For a while there my edu-crush on Michelle Rhee was waning. She's been replacing principals fairly frequently, and in some cases has brought in people who are worse at managing schools than the people they were hired to replace. But in general I am supportive of her contract proposals, her critiques of the teacher's union, and her overall focus on student achievement.
When I read the article in yesterdays WaPo about Rhee's future plans (also discussed on DC Teacher Chic's blog), I was pretty impressed. It's the first major comment we've heard from her publicly about student discipline, school security, or parental involvement. What I really like is the idea of the Parent Academy, specifically because it will be focused on addressing the fact that "Too many of our students' parents are uninformed consumers of public education who blindly support the District's public schools without full knowledge of the significant deficiencies of the schools."
I can't tell you how many times something has happened in my school that has made me say, "well this would never happen in a White school." The reason, of course, is that if White middle-class parents heard that their students' teacher fell asleep in class (actually happened - the teacher next door to me last year would regularly fall asleep) or that there was no paper at the school (actually happens,like, bi-weekly), then they would freak out at the principal or the chancellor and someone would get fired.
And, really, this is what is important when we talk about parental involvement. When I think back to my own education, my parents were not terribly "involved" in my schooling (at least in high school). Most days I woke myself up, got myself to school, did my homework myself, and worked on projects without the aid or prodding of my parents. And I certainly never suffered from it. But I know that if a teacher ever did some of the stuff that bad teachers get away with in DCPS, my parents would have raised holy hell. And what's more important, my teachers knew that.
Our schools are in a shambles, and certainly part of the solution has got to be parent involvement. But that doesn't just mean parents helping kids with homework. Ideally, we should be educating our kids in High School so well that their parents can't help them with their homework. Parent involvement should mean parents recognizing that their kids are getting short-changed and demanding change. If every parent in DC whose kid was being under-served started yelling, things would change very quickly. And if it takes a Parent Academy to get parents to realize the extent to which our schools are failing, then I'm on board.
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