In the United States, educational reform is a major topic among policy makers, teachers, and parents. People often discuss the failing state of American public schools, teacher salaries, how many hours are spent in classes, achievement tests, and parental involvement. It’s enough talk to give most teachers and administrators headaches.
There are a number of problems facing the American public school system from both inside and outside its walls. State and federal educational standards push for a high-stakes testing policy linked to teacher performance reviews; teachers deal with unruly students, and endless pressure from school administrators to constantly improve classroom performance and student management; parents want to become more involved with how schools run, and be in constant communication with teachers.
Speaking of parents, I recently read an article published last Friday on Education News.org. As I read it, I thought about this question:
How much power should parents have?
The very first sentence definitely makes me question the role of parents in the educational system – where it starts and where it ends.
Parents at a Los Angeles elementary school have formed a petition in an effort to take over the school, force changes and gain the ability to replace staff and teachers.
Parent involvement in a child’s education is definitely necessary
for healthy development and allows children to receive much-needed support at home. That cannot be said enough, in my opinion. What this
article discusses is how parents are empowered through a “parent trigger law”
which enables parents to forcibly shutdown schools, replace teachers, or make other changes they feel
need to be made.
The article goes on to quote one parent:
“Our children are not well-prepared to go to middle school or the next grade level,” said parent Omar Calvillo in an interview.
While that may be true, is it truly the school’s fault? The parents seem to blame teachers whom they think are “ineffective”, and seek to replace them or give them more training. That sounds like a great plan, but it reads like the parents push all of the responsibility of learning on the teachers, without thinking about students who do not try or care about their own education. I also wonder how active these parents are in their own children’s education? I don’t think the parents’ concerns are completely baseless, but there are other factors they seem not think about.
Other states such as Ohio, Texas, Mississippi, Connecticut, and Indiana
all passed a “Parent Trigger” law as of 2011. And as of March 2013, at least 25 states have considered enacting such a law. In this Los Angeles elementary school mentioned by the article,
If enough parents sign the petition to account for a majority of students at the school, they will be allowed to call an election to determine how the school should be run. Options include shutting down the school and replacing it with a charter school that is exempt from the district’s union contracts and from some provisions of state law.
I’m not sure how other teachers feel about this sort of law, but I don’t like it. It takes away the voice of teachers and administrators who work in the school. US News has an article
asking whether such laws are necessary. If a school has poor performance there should be an action plan in place to provide resources needed to bring up student performance. The Education News article also mentions this,
Critics of the law feel it is merely an additional way to privatize public education
under the guise of parent empowerment. Meanwhile, supporters argue the law gives the power necessary to parents to make changes in schools that are performing poorly.
Parents should be involved in education, but there is a limit to how much involvement is necessary. They seem to expect an immediate turn-around in performance by taking control of a school, but progress is slow – at least, lasting progress. Replacing teachers won’t help immediately help failing schools. I don’t how the LA school districts compare to other California districts in performance, so I can’t say whether this kind of law will help or hurt in the long run, but it seems very reactionary and short-sighted to me.
How do parents impact education? (Infographic)
Here’s a nifty infographic that sheds light on parental involvement in education.