When Jenny D. asked us in the blogging world to come up with great ideas for school reform *absent money concerns*, the responses came quickly. And, I think, thoughtfully.(Check out her post and the comments!)
#The ideas about TEACHER QUALITY/SALARY seem right on to me. Teacher excellence IS the key to successful schools and improved student achievement.
#Even though most research does not prove out the value of SMALLER CLASS SIZE, teacher morale is tied to it. That’s reason enough to keep numbers down; it will keep good teachers in the profession.
#Planning time (that is, enough of it, and effective use of it) is critical to improved instruction. Bravo to Jenny D’s contributors who recognized the need for altered teacher schedules that address our need to plan collaboratively. In our ED setting, we need time to plan with both our gen ed colleagues and ED peers. Clearly, a nontraditional schedule of some sort would be necessary to provide these important planning opportunities.
And now my contribution:
Parent Participation Contracts: Some private schools have already adopted these as a way of setting expectations for parent support. These make particular sense for the ED program in which I teach. After all, the children in our classes have exited the general education setting because of their significant behavior problems. It is my feeling that as taxpayers pay out the increased funding for special education, so should they expect a minimum level of parent participation in support of their children’s success.
I am not talking about parent report cards where teachers judge parents based on a list of identified behaviors. That idea seems arbitrary and even silly.
I am thinking about a set of expectations (created by the IEP team, including the parent, at the end of the IEP meeting) that clearly identify what our ED kids’ parents can do to help the child improve/achieve.
“This IEP team identifies the following PARENT SUPPORT ACTIONS as necessary for the timely completion of the attached IEP goals:
1. On a daily basis, sign and discuss with your child his/her point sheet. Identify areas for celebration, and make a plan together about changing negative, inappropriate behavior.
2. If your doctor has prescribed medication for your child that affects school behavior/achievement, commit to giving that medication as prescribed. Agree to call the school if such medication is not given, and make a plan for providing your child with their needed medication in a timely manner. This may include coming to school during the day, or making arrangements for the school nurse to give the dose in question.
3. As part of the overall plan to address your child’s behavior/emotional needs, commit to some form of therapeutic support. (Family therapy, child’s individual or group therapy, etc.) It’s often too hard for anyone to parent an ED child without outside supports. Take advantage of support offered by our school’s clinical team and county programs.
4. Attend quarterly parent/teacher/clinical staff conferences to discuss and plan for your child’s progress. (One of these quarterly meetings will be the annual IEP meeting and is required by law.)
5. Attend at minimum 2 school functions per year. (Includes Open Houses, Back-to-School Nights, music concerts, PTA meetings, sports competitions, etc.)
6. Provide your child with the assistance he/she needs to complete homework requirements in a timely manner.
Professor JohnL (from EBDblog) has been thinking along the same lines, in response to a BBC report about parents being held accountable for their children’s school behavior. He asks some good, hard questions about such a plan, including which negative behaviors would parents be accountable for, and what would the consequences really be. If such a plan should become more than a sweet daydream (after all, what teacher hasn’t imagined “consequencing” a neglectful parent?), then there has to be some bite in it.
That’s fodder for another post…..