Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Advocacy for every student, college-and-career-readiness for every student

The Missing Piece approach to parent engagement puts a high value on advocacy, setting this as the standard: "For each student, the school staff identifies and supports a parent or another adult who takes personal responsibility for understanding and speaking for each child’s learning needs."  It describes a school with that commitment as having features like these:
• School staff ensures every student has a parent and/or another adult who knows how to advocate, or speak up for them, regarding the student’s academic goals and individual needs.
• Most parents participate actively in student led conferences or other two-way communication about meeting their child’s individual learning needs.
• Parents report participating actively and effectively in required planning for individual learning, for example, Individual Education Plans, Individual Learning Plans, Gifted Student Plans, 504 Plans, and intervention strategies to ensure college readiness....
• School staff gives parents clear, complete information on the procedures for resolving concerns and filing complaints, and the council reviews summary data on those complaints to identify needed improvements.
• School staff ensures that parents and community members are well informed about how to become educational advocates, or how to access a trained educational advocate when needed.
• As students are identified by school staff as having disabilities or performing at the novice level, additional intentional steps are taken to ensure that parents have the option to use a trained advocate to assist them in speaking for their child’s needs.
I've spent a lot of time talking with frustrated advocates for individual children: they're pretty much my favorite kind of folks.

What they want, over and over, is to get a clear commitment on what a child needs to learn and a clear commitment on the steps to make that happen and then (most importantly) follow-through on what goes down in the IEP or the notes from the meeting or the e-mail to spell out what's been discussed.

The new standards ought to make it easier for advocates to get to the specification of what a child will achieve.  They're shorter, clearer, better broken down into levels of work. Using them, it should be more possible to say students will reach the standards for the grade during the school year, or begin work with a collaborating teacher next week on the two that are proving difficult, or have summer support to get on top of any standards that aren't reached by year's end.

More importantly, the new standards are custom-made for a different model of teaching.  They're meant to allow every classroom to be designed around meeting the same standard for every student, but doing it by varying means and constant adjustments based on fresh information about individual progress. If that becomes the regular way of doing business, then advocates will have a much simpler job.  If the school day is already  organized around responding to individual needs, the advocates will only need to discuss which particular adjustments will be the best help for a particular student.

Earlier PrichBlog posts on parent engagement and the new standards are here, here, and here.

1 comment:

  1. This objective is the heart of the Missing Piece. Teachers sincerely do not want any of their students to fall through the cracks, but it does happen. Parents do get frustrated when they learn there is a problem and often it is too late. If all the other objectives are in place - relationships established, effective two way communication working, decision making continuous, the student will be well served. As Cindy Baumert, the CPAC co-chair and key backer for this objective said, "Too often we wait for a child to fail before taking action." Schools making sure there is a system in place that will know who the advocate is that will speak for the student will certainly alleviate the "waiting to fail" practice. Discussing the new standards as it relates to my child and/or the identified advocate is a great place for this partnership to begin.


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