Frustrated Parents Expect Responsiveness & Results


Frustrated Parents Expect Responsiveness & Results
It’s taken me 40 years to witness signs that parents may finally be accorded the respect and place they should have in state education systems.  The public school movement  —  in its march to secularization, uniformity, and centralization  —  has very effectively used and abused parents shamelessly.
Over the last half century parents have been programmed to “leave it to the experts”. At the same time, however, School Acts across the Western World declare that  —  ultimately  —  parents are the prime educators and responsible for their children’s education.
Nevertheless, rarely are parents instrumental in the decisions made on behalf of their children.  More commonly, parents are used as fund-raisers and cheerleaders of public schools.
Occasionally, parents are seen as “the enemy” of the public school system.  Especially when they want choices.
I have a history of championing parent rights in education  —  wherever the parents are  —  be they in public school or independent schools, doing correspondence or home education.  I am a pioneer in the home education movement with connections back to John Holt (1972).
Thus, it is with great relief that I see the stirrings, in British Columbia, of parents speaking up for their rights and the rights of their children.  I will chronicle the good signs (and the negatives).
Here are the 7 comments I made on the Vancouver Sun blog relating to the New Westminster story so far:
1. Trustee System Does NOT Serve Parents Jan 12, 2012
In the 80s I asked a trustee why parents were treated so poorly by school boards. He said, "The trustees are there to protect the schools AGAINST parents." I was disappointed but not surprised.
In '74 I presented a 5 pg brief on "School District Organization and Administration" to a Legislative Select Standing Cmt. About parents I said they were seen by trustees and officials as "either aggressive or nuisances." The Exec. Dir, BCSTA took me out to lunch (twice) to assess what kind of threat I was.
In '75 our non-PTA parent group received federal funding for a consumer service for parents about education. The BCSTA protested to the feds that THEY were the avenue for parents.
A new trustee seminar in '86 caricatured an "irate" parent in a very insulting way.
What New West parents are experiencing is nothing new. Parents have little respect in this system.
2. Trustees' Job To Defend The System, Not To Serve Parents!  Jan 12
Issues arising from New West story
1. More than one student is affected, therefore why shouldn't parents take this forward as a "class action"?
2. They are told it's a one-on-one process only. Divide and conquer.
3. The process is rigid, and slants in favor of the teacher. Winning by exhaustion seems to be the game. See teacher, then Principal or VP, then superintendent, then a review committee, then the school board. The teacher will try to have a union rep there.
4. Why aren't parents told they can have a rep too? Thankfully 1 parent has experience; otherwise this may never have come to light!
5. ESL parents would be highly disadvantaged.
6. Parents are reluctant to speak to a teacher for fear of retribution on the child.
7. To be fair, why isn't there a parent rights document as obviously teacher rights are well-protected?
3. Parents Betrayed By The Public School System  Jan 16
Unfortunately, most parent challenges of the public school system usually come off as "David and Goliath" scenarios. But, even if events escalate to biblical proportions, it is rare, very rare, for the parent cause to win. Unlike the Bible story, parents and their causes are decimated.
The public school movement is well-organized, well-funded, and committed to excluding interlopers to their neat arrangements. This is long-standing in BC (I've seen 40 yrs) and world-wide.
"Parents as the Natural Enemy of the School System" was an article published in an education journal in1977 in the US.
As a result of the UK government opening up the system to more choices, head teachers (principals) are taking new training courses entitled: "Parents – Partners or Enemies?"
Clearly, the system is well-shielded from parents and well-trained to deal with them.
A daunting time awaits New West parents! Most parents slink away. Don't!
4. Who Is Responsible For Education Of The Young?  Jan 16
Clearly, parents are very disadvantaged, individually, or as groups, when taking an issue or complaint forward in the public school system.
What is abundantly known, however, is that it is the parents who are ultimately responsible for children's education. The system is accountable TO parents, not vice versa! 
Why did school boards send out blank report cards to parents in this teacher strike? BECAUSE, it's illegal to withhold reports from parents (School Act). Parents are the ultimate decision-makers!
Farcical as the blank reports issue is, it proves the law is on the side of parents!
Today's Province columnist, Jon Ferry applauds these parents:
"I raise my hat to the more than 15 parents who reportedly showed up at a New Westminster School Board meeting last week to voice their concerns about a secondary school teacher who, they claim, has been routinely dishing out failing grades. We clearly need more teacher accountability."
5. Remedies (New Westminster)  Jan 16
The reason why the system is NOT parent-friendly and grievance procedures for parents are so onerous is that parental rights are given away at the collective bargaining table. No one speaks for parents' rights when public teachers obtain their right to withhold report cards.
No one spoke up for parents when this exhausting, debilitating "protocol" was adopted to protect teachers. A whole year could very well fly by before there is a resolution (if any). Or the parent gives up!
Parents might best approach this as contract negotiations.
1. Parents enroll the child for intended results. They expect "value-added" achievement for student's time spent.
2. The result is not forthcoming  —  the student strived, the parent monitored, the school failed their obligation.
3. Remedies should be sought.
I think those were very just and reasonable remedies mentioned in the news story:
a) summer school fees reimbursed;
b) counseling for students;
c) choice of teachers.
6. Disrespect Of Parents In Public School System  Jan 19
The issue is that parents find the complaint process ineffective, fraught with discouragements and delays.
To overcome all these obstacles parents will often express the wish to bypass all this rigmarole. They consider home education, private schools, or wish we had charter schools which bypass bureaucratic and union conditions. That is why school choice through vouchers is considered.
However, don't anyone ever suggest that Diane Ravitch has good research to oppose both choice and charters. At one time she did strongly support these moves but has now moved lock, stock and barrel into the teacher union camp which blocks these moves. Don't say she is "non-teacher union affiliated" !
Just a brief scan of Wikipedia shows her connections:
– NEA Friend of Education, 2010
– John Dewey Award, United Fed of Teachers, NYC, 2005
– Director, Albert Shanker Institute
She does not trust parents to make decisions on behalf of their children !
7. Each New Generation Of Parents Re-Invents The Wheel  Jan 23
It is so unfortunate that parents are so ill-served by the public education system.
While all the other players, the teachers with their unions, the trustees with their lawyers and consultants, etc., etc. have loads of resources to advance their interests, parents are always starting fresh. There is little continuity between one generation and the next as parents try to navigate the system.
For those parents going before school boards today, in 2012, to plead for some respect and regard for their concerns, please know we've been through this before. In 1977 we even codified some parent rights we'd like adopted.
Please read them, print them out, ask your school boards to adopt these basic principles and put them into writing.
Parents do have many rights as they advocate for their children. See:

3 thoughts on “Frustrated Parents Expect Responsiveness & Results

  1. After the New Westminster school board meeting I was inspired by write the following for our local newspaper:
    Symbolic Use Of Parents In Public Schools Needs To End

    I think the "rancour" bubbling up in a number of school districts in BC is a natural release from serious long-term, pent-up oppression. Deep anger and resentment can be kept contained just for so long.

    Basically, the public school movement has usurped the role of parents and turned them into second class underlings.

    It is the school board structure that is mostly the problem. It is prone to corruption, capture by self-interest groups, and has become a bloated, costly, ponderous machine. This begs for radical revision. 

    New Zealand abolished regional boards. Each school has its own board of parents, staff and students (in senior grades). Achievement equals Canada's.

    Because each school has been running its own show for over 20 years now, several generations of accountable self-management have now resulted in NZ being judged the least corrupt nation in the world.

    CKNW Radio show with Lisa Chao and Kal Randhawa, New Westminster Parents, Feb 17, 2012
    Bill Good, host, had these two parents on his program, then had two political commentators, Vaughn Palmer and Jonathan Fowlie, and in both cases education was discussed.  I provide some digests of what was said pertinent to these issues in NewWest.
    Bill Good kept interrupting the two parents, “Do you feel you’re getting anywhere?”.  He even exclaimed: “This can take so long! Years can be lost!”  [YES, it was so palpable and obvious to him that both parents were frustrated and the situation they described was very frustrating.] 
    He introduced the parents as two people “who have been put through the wringer.”  It became clear to the listeners that the parents had started out being concerned about Math problems in their school but this soon developed into issue #2 as well  —  the very complaints process and stalling they were experiencing.
    During the discussion with the two political followers one said (I couldn’t make out who) “It seems even the school trustees seem to work hand-in-hand with the board administration to keep the real story from coming out.” 
    Later callers provided these experiences:  —  an “A” student received a poor Math mark and the parent’s concern to officials was dismissed  —  a student changed Math classes and quickly went from a “C” to an “A”  —  a mother requested another class for her child who was uncomfortable with a teacher but was told she could change schools instead:  She removed the child to homeschooling.

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