Monday, October 7, 2013

What do Parents Want?

I was reading a blog this morning by the Goddess of YA Literature, Teri Lesene, about the NEA brochure, cheerleading for 'everything we want you to know about CCSS whether it's true or not' kind of a brochure. After critiquing the brochure, she latched onto one line and reflected:

     "Here, to me, is the biggest flaw of the NEA brochure and more:

     "Ask any parent or educator what they want more for their student(s), and this is what they'll say: "I want      them to be successful'

     NOPE. I want them to be happy. I want them to love themselves. I want them to treat others with                respect. I want so much more than for them to be successful as measured by Coleman and Rhee and            their cronies."

You see why I love Teri's voice.

And, I can't help being snarky. I just finished reading Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error, and was in awe of the precision of her writing -- the message was strong, and the writing was flawless...she would never have allowed the grammatical mistake in the NEA statement: "Ask any parent what THEY want?" Sorry, NEA...agreement still matters. "Ask parents what they want" or "Ask any parent what he or she wants." Educators must not be sloppy writers.

Well, unlike NEA who assumes, I asked. Several years ago, I compiled their answers, and am eager to share -- maybe NEA needs to read this too -- what real parents want for their children. I think they'd agree with the Goddess as I do.

"My students are precious to me; but they are treasures to their parents. These parents send us their children with hopes and dreams, with aspirations that go far beyond a test score or a GPA. Parents know what their children need, but now I see a gap between policy makers’ expectations, and the fierce dreams of parents.  I fear schools are letting our parents and our students down as we respond to the policymakers’ demands.

At the beginning of each semester, I ask my parents, ‘what are your dreams and hopes for your child in this class, and beyond?’ Reading their answers gives me insight into what parents value for their children and expect from me.

Parents want their children to achieve, to succeed, to work hard, and to challenge themselves academically. A thread of high expectations for authentic achievement runs through my parents’ messages.  
  • ·         I hope she finds her fit in high school and apply herself
  • ·         I hope she learns the importance of a good education
  • ·         Hard work really does pay off
  • ·         She will continue to expand and enjoy reading
  • ·         To remember the more he reads, the better he writes
  • ·         I wish she would read more historical based fiction
  • ·         I yearn for her to read those great classics that we grew up reading
  • ·         I am excited to hear about the books he reads this semester as he expands his vocabulary and mind
  • ·         To continue her excellent academic accomplishments and be happy as well

Also, finding a love of learning and life-long literacy.
  • ·         To learn the joy of reading again
  • ·         I hope she recaptures the love she had for school as a young girl
  • ·         That she’s bold and brave in going after her dreams
  • ·         I hope she will broaden her interests and try books outside her usual choices
  • ·         I want her to have a real passion for reading
  • ·         I hope she develops a love for reading…and will be open to new interests
  • ·         I hope that he will continue to read for pleasure as an adult
  • ·         To learn to choose reading as a leisure activity
  • ·         He’s not a huge reader of fiction, and I love it when he finds fiction that interests him

And  learning to become productive adults:
  • ·         My hopes are that he has a wonderful…career that fills his life with happiness
  • ·         I expect him to make a difference in the community and the world
  • ·         I want her to find out what inspires her
  • ·         We want him to find himself in your class.

Only one mother mentioned standardized tests. Her son performs well academically and athletically. He wants to attend college and begin a career in sports physical therapy. But, despite his grades and work ethic, he must perform well on ONE test, in order to have that opportunity. His mother understands his entire future rests on that score:  “He has the ability to attend college but first must score well on the ACT and SAT.” Her fervent wish is for that one test, that one day, to reflect her son’s potential, even though his grades and on-the-field performance have already done so.

Parents, if we ask and then listen, are eloquent about the future they want for their children and they know achievement must be measured in many way, with tests being one measure. Bureaucrats love tests and the scores they generate. They want students and their teachers to be distilled into a score. Parents know better. They know we need to educate their children, not for a test, but with a focus on our students’ futures as productive citizens, readers and writers.

Policymakers love to talk about ‘raising the bar’ which usually means making tests harder. My parents know our students have much greater challenges ahead than one test, one day. My parents expect me to help our students learn for a lifetime of achievement. A simplistic focus on test scores does not serve any of us.

When will policymakers listen to parents and teachers and realize we are accountable for achievement far more precious and complex than a test score?"

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