PARENTS’ AGREEMENT: NO DATA MEANS “GET RID OF IT!”
You are the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in a large, urban school district that serves students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade. The district has a sizable number of students coming from low-income homes. Although many of the parents are supportive of their children’s education, there are so many issues related to working extra jobs, living in the fear of gang activity, not being able to pay the bills, and so on. It becomes obvious to you that the parents are so overwhelmed by their own problems, they often don’t know how to be good parents. What seems to be obvious to educators is not even considered by the parents. The parents need to be told simple things like making sure the children have a quiet place in which to do their homework.
At the regular monthly principals’ meeting you announce that you’d like to form a committee to address ways to help parents better support their children’s success in school. Not only do the principals agree with your idea, but within a matter of minutes, you have a full committee. The rest of the principals also pledge their support for what- ever the committee might develop. This is very encouraging to you. You announce the time and place of the first meeting.
After the first committee meeting, the committee decides upon an idea to reach into the homes of all the children. They feel confident that their plan not only will help to teach the uninformed parents, but it also will affirm the actions of other parents. Specifically, the committee would like to initiate a “parent commitment” program by which both parents and teachers would sign an agreement that ultimately would help their students. The agreement would specify what the parents are expected to do and what the teachers will do in return. The signed agreements would be displayed in two places: at home on the refrigerator, and in school on the bulletin board.
The agreement would be positive in nature. The parent promises to:
· As a family, live together in love, kindness, respect, honesty, compassion, and nonviolence.
· Make sure my child is prepared for the first of day of school (registration, immunizations, schedule pickup, school supplies, etc.).
· Make sure my child attends school on a regular basis.
· Make contact with my child’s teacher(s).
· Take an active part in my child’s education.
· Monitor my child’s progress.
The school would agree to be supportive and proactive regarding the students’ success. Faculty members agree to:
· Notify parents of any change in their child’s behavior, attendance, or performance.
· Make parents feel welcome and encourage good communication.
· Encourage parental participation while allowing flexibility for parents’ schedules.
· Facilitate and arrange for student support services, such as mentoring and tutoring programs.
· Make sure that the students have meaningful homework that reinforces what
· they’ve learned.
· Establish a classroom atmosphere of love, kindness, respect, honesty, compassion,
· and collaborative problem solving.
The agreement quickly becomes accepted by parents and school personnel alike. The children are proud to have their agreements displayed on the bulletin board of their school, which has become a positive peer pressure for all students to encourage their parents to sign it. As assistant superintendent, you not only are proud of this initiative and your committee’s work, but you also are eager to talk about it at the Board of Education meeting, as well as local service club meetings. Needless to say, it becomes a powerful public relations tool.
Just when you are enjoying the success of the initiative, the superintendent calls you into his office and tells you that the district is undertaking a new direction. “Every- thing we do must be data-driven,” he explains to you. Certainly, this is nothing new to you as you think about all the data-driven emphasis that has been placed on test scores, student achievement, teacher evaluations, and principals’ evaluations. You can’t believe your ears when the superintendent declares that unless your “parent commitment” initiative can generate meaningful data, it will have to be canceled. He further informs you that this is a nonnegotiable issue. He has told the Board of Education that all district initiatives will be measured by data. “If we can’t measure it, we won’t do it.”
As you walk back to your office, you can’t help but think of all the positive aspects stemming from the “parent commitment” initiative. You explore in your mind how you can employ some data-collection tool that would keep the initiative alive and not detract from its effectiveness. You immediately set up a meeting with the committee to seek their input.
At the meeting, the principals are reluctant to add a data-collection tool to the initiative. After much probing, they finally admit that they are afraid that a data-collection tool would trivialize the initiative. Certainly, each school could compete with the others to see who has the greater percentage of participation, but with all of the schools already at least with a 95% participation rate, would that really be meaningful? Because of the issues faced by dysfunctional families, there always will be a small percentage who don’t value the initiative and won’t participate. What are the ramifications for principals if they can’t get 100% participation? Would their attempts to get compliance actually turn parents away from the school?
You admit that the principals have some very valid points. Also, none of the committee members can think of any other way to collect data about the initiative other than looking at participation rates.
What would you do? Would you terminate the initiative? Explain, in a bulleted manner, your action plan. Be sure to develop your plan in alignment with Standards: An education leader promotes the success of every student by ensuring management of the organization, operation, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.
If you try to add a data-collection tool the principals’ concerns about trivializing the initiative are a distinct possibility. On the other hand, if you don’t add the data-collection tool, the initiative must be scrapped. You also have to be careful not to cast the superintendent in a negative light as you explain the need for a data-collection tool. But, as you explain that need, you have to be careful that you don’t lose your own credibility with the constituents. This seems to be a no-win situation. Also, you know that some of the families in the district routinely move every three months to avoid being evicted. They can’t afford their rent, and as a result they move frequently. Signing the “parent commitment” agreement is not a priority for them as they are in a survival mode. To expect principals to force such signatures simply to increase their school’s participation rate is not going to build a positive relationship between the home and the school. Perhaps not everything in schools (or in life, for that matter) can be measured by a data-collection tool?
As an assistant superintendent, you can’t help but wonder how far to fight this before jeopardizing your own job. Although that shouldn’t be a consideration, if the superintendent is on a data-driven mission, you have to gauge his ability to be open-minded.