Karen linked, for example, to the state’s “Parent Information Resource,” so I clicked and took a look around. It wasn’t long before I was reaching for the Dramamine. The site is overflowing with the worst kind of bureaucratic edubabble (click here for a discussion of how to “assist district and building leadership in forming, developing, and facilitating an action team to make decisions and implement family engagement as one strategy to increase student achievement in the district or building”). Blogging about it extensively would be like shooting fish in a barrel, but I had to comment on this link, identifying “messages educators and community members can deliver to families regarding specific actions they can do that can impact their children’s school performance.” The theory is that if enough people deliver these messages “loudly and often” – “verbally and in writing” – then “student achievement may increase.”
Here are some of those “messages”:
Dear Families, this is what you can do at home to help your child do well in school! Teaching your child the names of colors will help him/her do better in school. Talk about colors when you are driving in the car, playing, or looking at pictures—anytime, any place! Our world is full of colors. When you are first teaching your child colors, name the color for him/her, “That car is red.” “The plate is red.” After you have done that several times, and for many days, ask your child to tell you what color the car is. Thanks!And so on. The patronizing tone and infantilizing content epitomize the state’s attitude toward parents, and for that matter toward school boards, teachers, and kids. These are the people who should step in and tell us how to run our schools?
Dear Families, this is what you can do at home to help your child do well in school! Children can learn new words at any time, in any place. Talk with children a lot. For example, when buying milk, “There are many kinds of milk. There is white milk (point to it), chocolate (point), and strawberry (point).”
Describe what you are doing. When cooking say, “I am going to stir flour into the melted butter. Then we will add sugar and chocolate chips.” Children who know and understand lots of words will be great readers!” Thanks!
Dear Families, this is what you can do at home to help your child do well in school! Tell your children often that school and learning is important. “Do your best in school! It is important to learn all that you can so you can get a good job when you grow up.” Thanks!
Dear Families, this is what you can do at home to help your child do well in school! Help your child get to school on time! You don’t want him/her to miss a minute of school!
Dear Families, this is what you can do at home to help your child do well in school! Many teachers have a system they follow for assigning homework. Some use assignment notebooks, folders, or sign-off sheets. Find out what the teachers want. Support the system by making sure you and your child do your part. Thanks!
That one link could inspire a dozen rants, but I’ll just focus on just one aspect of it here: In the minds of our state educational overlords, what do struggling or disengaged parents need? Messages! Instruction. If those parents would just do as we say, the problem would be solved! It’s hard not to be reminded of the way our schools think about behavior and discipline. Forget about any effort to understand why people are acting as they do, to ask them what their needs are, or to address the root causes of their trouble. Just tell them what to do, “loudly and often.” (PBIS is the embodiment of that approach.) It’s an attitude that quickly segues into “If we make the instructions really clear and they still don’t follow them, then they get what they deserve.” All the worse when it’s aimed at seven- and eight-year-olds.