School Success Criteria Vol 1: Parents

In the news lately there has been a lot of talk of underperforming “Renaissance” schools who will forced to dismiss many of their teachers.  On the one hand, I applaud the attempt to shock our worst schools into improvement.  On the other hand, I am dismayed that the teachers are being disproportionately punished for the failures of their schools.  It occurred to me that so many factors contribute to the success of schools beyond the teachers.  I am going to try to go about hypothesizing what those factors are so that can be an angle for my research and school visits moving forward.

My first hypothesis–schools that have involved parents perform better.  Groundbreaking idea, I know.

On a recent tour of Meredith, I was struck by how many Read the rest of this entry »

Going Local: Activism For Education

Commenting on my recent post “Having Your Cake and Eating it Too” one reader posted a link to an article on the A Good Day Teaching Blog entitled Why Don’t Liberals Really Like Poor Children?. The crux of the linked article can be summed up in one statement.  The author states that liberal parents “believe that the children deserve a good education, they just don’t want poor children sitting next to their kids in a public school.”

I think the key point here is that there is a difference between liberal/progressive values and outright activism.  Advocating school reform is progressive.  Sending my kid to our local public school is activism.  Not only that, it is activism by proxy in that my kid is the one making the commitment to the cause, not me.  I am willing to be an activist for some causes.  I am not willing to donate my child’s education to a cause.  Speaking for myself, this is not about racism.  The biggest problem that I have with most affluent school districts is Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking About School Choice Long Term

Yesterday, Kristen Graham of the Philadelphia Inquirer posted a story entitled “Study finds high school choice ‘an illusion’.”

There is a pretty vibrant (and in some cases heated and profane) debate about this article happening in the Philadelphia Speaks Forum.  I am evaluating elementary school options for my kids, and I wrote about my own anxiety around sticking with the School District of Philadelphia with regards to the uncertainty of what comes after elementary school.  Here is the two sentence summary of that post:  If my family moves to the suburbs, we have a prescribed school path that we know will provide excellent schools for my kids.  If my family selects an elementary school in Philadelphia, we will just have to go through the process again for high school, possibly even for middle school, with no certainty of being satisfied with the options.

Ultimately this article doesn’t change my thought process much.  I am definitely in favor of school improvement, who isn’t?  I am disturbed by the inequality inherent in the Philadelphia school system, but right now I am most occupied by the priorities of my family.  I am concerned that my children won’t be able to get into their preferred school choice.

Graham reports that overall, about 70 percent of district eighth graders apply for admission to a school other than their local high school, but only 45 percent of them end up attending the special schools.  I am neither an expert or activist one way or another on school choice.  But it strikes me that if 45 percent Read the rest of this entry »