The other day I asked a friend how the first few weeks of first grade were going for her son. She paused, frowned and allowed as how she really had no idea.
Her boy has declared school “fine” and sees no reason to elaborate. My friend has a job, which makes it tough to pop in during the school day. The message on the teacher’s voicemail flat-out declares that she doesn’t check it and gets to emails when she can, which is sporadically.
You’re horrified and you want to know what schools? All three are highly regarded Minneapolis programs, as it happens, but it doesn’t matter. Urban, suburban, I’m here to tell you this is more the rule than the exception.
And it’s worse when the school is likely to perceive a particular family as disengaged. Not long ago, Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson told me she was horrified at how she was treated when she showed up in a school in sweatpants and was mistaken for an unkempt parent.
Myself, I was promised a return call by one of my kids’ principals four weeks ago. But somehow I hit the jackpot with my other boy, whose teacher is one of those people who cheerfully returns emails right away.
I could indulge myself for hundreds more words, but the point is this: For all their talk about family engagement and about the important role parents play in setting the stage for academic achievement, schools generally do a lackluster job at outreach.
What a good thing it is, then, that Twin Cities educators and parents are about to get a visit from Joyce Epstein, a sociology professor and Director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University. Her current research focuses on how district and school leadership affects the quality of schools’ programs of family and community involvement and results for students.
Epstein’s visit is being organized by Joe Nathan of the Center for School Change at Macalester College, in conjunction with Minneapolis Public Schools, Growth and Justice, MinnCAN and the University of Minnesota Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius will introduce Epstein.
The utter disinterest many schools display regarding families’ thoughts on their kids’ educations has long been a concern of Nathan’s, and he will wax passionately about how simple it is to fix.
Epstein’s will speak Nov. 10 at Minneapolis’ North High School, 1500 James Ave. N. Light refreshments will be served at 5:30; the program will run from 6:00 to 8:00. More information can be found on the website of Parents United, which should be a go-to site for anyone interested in this type of thing.
The program is free and open to the public, but those interested in attending need to RSVP to email@example.com the end of the day Nov. 8 so organizers know how much food to have available.