A recent article in the New York Times reported that a group in the New York City Schools wants more oversight of parent involvement activities. Some complained that parent coordinators have been hired and that, in some cases, they failed to establish a functioning PTA or PTO.
Could it be that the time is right to look at the whole concept of school organization as it relates to parent involvement? Many urban schools have no functioning parent teacher organization. This lack of parental involvement in the school leadership structure mirrors the many ills of urban schools such as discipline, truancy, and a feeling of hopelessness on the part of some staff as well as and parents.
One of the dirty little secrets of public education is that schools use some subtile and not so subtile methods to discourage parents from becoming involved in the school. teachers and administrators have actually expressed to me that they don’t want parents any more involved then they are now!
A number of schools today are hiring parent coordinators or facilitators to encourage parent involvement. This is not a bad first step but it can lead to that person being seen as the “guru” of parent involvement in the school. All issues fall to this person and other staff see this an opportunity to sidestep any involvement on their own part. The very nature of parent involvement requires the involvement of all staff, from the custodial staff to the principal.
With this introduction I make modest proposal:
Lets look at combining PTA/PTO functions with parent involvement efforts in the building. Bring them under one umbrella. This new group (which I call a Parent Partnership Team) would support not only the fund raising efforts undertaken by PTO’s but also directly support the linking of school goals to parent involvement activities.
In this way we better utilize scarce resources by taking a team approach to parental involvment and avoid the sometimes fragmented approach I find so common.
If you would like to read more about parent involvment in schools, please visit my website here