How Miami-Dade County Public Schools Deal with Parental Involvement in America

The Miami-Dade County Public Schools district is one of the most progressive in America and the most challenging because of its diversity and proximity to South and Central America, including the Caribbean islands. What is the status of parent involvement in Nigeria?

One of the most challenging tasks facing the Parent Academy of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) is how to disseminate information to parents who are reluctant to read or too busy with other thing. Parental involvement means that parents are fully engaged in their children’s education both at home and at the school.

Educational research continues to support views being expressed by teachers and school administrators that schools that fail or succeed have proportional and disproportional levels of contribution both at home and in schools. Simply put, active and participatory parents help schools succeed, whereas inactive and non-participatory parents contribute to a failing or under-performing school to some extent. One study concluded that parents who are engaged and actively involved in their children’s education, their children not only succeed academically, they become participatory and contributory members of their communities, the state, and the nation, and they become successful individuals.

Because parents are their child’s first and most important teacher, there is a general expectation that they provide the basic foundation necessary for their children to succeed in school. Usually, this foundational education is always tested in pre-K through the elementary schools, where we begin to see signs of parental neglect and apathetic tendencies from them.

As part of the effort to support public education, the United States government, through the department of education, has stepped in to assist state governments and schools districts through legislation and financial assistance. One such legislation is seen in Goals 2000, now NCLB: Every school will support partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional and academic growth of children in the country.

But this federal legislation is not enough. American parents have become increasingly rude, bossy, volatile, argumentative, aggressive, loud, disrespectful and disruptive of the teaching milieu. But this is not the case in many other communities where parents are positive, polite, respectful, and very supportive of the learning environment. Some of them even provide incentives to students and teachers.

It is widely believed that most parents know that a quality education translates to a good career and a good future, and they understand their role in helping their children succeed in school and in life. But with the many societal problems emanating from the 65% divorce rate, millions of parents (particularly those who are single parents) juggle time and money while providing discipline, love and the support needed at home.

The question is how will Superintendent Carvalho and the Parent Academy respond to the lack of parental involvement in under-performing schools?

This is what we know. As I have said earlier, the federal government supports parents indirectly in several ways. The state governments also support school districts with funds. A lot of support comes locally as well. One way the federal government supports schools is through legislative Act and executive order. An example is the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. For example, if a school has been identified as in Need of Improvement, Corrective Action, Planning for Restructuring, or in Restructuring status, parents have the following options: (1) option to transfer to higher performing school or (2) they may decide to remain at their present school provided that they meet the free or reduced meals requirements. Students are eligible for the free and reduced lunch voucher if their parents are living below the poverty level which is set at below $22,000 with four children.

The school district has developed an Academic Support Plan to support schools based on need through differentiated support that provides intervention and prevention. The plan will provide assistance to schools by (1) increasing teacher capacity, (2) enhancing fidelity of implementation to core/intervention programs, (3) providing consistent supplemental technology-based programs in grades K-12, and (4) providing a system of checks and balances to monitor student’s progress and adjust instruction to meet the needs of each and every student.

It should be acknowledged here that there is one overriding factor which may many people either do not take into consideration or simply ignore due to its immense impact on the education of students who live in a low socio-economic area.

As stated above, the district (or state or federal agencies for that matter) can increase teacher capacity, enhance the curriculum, provide supplemental programs and monitor progress all they want. They may “throw” all the money in the world at the school system and they may recruit the best and the most highly qualified teachers, but one teacher said a few years ago, until the mindset of the community is changed, nothing is ever going to change. This is where the challenge lies. To change a mindset or a culture of a people take a long time and a lot of human and capital resources.

That is not to say that parents in our community don’t care as a whole. Many of them are exceptionally concerned with their children’s education. But those parent(s) who are forced to work two or three jobs cannot be realistically expected to be home to help their children with home learning assignments. These parents cannot find the time to be active members of the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA).

We are referring to the parents who simply do not place value on their children’s education. Have you ever heard the saying, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it?” the same is true at many low-performing schools. We can transport the students to class, give them supplies, and provide a quality curriculum (with rigor, relevance and build good relationships) with highly qualified teachers…but we can’t “force” them to learn. When we do apply pressure to perform, teachers are met with profound resistance and inappropriate language and sometimes with threats. Many teachers, out of frustration, have made house calls only to be greeted with the same hostile attitude and language from the parents.

All is not that bad. There are some lessons in of these. Teachers and administrators can collaborate to reinforce the short term benefits to parents which include: the enjoyment of learning, becoming a lifetime learner, enjoying school life more, improving academic knowledge, skills and dispositions. The failing school becomes passing school, and the school grade improves and the faculty and staff are rewarded through the Florida School Recognition money.

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