Parents in low-income communities have seen “reform” after “reform” imposed on our schools, with little success. But it is wrong to assume that we—our students, our teachers, our communities—are the problem. Instead, we should be viewed as partners in reform. What is Peoria’s/District 150's plan to bring us to the table?
Recently Empowering Parents held the first annual dinner at Glen Oak School to honor parent volunteers. The District 150 website teases that "this year-end event to celebrate parental involvement, ...will also serve as the launch for the Empowering Parents organization’s “Million Parent Wake-up Challenge.”
While this organization (who I am assuming was hired by District 150) certainly gives good information to empower parents to take back their homes, it falls short of giving parents the information needed to take back their schools and to advocate for their children when the programming is not sufficient for their child, or when schools fail to do their jobs.
One way that the District is allowing parents to get involved, is the Peoria Council for Continuous Improvement ("PCCI"). Throughout the summer, parents will be selected to add up to six more members to the Council. According to the District 150 website:
"the PCCI will focus on changes that impact the individual school (Peoria High School) as well as systemic issues that impact the entire district. It will identify areas where learning from the School Improvement Grant schools can be shared across the school system. PCCI will also help identify ways for the district to sustain changes beyond the term of the intervention. The Consortium for Educational Change will facilitate efforts to link the work of the PCCI with school Universal Leadership Teams to expand the learning across the system beyond schools targeted for intensive interventions."
The Elements of Sustainable School Transformation:Families, students, communities and school staff, must play a meaningful role in designing and implementing a school transformation plan. The process of planning and implementing a school transformation is a key element in its success. The process of designing and guiding reform:
A school-based team of parents, educators, students (in high schools) and community representatives—the School Transformation Team—should be selected to undertake the development of a transformation plan. This team should be allowed a full school year to assess the school’s needs and challenges, and to develop a plan to meet them; The team’s assessment of school strengths and weaknesses should look specifically, for example, at such factors as:
o teacher-student ratio;
o teaching quality, the presence of experienced and effective teachers and conditions for quality teaching;
o feeder school programs and shortcomings that impact performance at the target school;
o how data is used to identify instructional strengths and weaknesses as well as student support needs;
o measures of school climate and discipline issues;
o the availability of wrap-around supports for students;
o measures of parent engagement.
A review of external obstacles that create barriers to school success should also be conducted. These might include district human resources or other structures that don’t work effectively to support schools; contractual agreements; inequitable state or district funding formulas; community characteristics, and more; A team of outside experts—like the State’s School Quality Review Team—should conduct a separate assessment of the school, and meet with the School Transformation Team to share and compare findings; Together, the school-based and state or district team should identify partnerships, agreements and structures that are needed in order to support a reform plan; The state and/or district should facilitate this process, and support it, making sure that the plan is accountable and fully resourced.
Most of the time, parents, teachers and even students know what the problems are in a school, and may have ideas for how to overcome them. And, when improvement plans are imposed on a school, rather than developed with the school community at the table, even the most dedicated teachers and parents may resist change—because they haven’t been involved or respected enough to help create the plan.Source