Thursday, February 18, 2010

Implementing the new standards and parents with decision-makers.

The Missing Piece report sets a high bar for schools’ work to engage parents in school decisions, expecting that: “School staff encourages, supports and expects parents to be involved in school improvement decisions and to monitor and assist school improvement.”  

To avoid misunderstanding, let me emphasize something: the decision-making standard here is about the school’s goals, the school’s strategies, the school’s budget, and the school’s staffing. All those elements will have to be realigned as the new are moved paper to meaningful classroom implementation. Every school has big decisions ahead, distinct from the decisions about individual students that are discussed  in parent-teacher conferences and ARRC meetings.

Including parents in those schoolwide decisions will yield strategies with better understanding, support, and energy behind them.

The work starts with the learning opportunities discussed earlier to introduce the standards and discuss their importance.   Beyond that, parents on the council and its committees must work actively alongside educators to develop the school’s strategies. Widening the circle further, all parents must have multiple, meaningful opportunities to explore, question, and suggest improvements to those strategies as they are being developed.

Helpfully, though, the new standards themselves can work to draw parents into the discussion. Parents are going to be excited by the clearer, shorter statement of what students need to learn at each level, and by the new commitment to equip students to succeed in college and good jobs by the time they leave high school. Our new goals for students, in short, can generate new parent motivation to join in the school’s decisions.

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