Create and Support Quality Schools

Create and Support Quality Schools

Jason Russell
on Jan 13, 2013

CONVERSATION CLOSED The district remains committed to ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders. Please visit the www.cmsdnet.net for more information. The school is at the heart of the district’s transformation plan. It is at the school level that all the district’s reforms converge and are transformed into effective and engaging educational experiences for students. It is in school where principals and teachers lead, where teachers teach, where curriculum is delivered, where funds are expended, and where results are achieved.

Participants (19) See All

What do you think?

Anonymous
on 2014-07-23T07:52:24+00:00
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Recent Activity

Linda Alexander
on Feb 07, 2013
"Thank you, Pahniti, for your wise thoughts.  I would add that if we invest and try and fund..."
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013
"this is a picture of echo"
Ashley Middleton
on Feb 06, 2013
"We use many programs like echo has multiple programs that are connected together which helps us..."
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013
"its also great because you can redo and submit things again to get a better grade."
Cassondra Arroyo
on Feb 06, 2013
"I agree  with you, echo helps us out a lot. It's a really good way for us to learn and..."
Joyenia Cabrera
on Feb 06, 2013
"Well @ Facing History New Tech we have a program called echo that we go on every single day of..."
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013
"Exactly my point. I also think that with programs like echo it is really helpful that we can..."
Ashley Middleton
on Feb 06, 2013
"I agree with you that the tools we use are very useful. We use things that are used in everyday..."
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013
"i completely disagree because if teachers don't teach then no student can learn. i think that it..."
Cassondra Arroyo
on Feb 06, 2013
"I agree with you Gaby. I think that if we invest in the schools and students it will make it..."
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013
"i think to create quality schools we need to invest in our schools,students, and teachers like we..."
Nichole King
on Feb 06, 2013
"I feel like the students make the school what it is. Not only the teachers and the way they teach..."
Cassondra Arroyo
on Feb 06, 2013
"I agree with you too. I think that most schools don't have many outlets. And I think that more..."
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013
"i agree with you Aryana because they dont really have many creative outlets at most schools and i..."
Joyenia Cabrera
on Feb 01, 2013
"Ok I go to Facing History New Tech; this is a public High school, where it is also small. Many..."
Alexus Simbeck
on Feb 01, 2013
" Parent involvement wouldn't be so hard to come by if the parents felt welcomed. I know here at..."
Darius Mendez
on Feb 01, 2013
"You are right Jonathan and I beleive that parents should be in their childs life when it comes to..."
gaby roberts
on Feb 01, 2013
"i dont think that parent involvment has that great affect on creating better schools because alot..."
Aryana Edge
on Feb 01, 2013
"I agree, especially in high school where extra classes like that are practically ignored or just..."
Ron Soeder
on Jan 29, 2013
"I think it is important to provide our youth with quality afterschool opportunities that support..."
Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 28, 2013
"So how then, do we build those bridges and make people who have historically felt unwelcome feel..."
Matt Orehek
on Jan 24, 2013
"Interesting that you brought that up, David. At one of the community meetings, attendees were..."
David Hovis
on Jan 24, 2013
"Dan, I think the level of parent involvement isn't a prerequisite for a high achieving school...."
Linda Alexander
on Jan 24, 2013
"I have many thoughts, but will share a few regarding parent involvement and professional..."
Matt Orehek
on Jan 23, 2013
"This seems like it goes along with others' sentiments that Cleveland has great community..."
Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 23, 2013
"Great thoughts, Pahniti. Thanks so much for adding them to the conversation. I have heard a lot..."
Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 23, 2013
"Great thoughts, Ken. It seems like you're saying that great schools are part of it, but an active..."
Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 23, 2013
"So, are you saying that parents at those schools aren't engaged, or is it that their level of..."
Ken Kalynchuk
on Jan 23, 2013
"I strongly agree with the sentiment to have strong, accessible schools on the west side. I grew..."
David Hovis
on Jan 22, 2013
"Just to shift the conversation a little bit.  My attention was recently drawn to this report from..."
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013 - 1:07 pm

i think to create quality schools we need to invest in our schools,students, and teachers like we do at New Tech Facing History. At NTFH(New Tech Facing History) we have invested in our teachers who have workshops after school and laptops for our students to use as a tool to help us learn.

 

Responses(8)

Cassondra Arroyo
on Feb 06, 2013

I agree with you Gaby. I think that if we invest in the schools and students it will make it better. The tools that ntfh has really help us learn better.

 
Ashley Middleton
on Feb 06, 2013

I agree with you that the tools we use are very useful. We use things that are used in everyday life. We use a program called echo that shows us our grades so we can fix them.

 
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013

Exactly my point. I also think that with programs like echo it is really helpful that we can always check our grades and be able to do and fix assignments at home or over the breaks and weekends.

 
Cassondra Arroyo
on Feb 06, 2013

I agree  with you, echo helps us out a lot. It's a really good way for us to learn and communicate with teachers and other students. And if we ever have any concerns about are grades we can look, or if were absent we could always make up are work since we have echo.

 
Joyenia Cabrera
on Feb 06, 2013

Well @ Facing History New Tech we have a program called echo that we go on every single day of the week Monday - Friday. It's great to see what we are doing and if the grades you got are where we want them. This program helps students have better grades and do activities much quickier to get them done easier.

 
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013

its also great because you can redo and submit things again to get a better grade.

 
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013

this is a picture of echo

 
Ashley Middleton
on Feb 06, 2013

We use many programs like echo has multiple programs that are connected together which helps us faster.

 
Expand This Thread
Nichole King
on Feb 06, 2013 - 1:02 pm

I feel like the students make the school what it is. Not only the teachers and the way they teach but the students have to want to learn and they have to want to come to school and do the work they are givin.

 

Responses(1)

gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013

i completely disagree because if teachers don't teach then no student can learn. i think that it is only the students fault when they have a good teacher and still don't choose to learn.

 
Expand This Thread
Ron Soeder
on Jan 29, 2013 - 1:17 pm

I think it is important to provide our youth with quality afterschool opportunities that support academic progress, give kids a chance to blow off steam, have their interests in arts, athletic and music met.  I think the school buildings should be a part of the afterschool opportunities.  We need to find more creative ways to keep the schools open with quality afterschool programs.

 

Responses(3)

Aryana Edge
on Feb 01, 2013

I agree, especially in high school where extra classes like that are practically ignored or just not even in a school. It makes some children have trouble focusing, especially if they're hoping on getting into a creative kind of job after high school or hoping to go to an art college, I believe having outlets like that can help children like them be a little more excited about coming to school. Athletic classes or afterschool activities can help students let out the extra energy, while more artsy ones like drama, music, and other arts can help give children creative outlets. I've known of some people that honestly dropped out of school or at least concidered it when their creative classes were cut. In my opinion, I think those kinds of activities are important.

 
Cassondra Arroyo
on Feb 06, 2013

I agree with you too. I think that most schools don't have many outlets. And I think that more schools including ntfh should have them it's a better way for students to be more creative and express themselves.

 
gaby roberts
on Feb 06, 2013

i agree with you Aryana because they dont really have many creative outlets at most schools and i also think that all schools including NTFH should have sports teams too.

 
Expand This Thread
David Hovis
on Jan 22, 2013 - 9:49 pm

Just to shift the conversation a little bit.  My attention was recently drawn to this report from Public Agenda this year studying high-performing, high-poverty schools.  The report highlighted 9 schools in Ohio, including Citizen's Academy and MC2STEM here in Cleveland.  They came up with 11 points of interest, and contrary to what is commonly accepted, point #9 is: "Principals and teachers do not see the lack of parent and community support as an insurmountable barrier to student achievement and learning."

I point this out because many high-performing, high-poverty schools get dismissed as not a useful example because "Parents chose that school" and "They have engaged parents".  

 

 

Responses(6)

Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 23, 2013

So, are you saying that parents at those schools aren't engaged, or is it that their level of engagement isn't a prerequisite of the success they find there?

 
Linda Alexander
on Jan 24, 2013

I have many thoughts, but will share a few regarding parent involvement and professional development.  Firstly, Citizens' Academy has 100% parent participation at conference time.  The key is their multi-prong approach: summer home visits and direct and personal outreach to parents. There is also a school-wide expectation of involvement (no excuses culture), and a parent contract regarding involvement. Therefore, in the spirit of appreciative inquiry, we should "grow" what works.  We should also understand any cultural differences and community norms, and make sure this knowledge is part of teacher and staff professional development.  Overall, if we have exemplars within the community, including even schools in other sectors, we should share and grow all the best ideas, programs and plans.  As a side note, I do feel the top performing charter schools are serving more "engaged" parents in the first place, so the work elsewhere may be more challenging.  

That said, I once held the position of executive director of the Cleveland Council of Independent Schools (CCIS). But I have worked with charter schools and public schools not only in Ohio, but Kansas City and Arizona. Given my experiences in three uniquely different sectors, CMSD should try to replicate the less costly professional development model of having an individual (or individuals) whose main job is to organize faculty and staff gatherings, speakers, target for teachers and staff online, often free materials and classes, etc. When teachers and school specialists learn and share what they're learning, doing, and creating, over time the buzz creates a "learning community".  For instance, the public schools in KC collaborated and shared their best practices.  Ohio tends to have more of a siloed approach in schools. We need to instill a growth mindset; a culture of "life-long learning" that is not only focused on the students, but the teachers. Teaching is a very complicated and sophisticated career path and it is constantly changing. However with the many free, online and virtual opportunities, plus our wonderful local talent that will often speak at no-charge on a variety of topics, there are very inexpensive forums and ways to hold conversations and share; there are cost effective ways of organizing materials and gatherings, but in many areas of the country there is not a faculty expectation of being paid for every professional development moment, especially when its in a person's own best interest.    

Years ago, I learned that in Canada teachers were expected to write down their 3-4 best lesson plans of the year, documenting and sharing them with colleagues; these ideas were placed in a portal where every teacher then had access to them.  We need to collaborate more as a community, share best practices and learn from our best and brightest.   There are many ways to make this happen at a reasonable price... 

 
David Hovis
on Jan 24, 2013

Dan, I think the level of parent involvement isn't a prerequisite for a high achieving school.  You never truly get 100% parent engagement (even with best intentions on behalf of the parents, sometimes life just gets in the way), and there are some parents who are cause more problems than they solve.   

I'm not saying that parent engagement isn't helpful.  Just that it is not a panacea.  Also, different parents have different levels of ability to help.  I remember when I was in college, some friends (mostly engineering students) had a conversation about "When could your parents no longer help you with your math homework?".  Different people exceeded their parent's math ability at different levels.  In my case, both of my parents were Math professors, so I've never exceeded their ability to help with my math homework.  Still, if teachers were to expect that every student had parents like mine to help with math instruction, it would be a disaster. 

 
Matt Orehek
on Jan 24, 2013

Interesting that you brought that up, David. At one of the community meetings, attendees were discussing this. It was there view that in many instances, parents do want to help. It is parent unlikely that any parent would actually want their child to fail. 

The cosensus was, that while parents  want to help, many of them lack the resources and the education themselves to assist students and foster at-home learning. Additionally, it was brought up that there needs to be better communication between teachers and parents. 

The parents at the meeting felt they were unwelcome in schools. This unwelcome feeling prevents them from reaching out to teachers. Not reaching out to teachers leads to relying on students to tell parents what's going on at school, assignments due, etc. Relying on students leads to not knowing what is happening. 

The parents wanted a better bridge built between them and the teacher.

 
Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 28, 2013

So how then, do we build those bridges and make people who have historically felt unwelcome feel welcome? 

 
Joyenia Cabrera
on Feb 01, 2013

Ok I go to Facing History New Tech; this is a public High school, where it is also small. Many still don't know about us because we are still not open to the public as we would like. My principal had came to my 8th grade class and spoke to us and I chose this school. I guess it depends on the parnet; you have to be willing to trust your child to make the right choice and not pick the school that will distract you from life. My mom will take the path I take any day; and that is because she knows I want to make the right choices.

 
Expand This Thread
Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 16, 2013 - 1:15 pm

In the interest of providing the community more entry points to the conversation, here's another question: 

What neighborhoods served by the CMSD that are most in need of a new or transformed school and why?

 

Responses(7)

David Hovis
on Jan 17, 2013

It might actually be more helpful to make a list of the great public schools in Cleveland and what neighborhoods they are located in so we can see the gaps.  Certainly I know that I've met parents in Collinwood, Hough, and Detroit-Shoreway that are looking outside their neighborhoods for quality K-8 schools.  

For high schools, it would be great if we could get an equivelant to the three John Hay schools on the west side. 

 
David Hovis
on Jan 17, 2013

Just to give an example of what I mean. I'm attaching a presentation I made for our babysitting co-op regarding the state of public high schools from the perspective of the near west side of Cleveland.  It doesn't include all the schools in Cleveland.  Just the ones that a near west side resident might consider or default to if they don't make a choice.

It makes a very clear point.  The highest performing high schools are east of the river.  

 
Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 17, 2013

That's really helpful, David. There's a new high school in the Charles Mooney building on Montclair, just off State Road--it's the New Tech Facing History school (they're still working on the name)--with 68 freshmen and poised to grow. I know it's not "Near" west side, but it's not too bad, and it's off to a strong start. (full disclosure, I'm on the advisory board, so it's my job to cheerlead.)

 
David Hovis
on Jan 20, 2013

Thanks Dan,

I'll update that presentation with New Tech Facing History.  The philosopy behind that presentation was for people in our co-op, their "home" high school is either Lincoln-West or John Marshall.  Beyond that, I started including more distant magnet high schools that might be of interest to our families.  

When I made the presentation, most of the people in our co-op were completely unaware of many of the schools on the list.  

I had heard there was another New Tech this year, but I everytime I looked, I had a hard time finding the info.   That is one of those problems that needs addressed.  

I'd also love to see a map of K-8 schools in Cleveland whose performance index exceeds, say 90 or 95, along with some of the more promising new schools like Near West Intergenerational (which I am a cheerleader for and my son attends).

 
Ken Kalynchuk
on Jan 23, 2013

I strongly agree with the sentiment to have strong, accessible schools on the west side. I grew up in Old Brooklyn and a commute to University Circle by public transit takes an hour - if my parents were to drive me it would take about as long with traffic, not to mention their workplaces are respectively Downtown and by the airport.

It'd be more convenient if a neighborhood with decent grade schools like Old Brooklyn was able to have a neighborhood high school with college-prep, AP, and IB curriculums, or at least a more central location for special schools like in Ohio City, than for me to commute to University Circle. It just wasn't an option. I can't imagine parents from West Park or Edgewater driving kids to John Hayes. Even residents in the Collinwood, Lee-Miles and South Broadway neighborhoods have a hard time getting to UC. 

On a related note, this calls for the city & RTA to look at designating nodes of employment & education in the city and altering transit accessibility to reach these target areas. The RTA does a good job at connecting everyone to Downtown, and from Downtown to UC, Ohio City and the airport, but does less well connecting people just to UC, partiularly from west side areas and east side areas not served by the Rapid. It'd be awesome to create somehow a well-connected node centrally located on the west side, and connect different areas of the city/county directly to these nodes.

If all west siders could get to said magnet area via public transit, it would be easier to open up college-prep schools or specialty schools in this node. 

At least, the district should consider opening a high school/campus with high schools Downtown for magnet students on both sides of town. Every neighborhood in the city has a bus line (or several) that head to public square. 

Just like UC is the proper home for an arts school, a medical & sciences school, and an architecture/design school, Downtown should have, if not a magnet school, pre-business, pre-law, pre-public sector, college prep and pre-liberal arts high schools that collaborate with local businesses and take advantage of Downtown's ammenities and connectivity to the city. 

I have lots of ideas and am sorry for throwing them all out there in this post. My main point is that location of special schools and access to said schools is almost as important as what happens at the schools themselves. Connectivity and accessibility are key to any progress this district will make in the future. 

 
Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 23, 2013

Great thoughts, Ken. It seems like you're saying that great schools are part of it, but an active partnership with the RTA is crucial to providing access to all.

 
Matt Orehek
on Jan 23, 2013

This seems like it goes along with others' sentiments that Cleveland has great community resources that need better  integration into the CMSD. It's not that we lack resources, far from it, it's that we lack partnerships and application. 

 
Expand This Thread
Enhancement Ministries, Inc. (EMI)
on Jan 15, 2013 - 10:02 pm

When we talk about transforming schools I believe we need to remind ourselves that first and foremost we are speaking of helping families learn to engage in the education process in different (new?) ways. Then we are also taking about changing the physical setting to better accommodate the evolving education process that will be dictated by those served by the evolving education process. Our process must embrace the principle of life long learning.

We are challenged to help CMSD's conversations with communities about the Cleveland Plan be the beginning of a network of communities. We need community partner that will commit to check-in with each other over the course of the next four-years.  There is a healthy slate of conversations scheduled throughout January 2013. Our community has already penciled in a May 2013 to help keep the community engaged. 

 

Responses(1)

Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 16, 2013

You hit on some very strong points, and I thank you for raising them. In this realm of quality schools, is there any particular aspect that you find exciting or concerning? I wonder, too, about your point on lifelong learning. Is there something that individual schools can do in terms of their programs or connections to the community that could assist with that?

(btw, what is Enhancement Ministries?) 

 
Expand This Thread
Jonathan Simon
on Jan 15, 2013 - 2:35 pm

The solution is much less complicated than we often make it out to be. Regardless of whether a school is public, private, parochial or a charter, student success can be tied to a few key factors:

1. Parental Involvement: Today CMSD has only one active PTA on register with PTA.org; if parents aren't invested in their children's academic performance, the performance will possible

2. Aggressive curriculum: We cannot set low standards because they are easier to meet. We must set high, aspirational goals and design a curriculum intended to reach those goals. Create accelerated programs to get students to the point where everyone can pass the OGT in 10th grade and then focus on college prep, or vocational education in their last two years.

3. Discipline and Safety: A learning environment cannot function when no one has control and people are afraid of violence. High disciplinary standards should be set at a young age and adhered to with zealous attention.

4. Accountability: Everyone from the administration, teachers, parents and students must be held accountable for their performance. Good performance should be recognized and rewarded at every level and bad performance should be called out and corrected as quickly as possible.

 

If we set high standards and put forward an expectation that those standards be met by everyone, it will lead to a better school system.

 

If we don't do these things, and again it doesn't matter what type of school you're talking about, then any change is simply going be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

 

Responses(15)

Matt Orehek
on Jan 15, 2013

Great. I think we can all agree that more parent involvement is necessary, but how are we going to make this happen? What can we do to engage parents and unite them in a setting that will evoke change? 

 
Jonathan Simon
on Jan 15, 2013

The first thing we can do is make it easier for parents to get involved.

When a student has to travel 15-miles across the city to go to the only school in the city with a STEM curriculum, or vocational education, or an education in the arts, its hard for parents, especially single parents working multiple jobs, to travel across town to meet with a teacher. 

To have a system where every student has access to a safe school with a curriculum within their local community would go a long way to reducing the barriers between parents and schools.

As I mentioned above, we have only 1 PTA out of 99 schools. Without an organization in place to reach out to parents and teachers with a calendar of events and proven engagement strategies, its going to be a challenge to even reach the group of parents who want to be involved. We should use some of the levy money, or seek donations, to sponsor a PTA in every school and bring a small core of involved parents to the table to bring about larger change.

 
Nancy Reeves
on Jan 15, 2013

As to your first suggestion - I very much agree.  It is one of my main concerns about charter schools (as well as specialized public schools, to a lesser extent).  Children whose families have resources (intellectual, financial, social) will figure out how to get their children to those distant schools (how to find the schools, how to effectively complete the paperwork, how to fill the inevitable transportation gaps, etc.).  Children whose families have fewer resources won't, for the most part.  Creating special schools to which more attention is paid and which are more accessible to those with resources (even when admission is via a lottery and financial assistance is available), rather than ensuring that every local school is a quality school, creates an ever increasing gap (on average) between children whose families have resourcss and those whose don't.

As to PTA - you must have had a very different experience of PTA than I have had.  My experience, both as a teacher (for 11 years) and a parent with a child who graduated from high school a number of years ago suggests to me that money spent on PTA is one of the least effective ways of nurturing parent involvement.

My primary experience of PTA as a parent was that it was a nice little Coffee Klatch for parents who had nothing better to do with their time during the day.  The parents I am aware of who were heavily involved with their children's education - including the parents of nearly every other child in the top 10% of my daughter's school - had no involvement in PTA.  (I know of both their involvement in their child's education - and their lack of involvement in the PTA because it was the same set of parents I saw over and over again for 13 years my daughter was in school, and we got to know each other pretty well.)Off the top of my head, I would rather see the money invested in creating spaces for continuing education that might involve cross-generational learning - perhaps catching some of the older children and their parents to provide some immediate return on investment; paying teachers for time outside of school hours to enable them to be available to parents during hours when parents are not working; or mentoring programs starting in early elementary school to help parents (whose own education may well have ended sometime before high school graduation) figure out how to feel competent and confident enough to develop healthy relationships with their children's teachers and school administration.Those suggestions are more influenced by my years as an East Cleveland teacher than my experience as a parent.  The parents I worked with during those years needed real concrete help in becoming effective advocates - both for their children to the school system - and for the school with their children.  PTA is, (at least in my 24 years of experience in two very different settings) a minor contributor at best.

 

 

 
Jonathan Simon
on Jan 18, 2013

Nancy, that is an interesting perspective on PTAs. 

 

My thought process on the issue is that many parents have no desire to engaged in the schools today. When CMSD stopped sending report cards home and required parents to come to the school to pick them up, some schools had fewer than 10% of parents even express an interest in their children's grades.

By creating a social environment tied to the school for parents, it may help get them involved by not initially focusing on educational issues, but by opening a door that was previously non-existent in their eyes.

If a parental sowing-circle brings a few uninvolved parents together with other parents and teachers, it would be a step in the right direction.

 
Matt Orehek
on Jan 18, 2013

A comment that emerged at the meeting last night that resulted in multiple head nods, was the need for schools to play more of a community center role. The wraparound model was mentioned.

The thought last night was that by offering services other than school at schools, the less-engaged schools will see an increase in engagement. By developing a need for non-students (i.e. parents and guardians) to enter schools, a seed will be planted and a plant will grow. 

 
Nancy Reeves
on Jan 18, 2013

Wow.  Talk about not user friendly - the CMSD would have been getting very angry calls from me if I had been required to come to the school to pick up my daughter's report cards.  Which would have alienated an already very involved parent.  I happen to work about 45 minutes from my daughter's school - and staying involved was a sacrifice I was willing to make because I think parental involvement is crucial.  Adding a requirement that I come to the school to pick up the report card - likely at a time convenient to the school rather than me would have just angered me if I cared enough to be involved, and would have been unlikely to motivate anyone who was not already involved to become involved.  (Not to mention that I have resources most of the CMSD parents don't have - a job where I can take off time to make the trip, a car that frees me from the limitations of public transportation, and the ability to forfeit the income I might lose by taking time off.)From my perspective, coercion is never the way to create a positive relationship. As to a social context environment tied to the school - that is a step in the right direction, but PTA would not cross my mind as a vehicle to create that.I might create multiple generation opportunities for involvement (community courses which multiple age levels might be interested in (sewing, budgeting, web design, a book club - limited only by the imagination - perhaps taught by members of the community (or better yet high school students)), a weekly/monthly community meal prepared by a home ec class open to all in the community, or neighborhood improvement projects which start and end the day at the school with a shared meal (even if it is just a bag lunch) - or perhaps community gardens on the school grounds.  Just ideas off the top of my head - but the idea is to create an enjoyable, two directional, investment between the school and the community in which the school is situated.Those kinds of positive engagements would go a long way, I think, toward preparing the soil to nurture the seed you want to plant. 

 
David Hovis
on Jan 17, 2013

One important note:

The fact that only one PTA in Cleveland is registered with the national PTA association is really pretty meaningless.  I know of dozens of schools in Cleveland proper with active parent groups.  

 
Matt Orehek
on Jan 17, 2013

So the question we need to ask ourselves is, what separates schools with strong parent engagement from the schools without? What policies/strategies are working at these schools that creates results? What are policies or attitudes that hinder parent engagement? 

 
Nancy Reeves
on Jan 17, 2013

To some extent, those are chicken/egg questions.

Whenver there is an imbalance, I think it is because one side of the relationship is out of whack with the other.  Poorer schools have (on average) poorer involvement and there isn't a lot of tension about it - it just seems to be a sad fact of life; simlarly better schools have (on average) better parent involvement - which everyone also expects.

When parents are involved, and schools remain poor, the parents with resources use those resources to take their children to schools which meet their expectations.  That leaves the parents and children without resources in the poorer performing schools - removing the tension that the imbalance between expectation and reality creates.  (And a similar movement happens in the other direction when the imbalance is the opposite - the families with fewer resources who cannot afford (or feel unable) to be involved are often displaced by families who are able be involved.)

So it might be more helpful to ask what might motivate parents and the school district to work together to raise expectations of, and rewards arising out of, involvement - the key difference being the posture of getting parental buy-in to the process rather than viewing it as conceived of and driven by the school district.  Anytime one side is puling the other, a lot of energy is wasted overcoming resistance and it usually ends up not being a terribly productive relationship.

 

 

 
Pahniti Tosuksri
on Jan 18, 2013

Parent involvement is such a multi layered issue in our public schools. It isn't caring - ask any parent, I doubt any would say they don't care about their child's education. 

I definitely agree with Nancy, that funding PTA would more than likely result in wasted funding. "Shaving the cream off the top" is this old adage - with any new program, you'll typically see the same parents come time and time again, the engaged ones. Those that aren't, exhibit the same behavior. Why is that?

1) Feeling welcome: Many parents may have had poor experiences with schools, especially high schools. There's a lack of trust, there's a lack of welcoming, and parents don't feel they can make a difference. Marion-Sterling has recently opened a Parent Welcoming center and have been proactive in inviting them to stay within the school - that's a start.

2) Don't know how: Many parents lack the skills to be good parents - things that many take for granted - parents reading to kids, parents helping with homework, parents checking up on grades - many parents are trapped in the middle of the cycle, because they did not receive these things. Many are at such a low education level that they're not capable of helping their own children with school work.

3) Don't have time: Struggling schools have a disproportionate amount of single, head of household compositions. The parent is working, caring for their child(ren), with no time for extra activities at the school. Without easier ways to communicate, better reasons to show up, the parents don't see the value in it and would rather rest.

What can be done? I love the thoughts of inter-generational learning. CMSD's Parent University was established last year, the first time schools opened their doors to offer activities within the school district. Interest and enrollment is increasing, especially in the sector of computer literacy, a program I helped established. Through that - parents are taught basic computer skills, how to access and use the school website and the schools internet-based applications, and are assisted with getting a computer and internet at home.

Programs such as this are crucial - if we're expecting the parents to be able to be engaged with their childrens' education, we have to make sure we're not taking their own education and upbringing for granted, and giving them the tools and education they need to be teachers, learners, and organizers themselves.

 
Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 23, 2013

Great thoughts, Pahniti. Thanks so much for adding them to the conversation. I have heard a lot of great things about the parent to parent mentoring and the Parent University. It sounds like both of those programs should be strengthened.

 
Linda Alexander
on Feb 07, 2013

Thank you, Pahniti, for your wise thoughts.  I would add that if we invest and try and fund parent involvement in the early years--create a culture--and offer parents a way to spend time in the schools, especially single parents, that meets some of their own personal, time management and basic needs the chances of success are often much higher.  For example, for after school parenting events fund a simple meal--pizza and salads.  It is often these basic elements that make all the difference for busy, working parents.  Food is also a great way to help people relax and connect.

The other basic tip is to call the homes periodically and check-in.  Create a relationship over time.  Listen and learn.  Personal invitations always increase turn-out.  

Lastly, have a school culture that doesn't run on excuses and blame. If there is an expectation that teachers and administrators will do all they can do, every single year, to enhance parent involvement and not place blame elsewhere, it also makes an enormous difference.  I do not believe we should start-out from a place of believing that parent involvement does not impact student performance, research clearly suggests otherwise, or that we don't want them involved for various reasons....

 
gaby roberts
on Feb 01, 2013

i dont think that parent involvment has that great affect on creating better schools because alot of students have broken families and that you do not need parents to be involved in your school because i strongly think that it is a students choice to care about their academis success and that they need motivation not parental involvment. i do agree with the other factors that can help make our schools better.

 
Darius Mendez
on Feb 01, 2013

You are right Jonathan and I beleive that parents should be in their childs life when it comes to schooling because most kids dont have parents, and they do then they are usally just disrespecting them. All kids need to respect their parents and allo w the parents out there that are trying to get their child somewhere in life. My parents are involved in my schooling enviroment and are always setting high, yet reachable, goals for me to accomplish. Such as getting good grades, going to college, behaving in school etc...

 
Alexus Simbeck
on Feb 01, 2013

 Parent involvement wouldn't be so hard to come by if the parents felt welcomed. I know here at Facing History New Tech , when we have meetings involving parents, we all sit down like a family and have the dicussion. So , the solution would be more interaction, friendliness and compassion, its not too hard to accomplish. Especially , at a small populated school where people are more engaged with. This could also play in with the class sizes. Discipline and safety wouldn't be a problem if they know they are trusted and can do what they like in a way, at my school we are given respect, responisibility and trust, this makes our school a more open and friendly enviornment. For the accountablilty , I agree. If good work is rewarded or called out on, more people will want that and work for it.

 

 

 
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Dan Moulthrop
on Jan 14, 2013 - 4:49 pm

There are a lot of questions and concerns we'll be raising here, and we invite the entire community to ask questions, make suggestions, offer ideas and raise concerns. Here's a first question to start off this conversation:

There are many paths to creating quality schools. We can transform existing schools, open new ones, and sponsor charter schools. Of these strategies, which do you think can be most useful in your community and neighborhood? 

 

Responses(3)

David Hovis
on Jan 15, 2013

Opening new schools and sponsoring charters are functionally equivelant, so long as you aren't concerned with who "owns" the school, rather than the quality of the school.  As long as the ones you're opening are good, the effect is more or less equal.  There have been so many new, great public schools opened in the last few years in Cleveland that I've started to loose track of all of them.  

That said, you can't really press the reset button and do every school at once.  You can open a few new ones a year while you ensure the others do not backslide.  The advantage to opening an all new school is that you can establish an new school culture.  This is much easier if you start with young children (K-2) and grow the schools upward.   I beleive we can get there for certain, but it will take longer that way.   

I tend to believe a hybrid approach is the best.  We need to keep opening new, high quality schools while simultaneously trying to improve the ones that are clearly not good enough.  If we succeed with the later, we can stop with the new schools.  If not, the new schools will take over.

 

 

EMI is a social impact faith-based not for profit organization located in the United Methodist Church facility on north Broadway. Our primary program supports K-8 students that are suspended from school. EMI's mission is to support learning opportunities for children and their families.

We have worked with children and families in our community for a number of years and believe that learning has to be understood as more than expecting new outcomes from building new facilities without addressing the families targeted for the new facility. We have a new STEM school in our community but as I understand the recent report card for the schools in our community, they are all failing.  Not for a lack of trying, we have both a MyCom and P-16 presence in our community.  What's already happening need others in the community to get involved and create more entry points into the lives of families we are trying to assist.

As a member of our community I want to work on ways that help lead to changed attitudes about the value of learning in the home.  Helping parents and families and members of a community view learning as an ongoing process (lifelong) rather than as an optional journey can help improve the learning environment in our schools. We help create a demand for quality schools and a pool of responsible stewards of our community's limited resources.

 

 
Robert Kilo
on Jan 18, 2013

Dan,

I was excited to see the news with you and Eric Gordon on together and to see you facilitating this important conversation. After attending the community event at Esperanza yesterday, I am convinced that the best way to create and support quality schools is to capture the powerful momentum that CMSD has within its current portfolio of schools in a compelling and inspiring story. This seems to be a great opportunity to have a fresh start of the CMSD brand with the incredible legislative and levy victories of 2012. When citizens hear that CMSD has significantly increased the amount of quality schools within its portfolio since 2005 and that they have an aggressive, well thought out plan moving forward, I believe citizens will respond favorably. CMSD and high performing charter school groups such as Breakthrough Schools have already proven they can create outstanding schools. Now its time for the community to pick which schools within the portfolio they would like in the specific neighborhood they live in. My sense is that starting new schools from proven quality models and creating an excellent culture will be most catalytic in creating transforming impact. The Near West Intergenerational School is a prime example of the community selecting a school model that best fits that specific neighborhood's needs. This community based collaboration with CMSD and Breakthrough Schools could serve as a prototype moving forward.

Also, I believe this is an excellent opportunity for Mayor Jackson and CEO Eric Gordon, who have been brilliant and bold, to connect the resources of The Cleveland Plan and The Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland in a unified message so that the community can effectively engage with clarity and purpose. The Transformation Alliance plays a key role in disseminating information about qulaity going forward. Lastly, there could be community advisory boards in place within each specified geographical area of the CMSD landscape, similar to the P-16 initiative in Slavic Village, so that every area has solid community coverage and has all key stakeholders on the advisory board.

 
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