BY MIKE RYAN
Most teachers are frustrated by the lack of parental involvement in education. The lack of attendance at academic and non-academic events as well as dismal parental attention to grades, performance and student achievement combine to undermine scholastic strategies for success.
All else being equal, more parental involvement in homework, projects, studying and grades, equates to better student achievement.
Inconsistent Use of Technology Impedes Student Achievement
The School Board bought an on-line program named “Pinnacle” to post homework and grades. This technology theoretically offers an opportunity for parents to be consistently involved in daily educational achievement and expectations.
Some teachers regularly post upcoming assignments or tests. Some teachers post grades quickly so parents can react to emerging trends … or impose timely consequences.
Over the years, parents have wondered why “Pinnacle” is not used consistently across the School District and to the fullest potential. There are “alerts”, but if nothing is posted, there is nothing to “alert”. Reacting to changes in class performance weeks after a negative grade dampens the benefits of the technology. Parents lose precious time to react.
Personal Responsibility Begins with Children?
Once the assignment is posted on the “chalkboard”, those students who fail to timely complete assignments are learning an important life lesson. One learned lesson for parents … regret … at what could have been achieved.
Some students, despite encouragement, do not develop great educational habits. Studies suggest this “forgetfulness” or “distractibility” may be a predictable adolescent behavior with roots in neuroscience.
Whether neuro-science or laziness, that’s where parents are supposed to step in and where “Pinnacle” could help.
School Board: You Better Check with the Teachers’ Union
When asked regarding a proposed change in policy to require upcoming assignments and tests be posted on “Pinnacle”, the School Board suggested I needed to consult the Broward Teachers’ Union (“BTU”). So, I did.
Naturally, the different leaders of BTU who responded were consistently supportive of better performance strategies. But, rather than outright support for a policy change for “Pinnacle”, I heard …
- Students have a responsibility, and it is their obligation, to write down assignments;
- Students are supplied an “agenda” to record homework and upcoming tests – use it;
- Parents will be confused if the homework assignments change or are different than what was written on the “chalkboard”;
- Some teachers think it is only for grades, and that will be confusing;
- Some teachers already post on-line or use similar technology;
- Parents can engage their teachers individually if they have an issue;
- Making students write down assignments encourages more conversations with the parents;
- Teachers already have so much to do daily.
Admittedly, I don’t know how difficult it is to post assignments on “Pinnacle”. I assume it is somewhere between commenting on “Facebook” regarding the latest funny-cute cat video and the complexity of writing new computer code for the latest Bill Gates’ inspired innovative brainstorm.
It is true, much is already asked of our teachers. Many buy their own supplies for their classrooms. Most work weekends and late nights to give our students the best opportunity to excel. Great teachers do not lose hope for their students in spite of frustratingly poor parental involvement. The continued budgetary pressures and the perennial “pink slip” management plan are debilitating to morale at times … and worrisome for the next generation of teachers answering “the calling”.
What would Darwin Say?
However, must we accept a Darwinian model for student achievement in public education – when we know nurturing (or simple daily oversight) can make a difference? Don’t we want to encourage MORE parental involvement, not less?
If teachers need more resources to implement existing educational tools, give it to them.
Soon, I suspect the Broward School Board is going to ask us for more tax dollars to improve technology for our schools. Seems like a good idea.
Question: should we pile on more technology if we are too busy to take full advantage of what we have now?
(Mike Ryan is Mayor of the City of Sunrise. As a current PTA member, a former PTA officer and a former two term PTA President, he has been a long-time advocate for teachers, schools and public education.)