Archive for the ‘
parent involvement ’ Category
We all know that to best serve Oregon’s kids, we must create an integrated education system from birth through early adulthood. We also know that one of the strongest predictors of children’s school success is parent and family engagement. While most of us have known this intuitively for a long time, it is now clear that how we engage parents, families, and other caring adults is absolutely essential. As an example, I am heartened to see the Oregon Education Investment Board lists parent and family engagement as one of its top five priorities for education in Oregon.
Early childhood practitioners get this. They do a remarkable job of engaging and involving parents in every aspect of their work—from home visits and encouraging reading with children at home, to decision-making in the school and classroom and providing basic supports and tools. They build this into their practice because it works, and because the children are much more likely to succeed. (more…)
Last month I was driving back to Portland from a visit to my friend Sol at Neil Armstrong Middle School in Forest Grove. Sol had informed me before I left about the tragedy in Newtown, but I hadn’t heard much in the way of details, so when I listened to the various NPR correspondents offering segments, I found myself having to pull my car over to cry. Part of my grief was out of empathy for all of the parents who would find out that their child had been killed, but a part of me also struggled with this tragedy because of where it took place.
Having spent last month touring various schools, I had acclimated to the joys of K-12 classrooms. I visited Susanna Walker’s 3rd grade Geology Fair at Chief Joseph Elementary in North Portland, and was delighted when the children serenaded we observers with a tune about types of rocks. Then I was treated to a display of virtuoso technology instruction by Liz Docken at St. John the Baptist school in Milwaukie, where 5th graders trained me on how to use a wide variety of iPad apps. Topping that off, the morning of the 14th, I got to see 7th graders creatively formulate plans to repel internet bullies in Melanie Lorenz’s class at Neil Armstrong. In each instance, I was captivated by the sheer energy of the students. While I love teaching graduate students, they can’t compete with a motivated 4th grader when it comes to enthusiasm. (more…)
In my work under the new Oregon Education Investment Board (OEIB) over the past three months, I have been exposed to a lot of data, a lot of statistics. Some have surprised me, and some not at all. Some have given me hope, and some have discouraged me. But one statistic has shocked me:
Of the 45,000 children born in Oregon each year, an estimated 40 percent carry significant risk factors, ranging from family poverty and instability to parents engaged in substance abuse or criminal behavior.
My children are homeschooled. They also attend a fantastic “bricks-and-mortar” school during the standard school year, and prior to that they were in full-time daycare since they were infants. But when they are home with me, we read, count, explore science concepts, and look at the big map on the wall and talk about the world. I cut up little pieces of French toast and say, “How many do you have? If you eat one, how many will you have left?” This behavior does not make me special; my friends do this too. And they do it for the same reason I do—because this is what our mothers did for us.
I have some friends who officially homeschool their children. And in our demographic, the homeschooled kids are not just sitting around at home, as some people not familiar with modern homeschooling might imagine. They are exploring their world and experiencing an impressive array of enrichment activities that have cropped up to serve this growing market. OMSI, Trackers NW, and many others have programs now specifically geared towards homeschoolers, and there are dedicated support communities such as Village Home.
I view the private school that my sons attend as an incredible extended enrichment program. At their bricks-and-mortar school, they experience long, multi-discipline explorations that I personally wouldn’t have the time or creativity to put together, as well as music, art, foreign language, and the advantages of learning from other caring adults. From my perspective, the only difference between my family and an official homeschool family is the percentage of time allocated to parental teaching vs. paid enrichment—I get less homeschool time with my kids, but it is still crucial, valuable time.
It’s the middle of summer (OK, not quite the middle, but it feels that way) and I feel tired, a bit cranky, and frankly, lacking inspiration. Witnessing the never-ending and farcical tragi-comedy being performed in DC, I feel more than ever that we are a nation—and state—of silos.
Many of us hide in our narrow ideological bunkers, and peek out only long enough to lob disdain on our neighbor in their own tidy little world. “You said this, so you must be anti-teacher”; “Oh, you said that, so you’re one of those who want to stick with the status quo”; “You’re rich and want to support schools? You must be trying to corporatize and do away with public schools”; “You’re a parent advocate? Well, you’re just being a pain in my butt”; “Raise taxes in this economy—are you kidding?”
I have spent a little more than a year sharing on this blog what I think and believe in. Hopefully I’ve challenged some of you and made you think—it certainly has caused me to think more deeply. Now, I want a thought experiment from you, those reading this blog. What do you believe in? What do you want to talk about? What inspires you? What are you passionate about? Frankly, I don’t want to hear what you’re against, I want to hear what you want and what you’re for. What do you want for your kids, and for all of our kids? What gets you excited and keeps you up at night?
Tell me. Respond. Help me as I struggle not to stay cozy in my own silo.
. . . Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Lately I’ve been thinking back to an earlier part of my life and using those experiences as a lens for our current efforts around school system change. For about ten years, I was a teacher with Outward Bound. OB’s name has nautical roots—when a ship leaves the safety of the harbor and heads out in to the unknown it is said to be outward bound. Their motto “To Serve, To Strive, and Not to Yield” comes from the amazing Ulysses by Tennyson (as does the quote above). It is about balance—between self-reliance and being part of a larger community; between tenacity and sensible self-denial; and between compassion for others and taking care of one’s own. So, with that in mind…
Let’s take a moment to celebrate. I am truly excited by our opportunity to begin the process of public school system reform that is possible through SB 909. All is not fixed, everything didn’t go our way, there is so much to do, but there are moments of beauty in small victories. As I often find myself saying these days, we now have the possibility of possibilities. Once we’re done with this brief self-congratulation, let’s get to work.
One thing I know is that commitment is not enough. In my heart of hearts I believe that we are all committed to our kids—the work ahead will require determined single-mindedness, and it will certainly take a deep collaboration that is unusual and unlike any other we have attempted. It is not left and right, rural and urban, black or white, across this or that aisle—it is a moral imperative and it is for our kids. We are leaving the safety of this moment, the security of this small but important victory and heading into uncharted waters. We must build and maintain unwavering collective capacity for systemic change and we can accept no excuses. The legislative session that brought us to this time was filled with moments of political will, charismatic leadership, and fierce advocacy, while we also glimpsed petty infighting, fear mongering, misinformation, and other devils of our nature.
Story #1: I teach International Relations at West Linn High, a course juniors and seniors can take to fulfill a social studies requirement. Part way through the spring semester, I was discouraged to realize that over half my 100 IR students were missing assignments. Considering we’d averaged only one homework assignment per week, and a couple of the assignments were quite easy, I was troubled. It is my goal only to assign homework I believe will benefit students, and when they don’t complete homework it hampers their ability to succeed.
So with complete parental and administrative support, I sprang a surprise on students: If you do not complete every assignment, you will not pass this class. Even if you’re earning a passing grade, if you have even one missing assignment, I will enter “incomplete” in the gradebook and you will not receive a credit. Some were shocked, realizing that no credit could mean not graduating.
I was nervous about the new policy. I wondered whether all students would pull through, and if they didn’t, if I’d be willing to be the one obstacle that stood between them and graduation. I wondered whether at crunch time a parent would challenge the policy.
With much of the education and political news grim, with gridlock and pettiness the norm—how are we to move forward? How do we move past the wringing of hands and gain or re-gain our belief that we can do this? (“This” is doing every damned thing we can to prepare our kids for what lays next in their lives—and through them, our own lives.) I have two suggestions.
First, we must be bold and move forward with new ideas that place our kids’ interests at the very heart of our processes and systems. Business as usual must go, gridlocked politicians and political processes must be chiseled apart and forced in to the bright sunlight (please, give us some bright sunlight!). We must find a balance between our need for local control, and the clear and convincing reality that the larger system is broken.
How do we solve a school funding crisis when the decisions of how the state doles out our money has little to do with the actuality of what is happening locally in the schools? When cutting school days from our pathetically short school year does not change the amount of funding our districts receive? When local school boards can negotiate contracts that push off to another generation the very difficult conversations that the adults need to have in order to ensure our kids’ success? When our various systems, well intended to help our most vulnerable, are often uncommunicative and dysfunctional silos?
Sadie Feibel Holmes is the Director of Education Programs at the Latino Network, a community-based organization that provides programs and services to support education equity, parent engagement, civic leadership and advocacy in Oregon’s Latino community. Through their Padres Promotores de Educacion (Education Promoters) program, she and a group of Latino parents joined CAUSA’s Advocacy Day in Salem last week (the day after the May Day rally) to share their hopes for education in Oregon with state legislators.
Relentless hope for our children’s future.
Anxiety about entering a government building in a foreign land.
Determination and commitment to stand up for the rights of our community.
Belief in the power of a quality education.
Such was the mix of emotion on the bus ride from Northest Portland to the Capitol Building last Monday, May 2. After two weeks of training, identifying critical issues, and preparing written testimony, a group of 36 Latino parents, children and their allies caravanned from Rigler and Scott Schools to Salem to speak face-to-face with legislators during CAUSA’s advocacy day.
This group of Latino parents is part of a Latino Network project called Padres Promotores de Educacion (Education Promoters), which strengthens the confidence and capacity of Latino parents to become agents of positive change and to promote their children’s academic success. The lobby day represented the first trip to Salem for all but one of the parents, and was the first time any of the participants had the opportunity to share their hopes and concerns directly with a state legislator.
Jennifer Singleton is an elementary school music teacher with seven years of teaching experience in Portland metro area schools. She was born, raised, and educated in Oregon, and loves nothing more than connecting with kids through music. We’re excited to have her joining the conversation about teaching and education reform as the newest member of the ChalkBlogger team.
My seven-year teaching career has taken me to five different schools in the Portland metro area. Most of them, including my current school, have had low socio-economic status (SES), which refers to the income, education and occupation of the students’ parents. While there were definitely some advantages to teaching in a high SES school, I choose to teach in a difficult school because for me, the rewards outweigh the challenges.
Obviously, there were a lot of great things about working in a high SES school. For the most part our students were well cared for physically and emotionally. Classroom management mostly meant controlling chatty kids. My program was adequately funded, and our school had a supportive community with plenty of volunteers for classrooms and school events. In many ways, teaching in a high SES school was a breeze.
The learning environment I’ve just described sounds ideal, but there were also some frustrating problems. I have a few colleagues who, like me, have taught in both kinds of schools. And like me, they prefer to teach in a low SES school. When asked about it, one of my colleagues even exclaimed, “You couldn’t pay me to go back!” The question is: Why? With all of the advantages, why choose a school with so many struggles? The answer for us boils down to a lack of appreciation.