When These Educators Realized What They Were Doing Wasn’t Working, They Changed It
When our children were in high school, my husband and I dutifully attended each of the schools’ open houses. We traipsed through our children’s schedules, spending a few minutes getting a glimpse of the teachers and hearing about their grading and homework policies.
It gave us an understanding of how difficult it was to get from one classroom to another in three minutes, but otherwise it wasn’t very satisfying. Judging from the complaints of the teachers, it wasn’t very satisfying for them either. They mostly complained that too few parents attended. I spent many years hearing the low opinion teachers had of parents who didn’t attend, but the school never changed what it did to be more welcoming or encouraging.
I thought of that when I went to Artesia High School in Los Angeles County recently. I happened to be there on “report card night,” where parents could come any time from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and pick up their children’s report cards. They could then visit with any of their children’s teachers, who were arrayed at tables ringing the gym, waiting with records and some individual comments about their students.
“We used to do an open house,” said one teacher. “But not many parents came. We see a lot more parents now.”
If parents don’t show up, the school either mails the report card or, if the school has some concern about the student, the principal or counselor might hand deliver it and have a conversation with the student and family.
But most parents show up because they want to see their children’s report card.
For me, the important part of this story is not that Artesia has found the perfect solution to what is a very common problem of low attendance at high school open houses. The point is that when the educators at Artesia realized that what they were doing wasn’t working, they changed it. Instead of simply complaining about parents, they tried something different to see if it would work better.
And it did. But if it hadn’t worked, I’m pretty sure the folks at Artesia would not keep doing it; they would try something else.
That is because that is the way schools improve, and Artesia High School — where 70 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price meals and 97 percent of students graduate, most going on to college — has made a lot of improvements over the past decade. To read more about these improvements, see my latest column in the Huffington Post.