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Positive Parent Involvement

If it’s a Tuesday in Wake County North Carolina, you may be met with angry parents protesting the wide sweeping changes to a school system that once received national recognition. On July 20, Rev. William Barber, head of the NC NAACP and 18 other citizens were arrested when the protests got out of hand. The day began with an estimated 1,000 people attending a march hoping to turn the clock back to when the school board majority embraced an assignment policy that focused on all children achieving.

To this point, I haven’t been involved in the forefront of protests that appear to draw the spotlight on dividing our community into those who embrace the policies that were putting all children on a path of academic success and those who want to have their child attend the school closest to their home. In 2000, when my children were on what appeared to be reassignment roulette, I stepped on my volunteer efforts in the schools. I wanted to learn why changes were being made to the assignment process.

At the time, the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) leaders were engaged in studying Ruby Payne’s work “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” and Ruth S. Johnson’s “Using Data to Close the Achievement Gap.” Understanding the logic behind the decisions helped me to become a positive parent volunteer. I went on to become the President of the Wake PTA Council that had an estimated 25,000 members who helped establish a Wake County Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps committee. That group worked hard identifying best practices and sharing them with the schools. Part of the efforts of the group was to carve out time for teachers to participate in Professional Learning Teams and to implement strategies from a Curriculum Management Audit.

The results from the efforts were outstanding. According to the reports released on July 14 from WCPSS, the preliminary North Carolina End-of-Grade (EOG) and End-of-Course (EOC) test scores for 2009-10 show improvement in virtually every subgroup of students in the Wake County Public School System, and also show a closing of the achievement gaps between white, African-American, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students at several grade levels. Dr. Donna Hargens, a member of the committee and current interim superintendent said, "These improvements are a clear indication that our efforts since the 2007 Curriculum Management Audit of better alignment and focus of resources and efforts are paying important dividends."The teacher collaboration made possible by our Professional Learning Teams and their focus on data are showing results with these test score gains."

The group’s efforts were dismissed with the brush of a hand when the new school board majority did away with the PLT dedicated time and decided to create their own acheivement committee.

When Bill McNeal became our district school superintendent, it was very clear that leadership counts. Having a leader with a heart for all children made a difference. It was business principles and leadership ethics that helped boost our school achievement. In 2004, McNeal was named the National Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators. That year, Forbes magazine reported Wake County schools as the third best education system among the biggest cities.

In February 14 of the districts magnet schools won national awards. Magnet Schools of America gave seven of the schools the Schools of Excellence awards and the others earned Schools of Distinction awards. If the new school assignment policy dismantles the magnet school program, it is unlikely that our district will continue to receive the national awards. Teachers will be asked to work harder with less support. Parents are becoming detached and not interested in volunteering. In my children’s school, there are gaps in key leadership positions including PTSA President.

As the Mom Congress delegate for North Carolina, I am searching for a way to help clear the air towards positive parent involvement. The first step is this blog and drawing on the power of Mom Congress. I am looking forward to the publication of “Lesson Plan for Change.” I want to hear from others who may have found a positive way to turn the tide towards positive parenting involvement in their community.