Parent-Mentor Training is the newest service offered by CTD Development Services. We are specifically interested in training parents whose children are still in school. This article is for You.
We have chosen You, parents, because whether your child is about to enter preschool or the 12th grade it is not too late to enact simple, quick, and powerful change that will impact your child’s life for the better. Below I offer to You my proposal for how You can help make our schools, and hence the world, a better place, right NOW.
Eventually, I stopped training parents to advocate for their children’s education, because, as usual, the parents that showed up to my classes were the ones that needed what I had to teach the least. For the most part their kids were already doing well. They sought information for how to get their kids to the next level, and their days of advocacy were behind them. Their concern was how to get ready for life after high school. While I was happy to help them out, I could never figure out how to attract more and different parents.
As for the parents that did attend, I could never instill a flame in them, hot enough to feel the same urgency I felt to improve our system of education, especially not on behalf of those not as successful as them.
They could have cared less about their neighbors’ kids and their academic failures. Understandably, without understanding how their neighbors kids’ academic failures were affecting them, and would continue to affect them, their sentiments were typically “That’s their problem. We made the sacrifices and so did our kids. Our neighbors could have done what we did, and their kids could have done what our kids did. Today their future could have looked as bright as ours. You get out what you put in, and I never saw that poor child’s parents at any of the parent meetings. I feel bad, but too bad. I’ve got my own problems to deal with.”
Once again I’m reaching out to You, the parents, because the system of education you entrust with your children’s intellectual, technical, social, career, and personal development is broken and outdated.
Our system of education has gotten from our government, local education agencies, districts, and schools (and the people that run them) the best they have to offer. Even their best and brightest have generated outcomes that, although sometimes promising, remain isolated cases, normally attributable to the work of extraordinary individuals working at a local level, or the affluence of the students who attend a particular school or district. A system reliant on the occurrence of these rare conditions in order to succeed is a system designed to fail.
A system expected to prepare ALL students for success, yet designed to work best when extraordinary individuals manage a school or district with a high level of affluent students has not worked historically, and is destined to get worse given current societal trends. For example, the growing income disparities in our society today indicate that student affluence is diminishing, not rising. That alone is sufficient cause for throwing out the current system of education.
The argument to throw out our current system of education is strengthened further by the fact that teachers remain some of the worst paid professions requiring a college degree and a separate certificate of validation, a teaching credential. The return on investment promised by a career in education is so low that it almost ensures that the best and brightest coming out of college will not pursue teaching as a career. That leaves our system of education with a tremendous talent gap that we can never fill given current compensation practices in education.
So what are our options? Make families more affluent and pay teachers more? What about burn the house down and start from scratch? Although there are large bodies of individuals in our political class which favor one or the other of these two options, neither is likely to materialize before my children and yours complete their studies. Hence, there’s nothing in it for us to support either of these proposals. So then what? What can I do as a parent with children presently enrolled in our system of education to ensure they get the best education the system has to offer?
To obtain an answer to this daunting question, we must first understand what our system of education presently does to overcompensate for the lack affluence within our student population and the dearth of effective administrators and teachers in our school systems.
Ironically, while our system of education appears to be in a dire position, the actions necessary to fix it are simple and cost-effective. In fact, the solution I have been proposing to others in the last couple of weeks, eradicating chronic absenteeism, would immediately increase funding for the schools, raise achievement levels, increase college-going rates, and in the long-term, close the achievement and income gap for the historically disadvantaged sub-groups of our student population – Blacks, Hispanics, and socioeconomically disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities. Read my article on Chronic Absenteeism to learn more.
Findings About Chronic Absenteeism
I discovered chronic absenteeism while reviewing my children’s school’s data on the California School Dashboard, an app for California public school stakeholders to quickly look up performance and demographic data at a school, district, and state level. This app is a resource provided by the California Department of Education. You can find it on their website cde.ca.gov.
Since discovering data about chronic absenteeism (CA) I have become obsessed with it. I’ve researched it, analyzed it, thought about it. I have concluded that it is a problem that is simple enough for all of us parents to understand and solve without depending on school funds or the involvement of the teachers and bureaucrats which have failed to solve it.
Not only is chronic absenteeism simple to correct, its negative effect on our schools, and therefore society, is so vast that you could observe the benefits of your participation firsthand within a few months. Below is what You would have to do to eradicate chronic absenteeism in your school.
A New Kind of Parental Involvement
- Have a personal plan for ensuring that our kids attend school a minimum of 98% of the school year
- Identify what kids were chronically absent the previous school year (if school has not started), or
- Identify kids who are averaging 1.5 or more absences per month (if school has started already)
- Volunteer to mentor parents whose children have been or are chronically absent. As a mentor, you would be asked to:
- Learn why the child has been chronically absent
- Learn about what solutions the parent has sought already
- Educate the parents on the benefits of high attendance rates – for their children and for them
- Inform and train parents to find and seek the assistance they need to ensure they too can keep their children from remaining or becoming chronically absent
- Assist the parents in writing their own 98% Attendance Plan for their children
- Be available to the parents you are assisting the first few times they ask you to be present when they seek assistance or advocate for their children
- Check in with the parents You are assisting at the end of every attendance reporting cycle, and advise or acknowledge the parent according to the results of your check-in
The Cost & Benefit of Your Involvement
Take pause for a moment to think about the amount of personal sacrifice you would need to make in order to do what I have listed above. On the front end You would need some mentoring training and training to report your progress. You would need to spend some time becoming familiar with the resources available to assist parents with the multitude of issues that lead to chronic absenteeism, and time writing your 98% Attendance Plan. You would also need to spend some quality time building trust with your assigned parent(s) and family, and then helping them write their own 98% Attendance Plan. That’s it!
Now think about what the benefits would be for You, your child, the parent assigned to You, the parent’s child, the teachers, the school, the school’s budget, the school community, and society at large. That right! All of these would be affected. All of these would benefit from your good will to volunteer in such a project. In some cases, the benefit would be a dramatic transformation for the better in the life of the person you help and the lives of the people who surround them.
I am offering You an opportunity to make the world a better place for about 1 hour of your time each week school is in session. How does that sound to you? Do you think you can make that happen?
What is Parent-Mentor Training?
Just because a solution to fixing our system of education is simple, it doesn’t mean it is easily achieved. Otherwise, we would have achieved it by now. Take for example the issue of Chronic Absenteeism. It is a nationwide crisis. It directly affects 10% of the national student population, and indirectly affects these students’ peers and teachers, negatively.
In states like California, where funding is based on attendance, school districts with high rates of chronic absenteeism have their budgets and school atmosphere decimated by the loss of desperately needed personnel, programs, and teaching/learning material. Worse yet, the process the state mandates school districts to follow in order for them to regain some of that funding causes a tremendous loss of all human beings’ most prized resource, time. Known as LCAP, the Local Control and Accountability Plan, is the latest in a series of funding programs to come out of the California Department of Education that attempts to use school funding and administrator accountability to motivate district and school leaders to:
- Review their data to find opportunities for improvement
- Involve teachers, parents, public agencies, and the community in building a collaborative plan of action to enact the improvement process
- Monitor the results from implementing their plan
While well-intentioned and theoretically feasible, the timeframes and expectations imposed are unrealistic. The goals set too are unrealistic, probably because the analyses are superficial – touching primarily on symptoms instead of causes and root causes.
Think about it. We ask our most incompetent school and school district leaders to develop complex improvement plans. If they were effective enough to manage the creation of a good LCAP, they wouldn’t need an LCAP grant in the first place.
In a study I conducted of the relationship between chronic absenteeism and math achievement and preparedness for life after high school, at each school district of LA County, it quickly became evident that the higher the rate of chronic absenteeism within a school district the greater the likelihood of the following:
- The predominant student sub-groups at the school are Blacks and Hispanics
- Math achievement scores will be lower
- Preparedness for life after high school will be lower
For me, there was nothing new in these findings. However, for the first time in my life, I had chronic absenteeism data to validate my observations of these relationships, as a teacher, education consultant, and a parent. More importantly, it caused me to research this phenomenon of chronic absenteeism further.
I discovered that chronic absenteeism is not a new problem. It has been known and studied since the 19th century. I also discovered that it is running rampant nationwide, and that projects have been launched in a variety of places across the country to address it. The research that has been conducted, based on these projects’ outcomes, direct us to some very simple actions that work to reduce chronic absenteeism significantly. This gives me hope.
Who’s Responsible For The Decline
Ultimately, I don’t blame our young people. They are the product of our generation, and they are acting out against Us for leaving them in a world with problems so deep and so entangled that it almost makes their delusion and misdirection understandable. Delusion and self-pity is probably the only way for many young people to cope.
In the end, though, their mindset and behavior is unacceptable; primarily because they are the ones being left behind to clean up the mess we failed to stop from getting worse. They need to snap out of it before their time runs out, and they need to start that clean up work NOW. We, the elders, must do our part to undo as much of our messy legacy as possible. And we too have to get on it NOW.
You May Be Asking…
“Why do you want to persuade me to get involved in my child’s education more than I am already? I feed him/her right. I drop him/her off to school on time everyday. I make sure all the homework is done before bed time, and I make sure everyone gets a good night’s rest. My issues are police brutality, social justice, and income inequality. How does knowing what curricula my district is considering adopting to teach Algebra 1 to middle schoolers help me address the issues I’m most concerned with?”
My quick answer is that there is a profound relationship between the quality of a curriculum (and some other key factors), academic performance outcomes, the possibility of being able to pursue a career in a STEM fields, future income potential, and the eventual quality of life as an adult. This relationship matters and needs to be understood at a deeper level than it is today by most. Such level of sophisticated thought and awareness by many will be necessary if we are serious about making our world a better and safer place to live in for our children and grandchildren. But, we’ll leave that conversation for another day.
Still Not Sure If Your Homebase For Reform Is Outside of the Scgh
Consider this. If you have kids attending schools, anywhere between grades K – 16, you have to be involved in your child’s education. Your involvement has to be greater than ever, in ways you never thought you had to, for lengths of time much greater than are presently acceptable to you.
Trust me! Our children’s schools are the best and easiest institutions for us, parents, to come together and make change happen. Structures already exist for parents to participate in the governance, oversight, and management of the schools. School districts have policies that state the rights of parents and expectations for parents. The Ed Code at the state level has a number of provisions that address the needs and concerns of families, and require school districts maintain communication systems for families to remain aware of their child’s, school’s, and district’s status. Furthermore, the state allocates resources specifically for parents to access and employ for their children’s benefit. In other words, the institution of education and the rules that regulate them were established with the assumption that parents were to be necessary stakeholders in school operations.
Besides being the institution most welcoming to parents, on paper at least, K-16 Education is also the right place to launch any societal change process. Remember, all of the other problems we have in society are nothing more than symptoms rooted in the decline of our educational institutions. If we fix some of the problems in education, all of a sudden, many of our other societal ills disappear.
You May Also Be Asking…
Why do parents need to be trained? In what?Now, to make the right change happen You, the parent, will need to know what to look for, what you are looking at, how to interpret what you see, what to do when you see something you like or see something you don’t like, who to talk to for what, and what to expect from school and district personnel when you talk or take action.
Who Will Train The Parents
CTD Development Services will be offering free courses for parents with children enrolled in school. Some courses will be designed for independent study with access to a live mentor/guide whenever a user needs help or clarification. Some courses will be with conducted exclusively by video conference. In some cases, the courses will be a hybrid of consisting of videoconference meetings plus independent study.
Visit the CTD Development Services Inc YouTube Channel and hit the Playlists tab to see the kinds of knowledge and skill sets parents need to develop to be an effective advocate for and agents of school reform that focus on:
- Doing away with the layers of bureaucracy and other unnecessary costs that exist simply because they have always been there and no one has bothered question their value
- Doing away with an educational system that teaches children how to endure outdated, irrelevant, ineffective, or nonsensical:
- Learning standards
- Instructional strategies, or lack thereof
- Learning tools
- Reducing the number of common core standards each student is required to have proficiency in, in order to earn diplomas, degrees, credentials, or any other certificates considered necessary to legitimize their preparedness for life after high school or college, if necessary in the future at all
- Educating parents
- Establishing an educational system that teaches children how to learn whatever their families wonder, pursue intellectual, technical, technological, and Teaching students how to learn so that continuous skills and professional development are par for the course
- A How public school budgets are calculated, how public school funds are distributed throughout the state, what our administrators do with the money, and how much actually makes it to the classroom?
- Harnesses the vast capabilities of today’s technology to:
- Once and for all integrate proven assessment and diagnostic tools that produce suggested individualized learning plans for each student, and allow parents to weigh in from the beginning of the process
- Identify effective instructors who, in turn, work closely with and effective instructional strategies
- Enable students and parents to choose who their educators will be, if any are desired in the first place
- Give all students suggested individualized