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School Issues: Cut Parents Out of the Equation

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott School Issues: Cut Parents Out of the Equation
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It’s time for a little review of the city schools and city politics. The Board of Education (the school board) is comprised of seven members, all elected by the public. Their job is to make decisions for Columbus City Schools.

But, because the majority of board members have worked as a rubber stamp for a superintendent who has orchestrated an epic betrayal of public trust, Columbus now has the Mayor’s Columbus Education Commission.

Members of this commission are not elected. They’re appointed, or anointed.

And, according to news reports, the two groups are struggling over who will fix public schools.

Maybe it’s time for all parties involved to do their respective jobs. It’s time for the elected school board members to pick a new superintendent (now, not later); it’s time for the board to pick a superintendent that can build a school system that breeds academic success, without excuses.

As for the anointed ones on the commission, it’s time for them to figure out how to support the new superintendent and the elected school board members. Hold the board and its superintendent accountable. (Although, when the mayor himself praises the departing superintendent, it’s difficult to believe his commission will have the right compass to support a positive direction for the schools.) If the Commission is really looking for good ways to improve academic success in Columbus, perhaps it should consider action items that have research to support them.

For example, when the commission asks the public to come up with “good ideas” for Columbus City Schools, the suggestions are pretty ambiguous: get more technology, end standardized testing, find more enrichment activities, and get more parent involvement.

Parent involvement is a nice thing, but a big shift in levels of parent involvement is not going to happen. While it would be nice to legislate good parenting skills, no one’s figured out a way to do that yet. The state laws can change, the city laws can change, school board policies can change: some parents will still not be very interested in their children.

However, there does seem to be something a community can do to offset a lack of parental involvement. Schools and communities can create their own support networks for students. This particular approach has been piloted with great success at Daley College, part of the Chicago Community College System.

In fact, Daley’s program doubled the pass rate in remedial classes for students. A whopping 80-90 % of participants passed their classes. Without the program, only about 40% passed.

Think about it, the college doubled the pass rate with the same teaching faculty, same exams and same old technology.

The community college speculated that underperforming students lacked a social network that supports academic performance. Successful students tend to know how to study, know what teachers want, and associate with others with similar values.

Unsuccessful students lack those connections.

So Daley College created artificial social networks. It required students to attend small group sessions about twice a month. Those group interactions (of 8-9 students, led by a tutor) made a tremendous difference in one single semester.

If Columbus City Schools students lack the support of involved parents and social networks, then local students, like the students at Daley College, lack the support they need to achieve academically.

Hence, if there is no social support outside the school, academic success depends on social support within the school. It’s time to create programs that build high expectations and support networks for students. That is something the Commission can do, without overstepping into the duties of the elected officials of the school board.

It’s fair to ask why the Columbus community should be burdened with the obligation to offset lack of parental involvement.

The answer is simple: there is no other choice.

CLICK HERE for more ongoing information and discussion on the Columbus Education Commission.

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