2. There are over 1500 of these parents in the state of Kentucky that have received this leadership training. Many of these same parents came together on the Education Commisssioner's Parent Advisory Council and wrote The Missing Piece to the Proficiency Puzzle. You notice that I did not say they put their stamp on the report written by KDE staff members...I said they wrote the report. The report includes a rubric on how to measure parent involvement along with 6 recommendations that need to happen in Kentucky involving parent involvement.
    These parents come from all walks of life in Kentucky. Some have a doctorate and some have a GED. Some are in their early 20's and some are grandparents in their late 60's. Some are rich and some are poor. They come from all counties in Kentucky, but all know that for the children of Kentucky to succeed that parents have to be involved.
    Parent involvement is completely different in this day and age than what was expected even 20 years ago. The one thing that parents do not have now are role models for parent involvement. Parents need to be taught how to be authentically engaged in schools so that they can be a partner in the improvement of student achievement. Over 30 years of research on parent involvement show that when parents are involved student achievement increases.
    You would think that schools would be doing everything they could to get parents into schools. Instead they seem to be doing the same old thing over and over again but somehow expect to get different results.
    Anne Henderson has found from the 30 years of research she has compiled that schools need to start with:
    Parents are most likely to become involved if they:
    *Understand that they SHOULD be involved
    *Know they are CAPABLE of making a contribution
    *Feel INVITED by the school and their children
    The schools and school systems should be treating the parents as partners in the education of children. Partners need to have information shared with them in order to be a fully functioning partner. A large percentage of time the perception of 'parents don't care' is a result of the inability of the school system to really communicate information to the parents in terms that they understand. Next, the school system fails in communicating how and what they want the parents to partner with to help improve student achievement.
    Basically, it sounds like we have a failure to communicate between the two sets of adults that are closest to the student. So, as I finally close, it looks like both groups of adults need to set aside their tendency to accuse each other for the reason students are not achieving and to learn to work as fully communicating partners focused on one unified goal: successful student achievement for each and every child in Kentucky.

  3. I'd like to add to my colleagues comments above. I'm very sad that Ms. Wilkinson has not had the opportunity to meet and work with the parents that I have had the honor to work with. The parents I know willingly give much of their time volunteering to help not only their children but all children, believing in the philosophy that when your child does well, mine will too.

    I am preparing now to meet other parents that want to learn how to involve more parents to improve student achievement. These parents will be participating in a workshop that is based on the work of the Commissioner's Parent Advisory Council; The Missing Piece of the Proficiency Puzzle. This report and rubric was written, developed, designed and implemented by parents from across the state of Kentucky to address standards for parent involvement. Through the Missing Piece of the Proficiency Puzzle,
    *Kentucky became the first state in the nation to set a standard for parent involvement that is focused on improving student achievement.
    *Twelve other states have replicated this model.
    •Touring the rubric gets parents and staff thinking about and evaluating current parent involvement practices.
    •The rubric is tied to the scholastic audit process as it is embedded in the Standards and Indicators for School Improvement.
    •Districts are piloting the use of the Missing Piece by including each of the six objective as a component to their CSIP.

    Standards? Parents know about standards. I sure do wish Ms. Wilkinson could visit us and see all that parents do in Kentucky and maybe she would think differently about parents and standards in the future. Respectfully, carol edelen, parent leadership coordinator

  4. It never ceases to amaze me how our socity seems to be more content pointing fingers and whining about problems instead of trying to solve them. It is no wonder people do not feel comfortable speaking out when all people want to do in return is criticize. Parents can be wonderful agents of change for schools if they are engaged. The data supports it. Let the ugly go in one ear and out the other and let's get back to the business of helping each child in Kentucky reach their FULL potential.

  5. This cartoon should never have been posted here. It does nothing but distract from the real issues. I am a parent and I am a homeschool teacher. Let's solve issues, not point out tasteless cartoons that are decisive.

  6. Karen,

    Thank you for sharing how you'd approach the cartoon and similar remarks. I think disrespect for parents is a real issue in its own right, with a real impact on what can happen for our children. Because I think that, I plan to keep confronting it directly.

    That said, I hope you'll keep arguing with me about my strategies: you may convince me on this, you may convince me on other things, and at a minimum, you'll broaden my understanding of other perspectives.


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