• by Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed. • IDRA Newsletter • January 2009
In a recent focus group interview, parents responded to several questions. The parents were all Latino, and some answered in Spanish. One issue that kept cropping up was concern about the academic achievement and the support students need to succeed. Most were ill-informed about the curricular requirements other than vague notions that their children are required to take basic core curriculum courses. But all, to a person, showed great interest and concern.
Because these were parents from a Title I high school and were economically disadvantaged, there is a legal responsibility for the school to consult with them. To consult, that is to have informed dialogue, you need to explain and provide comprehensible information.
In a previous article, “Raising the Bar on Parent Engagement,” I talked about how educational reform that benefits all children requires dynamic and informed parent engagement. “The No Child Left Behind Act gives parents increased influence over the education of their children in public schools, and curriculum is central to that education. But are parents and other laypersons unable to inform the technical aspects of education?” (2007)
One analogy can be found in health care, which is certainly technical, complex and seemingly inaccessible to the layperson. But it seems to have progressed with doctors who want patients to be informed about their health, their medical options and more control over what happens in their health care.
I believe that education also can be made more accessible to families and laypersons. Just like a patient does not have to become a doctor to have clear understanding of his or her body, what a diagnosis means and what possible paths are available to better health, likewise a parent and a student can have a clear understanding of what helps and hinders his or her learning, what different options are available to learn and what alternatives could prove more compatible to one’s learning and academic achievement.
In this way, families and communities can hold their schools to high standards and success for all students. As educators, we must have ongoing conversations with families about standards and how children can be supported to learn. Bilingual forums in lay terms inform and enable families to learn about the specifics of standards, how they are measured, and how they are assessed and can empower them to ask the right questions.
Quality Schools Action Framework
IDRA’s Quality Schools Action Framework, our institutional change model, includes the following as key elements: fair funding, governance efficacy, parent and community engagement, student engagement, teaching quality, and curriculum quality and access (Robledo Montecel, 2005).
Parent and community engagement is defined as creating partnerships based on respect and a shared goal of academic success and integrating parents and community members into the decisionmaking processes of the school.
And curriculum quality and access is defined as: The educational programs of study, materials and other learning resources such as technology and their accessibility to all students. It also relates to assessment and accountability – the school practices related to fair and unbiased assessment of students and degree that schools take responsibility for the academic success of all students.
These two factors should not be dealt with in isolation. In fact, school personnel have an obligation to consult with parents and community members about students’ access to a high quality curriculum.
Title I Must Continue Informed Dialogue
Whatever changes and modifications are made to the new federal education law as the new congress convenes, it will be important that the consultation with informed parents continue as a requirement. We recommend that all schools support authentic dialogue and true listening of the families whose children are served by public schools. Families can be and ultimately are the strongest and most consistent advocates for the educational success of their children.
IDRA. “Tools for Action – Enlightened Public Policy,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, November-December 2008).
Montemayor, A.M. “Raising the Bar on Parent Engagement – Can Curriculum and Standards Meet It?” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, April 2007).
Robledo Montecel, M. “Presenting IDRA’s Framework for Effective Instruction of Secondary English Language Learners,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, November-December 2008).
Robledo Montecel, M. “A Quality Schools Action Framework – Framing Systems Change for Student Success,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, November-December 2005).
Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed, is an IDRA senior education associate and director of the Texas IDRA Parent Information and Resource Center. He also serves on the national board of PTA. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2009, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the January 2009 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]