Opinion
Education Opinion

Parental Involvement Cuts Both Ways

By Walt Gardner — February 24, 2012 2 min read

Involvement of parents in the education of their children has long been a goal of school districts. But even when the objective is achieved, there’s no guarantee of consensus, as Chicago Public Schools are finding out (“Program to Bridge the Gap With Parents Draws Fire,” The New York Times, Feb. 19).

The Office of Community and Family Engagement, which was created last July, has dedicated itself to reaching out to parents and community groups to make them an integral part of the educational process. Yet the office has encountered parental resistance to such proposals as a seven-and-a-half-hour day and school closings.

The latter was on display when the Chicago Board of Education voted on Feb. 22 to reform 17 schools by closures and by other drastic measures (“Chicago Shake-Up Targets 17 Schools,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23). Many parents protested the move in spite of the appalling performance of the targeted schools. Exacerbating matters, a coalition of Local School Council members has sued the district, claiming that it is in violation of the Illinois School Code for not working collaboratively with the governing bodies of most neighborhood schools.

In many ways, the situation in Chicago mirrors what is taking place in other large urban districts as they attempt to improve education quality. That’s because public schools in urban areas serve outspoken heterogeneous communities that do not always agree on the specifics of plans aimed at achieving the overall goal.

It’s here that strong leadership is crucial to creating consensus. Unfortunately, the average tenure of a big-city superintendent is 3.6 years, according to the Council of the Great City Schools. Few talented people want the thankless job because of the impossible demands. For example, Kansas City, Mo. over the past four decades has had more than two dozen superintendents. When the district hired John Covington, there was hope that he would stay. But despite initially winning support to close nearly half the schools, he abruptly quit in Aug. 2011 after only two years at the helm.

In general, the larger the district, the harder it is to find effective leadership, and even harder to retain the right person. But it can be done. Thomas Payzant spent 11 years running schools in Boston and by most accounts was successful. Carl Cohn headed the Long Beach, Ca. district for ten years, winning the Broad award for urban district excellence in the process. The pressures are daunting, but there are qualified candidates who can rise to the occasion.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Great Oaks AmeriCorps Fellow August 2021 - June 2022
New York City, New York (US)
Great Oaks Charter Schools
Data Analyst
New York, NY, US
New Visions for Public Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read