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Something Missing From The Equation

According to Jay Mathews, bad parents don’t make bad schools. Bad schools make bad parents. Or at least unsupportive ones.

What has worked, again and again, is the opposite: Bring an energetic and focused leader into the school, let that person recruit and train good teachers and find ways to get rid of those who resist making the necessary changes. Great teaching makes great schools, and once you have a good school, parents become engaged and active.

Ok. That sounds pretty good, but it’s a pretty simplistic formula, one that’s hardly fool-proof.

Not too far from Mathews’ office he could visit more than a few schools that have both excellent administrators and great teachers but middling support from the parent community.

And, according to the standards of “quality learning” dictated by No Child Left Behind, they have been declared failing year after year.

Which means there must be something missing from the mix. Maybe something like an educational structure and curriculum which works for these students. Something that doesn’t come from the cookie cutter.

Of course parents, visionary leadership, and excellent teachers are all important parts of the process.

But so is an educational program that fits the needs of the students.

Update (1/31): Organized Chaos has some wonderful thoughts from the inside to add on the issue of parent involvement in schools and Mathews’ theories. Go read.


  1. Dave

    Communications and marketing are important to education, as horrible as that may sound. If the school does everything right, but communicates with parents rarely or unprofessionally or in some other way that doesn’t engender trust, there won’t be parent support.

  2. Crimson Wife

    Schools claim to want parental involvement, but only on *THEIR* terms. Just look at all the controversies over what kids are being taught in everything from math to science to sex ed. Schools are deliberately going against parents’ wishes, and then they have the nerve to complain about a lack of parental involvement…

  3. Martha

    Despite research showing a HUGE benefit from parental involvement, schools don’t know how to make it work – because it requires parents interacting with their kids AT HOME. Check our “I Care”. It’s an approach to parental involvement through character development activities and community support, facilitated by the school.

    It’s a system that’s working for lots of schools.

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