Sunday, February 17, 2008

Annual Parent Surveys & Parent Involvement

Many charter schools are distributing their annual parent surveys. I think this is one of the best things happening in charter schools because parents are actually valued and their opinions matter.

Before charter schools I'd never heard of parent surveys. Nobody did them. It just seemed natural when we started Jefferson Academy in 1994 to have a parent survey in the spring of the first year of operation. The opinions of parents on matters such as how much they know about what their child is being taught, if the Principal is approachable and ideas for improvement are very important!

I've also had children in non-charter public schools for more than 14 years. At one accountability committee meeting there was talk about having a parent survey. Knowing this would be discussed, I brought several samples from charter schools. The questions were quickly whittled down to are you interested in joining the PTA and do you know that our school has an accountability committee?

This is indicative of a school system that doesn't understand the importance of parental involvement. Indeed, I know people in public ed who are intimidated by parents and quite honestly, don't even know how to interact with them. Their idea of parent involvement is under very controlled conditions.

Yet many people tout parent involvement in charter schools as being one of the key components for their success. I've likened new charter school parents as a collection of "malcontents" because many of them are leaving their former schools for a reason. In fact, this was a big concern of mine the first few years of Jefferson Academy. But I quickly realized that for many parents, once they're given an environment that respects their role in their child's education and values their input and involvement, they can be productive, positive contributors to the school community!

No comments: