Thursday, June 9, 2011

Say it, Helen Gym - what parents want must be central to the discourse and action about our kids' schools

Philadelphia parent activist Helen Gym's op ed in CNN today, "Reformers, please listen to what parents what from schools," is making me so happy. Gym clearly defines the mismatch between current reform rhetoric and the qualities and services that matter most to parents. A small part of her piece:
For many parents, the elements of what makes a quality school seem completely at odds with the national buzz about education reform:
-- While parents talk about programs rich in the arts, sciences and history, politicians talk about covering the basics through a one-size-fits-all curricula.
-- While we talk about building critical thinkers and creative problem-solvers for a complicated and dynamic world, they talk about hiring billion-dollar testing companies that infiltrate every aspect of teaching and learning, drilling the notion of knowledge down to a single test score.
-- While we talk about smaller class sizes to help students and teachers build nurturing relationships with one another, they talk about maximizing capacity and "creating efficiencies."
-- While we talk about building an experienced, stable and professional teaching force where teachers are prepared with a depth of knowledge in their subject areas and are committed to the profession, others talk about relying on a temporary teaching force or focusing on education managers.
-- While we talk about sustainable change based upon policies that have been proved to work, politicians and the private sector demand dramatic and disruptive changes that do little to significantly improve children's educational experiences.
And in this lies the critical difference between what many parents see as their hopes for a quality school system and the politicians and billionaire venture philanthropists dominating the education reform landscape. The latter have become so enamored with the structure and management of education that they've forgotten about the substance and practice of it.
Thank you so much, Ms. Gym. I am sharing this with all of the parent activists I know so we can have a bright star to focus on and remind us what our work is really about.

Organizations that Gym mentions in her piece and/or are useful associated resources:
  • Philly's Parents United for Responsible Education group
  • Parents Across America, which I am going to connect this blog with in a more meaningful way in the coming weeks
  • The Notebook, for which Gym writes a weekly blog, is Philadelphia's online and print resource for independent news and views on the city's public schools and is one of my inspirations and aspirations for this blog

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