Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hold your nose and think of England...

Always scintillated by the research and reports that non-governmental organizations in Ontario do regarding K-12 education. In the past several days, we've had the updated version of "Sunshine on Schools" released by the Society for Quality Education as well as a report on Ontario's school councils released Monday by People for Education. One got coverage (read: the Star, the Ottawa Citizen as two examples), the other really didn't.
The coverage I've seen seems to skim over some of the more interesting parts of the PFE report, regarding how school councils communicate with parents, as well as with the mandated parent involvement committees (PICs) that exist at the board level. PICs get cash from the provincial government based on the board's student population, that is supposed to be used for activities that support increased parental involvement in schools. The report also appropriately speaks to the research showing that parental engagement (read: being involved in your child(ren)'s school) has a positive impact on student achievement.
The focus? Fundraising. Again, given PFE released its report on fundraising earlier this year, perhaps it was the easiest thing to write about. School councils report that while they'd like to be doing more of all the other things they're supposed to be doing (check the regulation), they spend most of their time on fundraising. If that's so offensive, then why not just stop? No one -- except perhaps school council members themselves -- is putting pressure on these bodies to fundraise. It's tradition, certainly, in the case that many school-council predecessors existed solely for the purpose of fundraising to support the things parents wanted in their schools.
But I come back to the question-- if fundraising is the 'dirty evil' that's an anathema to these school councils, then why do they keep doing it?
The PFE report offers no insight into this. Perhaps it's a question for next year's study.


Anonymous said...

"No one -- except perhaps school council members themselves -- is putting pressure on these bodies to fundraise." This statement is unsubstantiated nonsense. Halton Prolife brags about it's connection to it's local schools (only the Catholic ones by the way)Burns up valuable teaching time and takes scarce resources out of the school simply because a trustee was its former president and the Chair of the Board is a close friend of the executive director of HPL - When are you going to get to the real stories that matter and can affect change? Fundraising in schools that have no effect on the students programs are bigger news than what you are going on about on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Anon. - I happen to think that ER is dead-on in his comments and in particular this ""No one -- except perhaps school council members themselves -- is putting pressure on these bodies to fundraise."

It's a dirty little secret that parents and schools love to keep all to themselves that parents themselves, the ones school admins. just love to talk into sitting on school councils that puts pressure on other parents to fundraise. The absolute truth!

I too wondered many times as I watched People for Education highlight the glut of fundraising taking place in our schools, so why not advise parents to just say no? Nothing happens to education as a result classrooms function and kids learn.

It's also true that some principals and board admin. steer school council toward fundraising and away from actual issues in education.

Perhaps instead of fighting school councils and painting them as a threat to school boards the removal of the word "advisory" from the regulations would have allowed those parents interested and capable of moving outside the fundraising role to do so.

I find that the P4E report also does not touch on the new and important role school councils play in accommodation reviews.

The new accommodation review process depends very heavily on school councils being in compliance with regs. and engaged in two-way communication with the parents to who school councils are accountable.

I find the People for Education report pretty much nothing new and not very helpful to school councils.

The PIC's are at risk of becoming just one more bureaucratic hurdle for parents to navigate that's going to be strangled by regulation.

I nice director once told me that good partnerships and relations with parents can't be bought, it's just common sense. I agree.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 2 Nov. 14:59:

You're obviously upset about what you're alluding to within the Halton Catholic board. I won't guarantee that I can be of any help, but if you wish to send me an e-mail I may be able to get a better understanding of your concerns.


Anonymous said...

Let me put it this way, the general public is far more interested in school fundraising issues such as where the money goes, how much their kids are expected to pay, what types of fundraising are going on etc. rather than issues concerning the PICS themselves. Whether or not a school has a PIC is of no consequence to the average parent or taxpayer since there is no effect on student achievement that anyone can point to. There is however a great deal of concern on the part of parents about additional fees and students being asked to fundraise. Simply put you are having an academic discussion that concerns few when there is ample opportunity to explore questions of far greater importance. This of course would explain why groups such as P4E are in the news and ER is not.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Anon. 10:20am. I agree with you.

How can we expect to "engage" parents in a school councils or PIC that bores them to tears or train councils on something other than how to hold a meeting?

I want to meet the school councils who still do principal reviews regularly and run workshops on reading programs or current issues in education that matter like the school councils role in the accommodation process.

After 12 years of councils and the only help organizations like P4E and those others where the folks who run them no longer have kids in school.

Is there room at the People for Quality Education table for parents who disagree with their agenda?


Education Reporter said...

Anon 5 Nov. 10:20 a.m.
Agree, many parents (for whatever reasons) don't give a flying fig about involvement committees or school councils but do care when Johnny or Sally shows up asking for another $20 for a school thing.

Again, as I mentioned in the post, the parent can say no. If it's for an extra-curricular, it can be a great learning opportunity for a teenager than in life sometimes we have to choose what to do based on what we can afford and what we could/need to be spending money on. If it's for basic classroom supplies, my next call as a parent after saying no would be to contact the teacher and principal and ask why the hell $20 is needed to classroom supplies or whatever that is tied to the curriculum. Fight it, instead of rolling over, paying for it and then complaining.

Brenda-- I don't speak for P4E, but I couldn't see why they wouldn't welcome differing opinions.