Eric Stinton: We should work together on a plan for public education in Hawaii – Honolulu Civil Beat | Team Cansler

Parents want to be more involved in the education system. That should be good news – in my experience, it’s difficult to involve parents in their own children’s homework, let alone get involved in the Department of Education’s macro-level planning. But something about Civil Beat’s recent history made me feel uneasy.

It’s a good overview that covers several aspects of legitimate frustration. Schools feel overwhelmed and understaffed, and are under increasing pressure from all sides to do more work in less time. Parents are upset that DOE and Board of Education communications are inconsistent, unnecessarily difficult, and incomprehensibly riddled with acronyms. They feel left out of important decisions that directly affect their children during one of the most precarious moments in modern American life. It is easy to sympathize with them.

But a few things felt. Although several parents and education groups were interviewed, not a single person said they wanted to change anything specific, just that parents “have more say” in creating a statewide education plan. But what does that mean exactly?

Does “greater say” mean a greater impact on how funds are approved by the Legislature or how they are spent at the state, district, or school level? Does it mean more control over what is taught and how it is taught? Talking about changing recess or doorbell schedules, how to deal with vaping, cyberbullying or chronic absenteeism, what interventions are most effective for students who are below grade level standards?

You could say that the answer to all of these questions is yes. Some would have more say on one issue than another, but in general parents should be involved in all of these decisions. The problem, frankly, is that many parents are completely unfamiliar with the realities of school life and therefore lack the expertise to engage meaningfully with these issues.

While the Civil Beat comments section is genuinely more thoughtful than most sites I’ve contributed to, it’s easy to sift through the comments on virtually any educational article and find people suggesting bad ideas that research thoroughly than simply, quickly were exposed. fix solutions.

A commenter on the article earlier this month responded to the report of low test scores by saying: “Start holding students back. It shouldn’t be an option anymore.” This idea resonates with many people, but in reality, holding back a student dramatically increases the likelihood that they will drop out of school altogether. It has been observed over and over again.

DOE Department of Education building.
Parents would like to have more say in the public education system. But what does that mean in concrete terms? Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

In a recent column I wrote about some of the innovative things happening in public schools across the state, many of the responses reflected a similar sentiment: It sounds funny that teachers are making classes more engaging, but why focus not just the traditional “three Rs” of education: reading, “riting” and “arithmetic”?

What they don’t understand—and frankly, what I haven’t adequately communicated—is studies showing that incorporating these skills into engaging instruction improves learning outcomes because students interact with ideas at a deeper level than they do with drill-and -Kill exercises.

Most parents know little about current educational research or best practices in the classroom. And why should they? They have families to take care of, jobs (often more than one), and other commitments to take care of. They have neither the time nor the reason to delve into jigsaw teaching, or Socratic seminars, or mutual teaching, or any set of best practices that they have never experienced personally.

Worse, much of the “parental rights” movement, both local and national, is a hotbed of bizarre conspiracies repeated by bipartisan cable news, an entertainment product (as opposed to an educational service) designed to excite viewers.

I follow some of these local “parental rights advocacy groups,” and most believe that schools are indoctrinating kids with a “woke” agenda rather than teaching them the basics, all because the school library offers books with gay characters in them or encourages black authors during the Black History Month.

These groups routinely refer to teacher guardians and child molesters as standard truth that teachers must somehow refute. They are not interested in working with schools to tackle real problems, instead focusing on imaginary problems where the only solution is to turn away from public education altogether.

It’s brainworm stuff totally inconsistent with reality; They would know that if they spent half the time they normally waste watching TV and browsing Facebook reading books with their kids, helping them with their homework, or volunteering at their local school. They don’t want “more voice”; They just want to bark orders and get their way without doing the hard, messy work of learning and collaborating.

Parents need to approach their engagement with humility, to understand the limitations of their perspectives, be willing to accept new information, and commit to actively increasing learning at home.

What worries me most is that all of this is due to low test scores, meaning not only are we still shocked that a global pandemic has had some negative impacts on learning (or at least learning that’s easily through standardized tests), we also still hold schools responsible for broader social problems that are beyond their control.

This is a fundamental analytical flaw that prevents us from talking accurately about education reform, and if we don’t even know how to talk about improving schools, we won’t really be able to improve them.

BOE member Makana McClellan rightly noted that the performance gap on standardized tests and low college enrollment rates are major problems for native Hawaiians. So the questions to ask are what are the causes of these problems and does an educational plan address these causes?

If you juxtapose demographic data for poverty, homelessness, and standardized test scores, you’ll see many similarities between them. What do you think impacts a student more: the lack of a strategic educational plan or prolonged starvation and no safe, reliable place to sleep?

Rather than looking at the interaction of large-scale forces affecting children in and out of school, we only look at the effects visible during the school day and attribute them to school because that’s where we see them. It’s a simple interaction with reality.

Standardized tests are useful for determining where problems exist, but they are not useful for determining why those problems exist. We should work together on a public education plan, but if we expect it to solve problems like poverty, homelessness and trauma, then it doesn’t matter how much input parents have in its creation. The solution does not eliminate the causes.

None of this is to say that parents should be left in the dark. Far from it: we need to create a space where parents and school staff can meet regularly, listen to each other and collaborate, sift through data and interpret it into something actionable. The community should be involved in school policy and in decisions about the use of school funds.

The DOE, BOE, and individual schools must have clear, consistent communication about what is being done and have honest reflections on the results. We must respect parental input and embrace it as an integral part of the educational landscape, because that is what it is.

Parents need to approach their engagement with humility, to understand the limitations of their perspectives, be willing to accept new information, and commit to actively increasing learning at home.

Communication, honesty, respect, humility – do you realize how important and necessary these things are and how none of them can be measured in standardized tests?

Parents should have more say in education. But if they really want to count their voice, they need more presence.

Civil Beat’s educational reporting is supported by a grant from the Chamberlin Family Philanthropy.

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