Solving the Problem of Parental Engagement
As my kids went through school, I saw a few of the many issues that surround what is called “parental engagement.”
Many parents would have loved to go to school meetings, concerts, and performances, but they were rarely scheduled for the convenience of parents. My favorites were the school improvement committee meetings, which were supposed to include parental representatives, but they were scheduled for 2:15 in the afternoon — smack in the middle of the workday. But even parent-teacher conferences and classroom demonstrations and performances, which were aimed specifically at parents, were scheduled in such a way as to make it very difficult for anyone who didn’t work at places with generous leave policies to attend.
One of the most galling parts of all this was that within the schools it was axiomatic that parents who didn’t show up for performances, PTA meetings, back-to-school meetings, and parent-teacher conferences didn’t care about their kids and were the reason the schools were not particularly successful.
All of which made me really appreciate the care I saw taken around this issue at De Queen Elementary, a school in Arkansas, which I write about this week in Huffington Post.
The major employer in the town is the poultry processing plant, which runs three shifts. So every event at the school (plays, concerts, parent-teacher conferences) are run twice — once during the early shift and once during the afternoon shift. They work with the plant so that it doesn’t schedule any double shifts that will make parents have to miss an event.
Parents flock to the school events, and teachers grab them while they’re there if they need to solve one of the many small problems that arise with kids.
In other words, instead of simply throwing up their hands and saying that the kids’ parents don’t care, the school tackled the very real scheduling problem parents have.
It’s that kind of problem-solving that has put De Queen in the top tier of schools in the state.