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).
- a small set of Burnaby parents arose to challenge a curriculum change that threatened their family values
- a father starts a Facebook site — Where Is My Kid’s Report Card? http://www.facebook.com/pages/Where-Is-My-Kids-Report-Card/231059386974506?v=wall
- a parent delegation in New Westminster is making progress to improve the “complaint process”
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, 2012In 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 12Issues arising from New West story1. 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 16Unfortunately, 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 16Clearly, 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 16The 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 19The 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 InstituteShe does not trust parents to make decisions on behalf of their children !
7. Each New Generation Of Parents Re-Invents The Wheel Jan 23It 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: