Extra: Parental Involvement Is Overrated

favicon In my Twitter feed this morning was an op-ed in the New York Times that challenges the benefits of parental involvement. Written by two sociology professors, who wrote The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education, the article looks at the evidence from the past 40 years and concludes that only a few very specific parental behaviors help students.

Mark Isero‘s insight:

Apparently, the research suggests that most parental involvement does not help students in school. The most effective thing a parent can do is expect, from an early age, that the child will go to college.

Please check out the article on Iserotope Extras. If you trust the professors’ research, then it’ll make you question a lot of things, like Back to School Night and whether you should call home about missing homework.

My idea after reading this article is that if it is true that parents’ expectations of their kids to go to college is important, then schools should employ them to put together college-going curriculum, specifically field trips.

At my last school, advisers spent many hours putting those field trips together. Maybe a parent group could do that?

And one last thing: Even though parental involvement may not lead to academic achievement, that doesn’t mean cut parents out altogether. They definitely make an impact on school culture and fundraising — always. favicon

Students give thanks for new Chromebook

favicon Remember when I challenged you in February to help me surprise Nancy Jo Turner and her ninth graders with a new Chromebook?

Well, because of so many generous donations (including some contributions from Ms. Turner’s former students, now in college), the Chromebook is now a reality!

Here are some pictures of students with the Chromebook:

And here are a few thank-you cards that Nancy Jo’s students wrote:

Thank you again! favicon

Craigslisters love the Kindle Classroom Project

favicon I’m always happy when a stranger donates to the Kindle Classroom Project, whether that means donating a Kindle, making a cash contribution, or supporting a project on DonorsChoose.

But one of my favorite things is when a random person on Craigslist agrees to meet with me and hand over their Kindle.

I started asking for Kindles on Craigslist last year, and at the beginning, I wasn’t so successful. But lately, things have changed. I don’t have any hard data on this, but it seems like I’m getting somewhere around a 5% yield rate right now.

The process is pretty easy, actually. I’ve set up an RSS feed that automatically sends local Craigslist posts for Kindles to my Feedly / Digg Reader. The going rate for Kindles on Craigslist is about $40.

Here’s the email that I send them:

Screenshot 2014-04-12 11.42.02

And then I wait. Usually, nothing happens, but sometimes, I get a response. (I think the links help; it makes me look legit!) We arrange a good time and place to make the transaction, and that’s that.

The best thing is that everyone has come through so far. I get there, the person is usually already there, prompt and prepared, we say hello, sometimes there’s a handshake, and then the Kindle is exchanged.

Except it’s not really exchanged — because I don’t have anything to give them except my thanks. Maybe that’s the next step. Perhaps I need to give them something physical. A thank-you card, maybe? They don’t really seem to care either way, I don’t think.

And then it’s done. The 10- to 15-second interaction results in joy both ways. The Craigslister is happy to donate, and I’m happy that another student gets his or her hands on a Kindle. favicon

It’s simple: You have to have books

sorry-we-are-closedfavicon This morning I read this blog post by Laura Robb, a literacy coach in Virginia. Her argument is that the biggest problem we have with reading is the “persistent inequalities” between resource-rich and resource-poor schools. In other words, independent and suburban schools have libraries, librarians, classroom libraries, and tons of books, while their urban counterparts do not.

Yes. Ms. Robb is correct.

In order to read well, you need a text-rich environment. That means books. But most urban public high schools don’t have very many books.

If you’re lucky, you might find a school library, but it’ll be understaffed, plus students, long disaffected with reading, largely won’t visit. It’s not cool.

The answer, of course, is to build classroom libraries, but most of this work is not central to schools. It’s an afterthought. Even well-intentioned teachers don’t have the time or money to buy books for a classroom library. Sure, it’s possible, and there are some teachers who go out of their way, but real change happens only with school-wide efforts.

That’s why one of my side projects is to help teachers get books into their classrooms. It’s pretty easy. At all times, I have a project up on my DonorsChoose page. Right now, my goal is to get five copies of the 20-most-popular books for ninth graders. In just one month, generous contributors have donated 18 titles. That’s nearly $1,000 in donations, mostly from total strangers.

Here’s the list of the 20 books, in case you’re interested. (Note: I may modify this list after getting more survey data from current ninth graders.)

After the current project is funded (hint hint!), I’ll decide which teacher gets the 100-book mini-library. It’s not a lot of books, sure, but it’s a jump start, and it’ll look impressive. (By the way, I encourage you to donate. The DonorsChoose site is easy to navigate, and your $10 means 1 book.)

And then the process will start again — for another teacher, another classroom, and another group of students. Please let me know if you’re interested in helping! favicon

Schwag from Phi Delta Kappan!

favicon Yesterday I received my five complimentary copies of Phi Delta Kappan with my article in it! That was exciting.

And so was this in the mail today:

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It’s a little wrinkly, but you get the idea.

But here’s my favorite part. I got some sticky notes from Kappan, too.

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That’s my favorite.

A few folks have asked about reading the article, which is kind. If you’d like to read it, email me at mark (at) iserotope (dot) com, and I’ll show you how you can access it.

My favorite part of the letter: “We hope you’ll consider us for another manuscript in coming months or years.” I hope so, too! favicon

Beyond the Code of the Streets

See on Scoop.itIserotope Extras


Among young black men who’ve made it, the Code of the Streets still exerts a pull.


Mark Isero‘s insight:

This personal narrative is almost a year old, but I found it today while following the debate between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait on "the culture of poverty" vs. "black culture." Mr. Coates is an extraordinary writer. English teachers should assign this essay.


See on www.nytimes.com

I’m not pro-testing. But this is silly.

favicon Protests against standardized testing are heating up this year as we head into assessment season. Some parents are opting their children out of the mandatory tests, and educational leaders like Diane Ravitch are calling for more boycotts.

I don’t mind the protesters. They have a good point — that maybe there’s too much testing, that it reduces the humanity of their children to a zombie-like state. It’s an important debate. Even though the new Common Core State Standards will likely reduce the overall amount of testing, I can see why parents and their children might feel frustration.

But pictures like this make me crazy.

Antitesting Pic

Here are a few reasons this protest is silly:

  • Sign made by the parent, not by the child.
  • No, one test cannot ruin your life.
  • Doesn’t help that the child is smiling.

It just doesn’t make sense to argue that your 9-year-old boy is a robot of standardized testing and then force him to a protest with a sign that you made yourself.

Of course it’s normal that things get heated when people become impassioned. Unfortunately, the education debate is now strongly either-or. Either you are for public school or you’re for corporate privatization. Either you’re for creativity and humanity or you’re for standardized testing. Either poverty is the reason for everything bad in education, or teachers are.

Some say that a real conversation wouldn’t get us anywhere. A false compromise is what the corporate reformers want. A revolution is necessary.

That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with revolution, but please, while you’re at it, have your students reading a book of their choice instead of standing behind a sign they didn’t make. favicon

Problems with personal anecdote as evidence: Racism in school discipline is alive and well despite your one story to the contrary

shutterstock_151229789favicon A study released by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is causing a big stir. Among its findings, the report concluded that African American preschoolers are suspended at a higher rate than white preschoolers and that they receive harsher punishment for similar transgressions.

If you’re a teacher, this isn’t surprising.

But tell it to readers of the New York Times, as the newspaper did a few days ago, and (white) folks get a little crazy.

Yes, I read the comments that accompanied the article. Usually calm and intellectual and reasoned, New York Times commenters, especially when discussing race, have become unhinged of late, spewing vitriolic (though largely well-written) arguments that lack any real evidence. Instead, most commenters have relied on personal anecdote (and white privilege) to make their points.

Here’s an example (not even one of the most incendiary):

One of my fellow teachers was attacked by a Kindergartner who called her cracker, white bitch and a host of racial epithets; he was suspended only after attacking her with a pencil, where he attempted to stab her. She was then told by administrators that if she could not deal with the situation, she should not be teaching in such a district (translation: here’s the door, cracker).

Here’s the deal. What happened to your friend is unfortunate. I’m sorry. But your friend’s personal anecdote does not outweigh the study’s data, which includes every school in the nation.

Just because we all went to school, and just because many of us have taught in public schools, and just because we have perhaps witnessed bad behavior by young people, white and Black — this does not mean that we can negate the systemic racism, manifested in discipline practices, that occurs in our nation’s public schools.

I understand that we need to have honest conversations about race, and the commenters are expressing their honest opinions, which is fine. But I wish that more people knew how to engage in the conversation. Unless you’re a statistician, disputing the statistical findings of the Office for Civil Rights is not a good idea. Your story of woe is not going to cut it.

It’s not up for debate that school discipline policies are racist. That’s a fact. But what can be discussed is what to do about it. That question was not included in the study. If more people engaged in that dialogue, maybe we could get past our own personal experiences and come up with ideas that’ll get us somewhere. favicon

California case challenges teacher tenure

david welchfavicon This one’s a doozy.

I predict that traditional policies of teacher tenure in California will come to an end in the next few weeks after the decision in Vergara v. California.

Nine students of color are the plaintiffs in a case in which they argue that they received an inferior education because of tenured teachers who could not be fired. Multimillionaire David Welch has has spent more than $3 million so far on counsel, which includes Theodore Olson.

Check out this excellent report by the PBS NewsHour:

My initial response is: Yes, every single student deserves a high-quality education, and ineffective teachers should not be in classrooms. It is also true that students of color are more likely to receive incompetent teachers.

But I’m very worried that this case is just a means to dismantle teacher unions. Depending on how the judge rules, teacher protections could be weakened or even eliminated. An outspoken teacher could be let go for her convictions.

Unions exist in education for a reason. Teachers serve a public interest. They are not paid well, especially in urban districts. They are not respected by society.

My friend and former colleague Ninive Calegari argues that teacher salaries should be doubled. Founder of The Teacher Salary Project, Ms. Calegari cites a 2010 McKinsey report that concludes that teacher salaries have dropped over the past 30 years. If salaries went up at the same rate as educational spending, Ms. Calegari writes, a typical teacher would now earn $120,000.

Therefore, there’s something about Vergara v. California that is missing the mark. If the plaintiffs win, some bad teachers will be fired, and that’s a good thing. But many good teachers may also be in jeopardy.

Furthermore, a victory for Mr. Welch and the students would do nothing to increase teacher salaries. It would do nothing to increase the respect of the teaching profession. It would do nothing to encourage young people to make teaching a career.

As you can see, I’m a bit torn. I would love to know your thoughts! favicon