One of the many things I’ve learned from teaching in an urban public school is that adults in the school and district rarely pay attention unless parents get involved.
That, of course, is a generalization–there are admins who care, and teachers who care–but that characterizes the majority.
Quick anecdote to substantiate: a few years back at my school, the administration decided to give a dress code for prom. No deep cleavage showing, no midriffs exposing belly buttons, etc, etc. In other words, be tasteful. Great idea! Finally, some cajones from the powers that be!
Well, the parents got upset. Yes! That’s right. Amazing, because you’d figure that they’d be happy about such a standard, but they stormed the castle with complaints. What’s even more amazing, the administration backed down and dropped the dress code as a result of the pressure.
Compare that with a parent meeting held this year. The subject: how to improve our struggling school. Out of a student body of around 2,600, about 15-20 parents showed up. YYYYEEPPP. Clearly there are some misplaced priorities going on there.
I have had a similar experience with contacting parents. Whenever I schedule a parent-teacher conference, the parent shows up about a third of the time. When I tried to curb rampant tardiness in my class by calling parents during class, I got a hold of about 15% of the parents. Of that 15%, more than a few simply muttered a few things about trying to help get the student to class on time, then, once the student was on the phone, the parent would quickly veer off subject and start talking about groceries or something like that.
If the parents put even half the effort into that that they spent getting the dress code for prom dropped, there’d be a revolution at the school. District bureaucrats would be held accountable for finances; principals would snap to attention (nothing gives a principal more of a headache than having a gaggle of irate parents bum rushing the front office); teachers would dot their I’s and cross their T’s.
This is where The Parent Revolution comes in. TPR is the brainchild of Ben Austin and Green Dot Charter School entrepreneur Steve Barr. They are both parents who are sick of seeing Los Angeles Unified School District fail kids. They realize parents have the power to revolutionize schools in their neighborhoods.
Everyone shares the burden of improving a school, but the parents are in a unique position to get things moving. What is clear is that LAUSD and many districts like it are hopelessly broken. They are in the grips of bureaucrats, unions, and other adults. It is for the adults, not the kids. A dismal percentage of students from LAUSD graduate, and an even more dismal percentage go to college. The same is true of students in my district.
Parents, in sufficient numbers, can wrest power away from the gatekeepers. If you are a parent of a child in LAUSD, click on the link above to see how. Heck, even if you aren’t a parent of a child in LAUSD, still click on the link. Get informed, then pass on the word.