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Parents Should Demand Partnerships With Schools to Boost Achievement

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Are parents in America "too nice?"

That's what Charles M. Payne, a professor at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, told about 150 parent leaders attending a National Assessment Governing Board meeting today in Arlington, Va.

Payne, who along with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the Education Summit for Parent Leaders, added that parents let schools "get away with everything." Instead, Payne suggested that parents should seek to cultivate partnerships with schools that are rooted in trust.

Lack of trust—between parents and schools, among teachers at a school, between the principal and teachers at a school, and between a school and the community—is the most significant impediment to reforming the nation's academically struggling schools, Payne said. Schools with a strong culture of trust are three times more likely to improve student achievement, he added.

Payne and Duncan were among a slate of speakers delivering frank messages to parent leaders gathered for the National Assessment Governing Board's first-ever parent summit. Duncan, who kicked off the summit, urged parents to become relentless in their quest for better schools, much like parents in South Korea. (Read more about Duncan's remarks from Education Week's Catherine Gewertz here.)

Parents should visit the best schools in their communities and determine why their children are not receiving the same education, Payne said. He suggested that parents and community groups find instructional coaches to help them analyze what good teaching looks like so they can demand better for their children.

Education Trust President Kati Haycock acknowledged that some parents are viewed as useful school partners while others are considered "less useful" because of their education level or the language they speak, for example.

"We've made that choice," Haycock said of dismissing poor and minority parents. She added that engaging parents as partners rather than opponents over the next decade would yield positive student achievement results.

But the summit's goal was to move past the inspirational to action, arming parent leaders with data and tools from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) that would help them craft school-improvement strategies to boost academic performance and close the achievement gaps that persist among students in their local communities.

The National Assessment Governing Board, which supervises the NAEP tests, hopes that its test-score data will help parent leaders become more effective change agents. Attendees participated in afternoon breakout sessions to analyze NAEP data more closely.

If the school improvement efforts hatched at this parent summit gain traction, NAEP results may finally have more resonance among America's test-weary parents.

 

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