Educators see parents as problems

“In my experience, most administrators and many teachers hold parents in low regard, and their behavior and policies reflect that,” writes John Merrow on Taking Note.

Educators won’t admit it in public. Parents are “our greatest asset,” they’ll say. They’re “invaluable partners.”

But they don’t treat parents as part of the solution, writes Merrow. Middle-class parents are asked to run bake sales. Little is expected of low-income parents.

Some educators feel that low-income parents do not have the time or energy to get deeply involved in their children’s schooling.  . . . plenty of administrators and teachers are genuinely disdainful of parents and apt to dismiss them as uncaring, uninvolved or ignorant.  “Just leave the education to us” is how I would characterize their attitude.

When low-income students are out of school for the summer, they lose reading and math skills to the “summer slide.” They’re not visiting the museum, traveling or going to sports or music camps.

Educators propose more schooling. But what if they asked parents to do more over the summer?

PBS NewsHour is working on a story about Springboard, a Philadelphia nonproft that teaches low-income parents how to coach their children in reading. Reading skills don’t slide over the summer, according to the group’s data. Children improve.

Farewell to 'Farewell to Arms'

It’s Farewell to “A Farewell to Arms” in Douglas County, Nevada, reports Teaching Now, an Ed Week blog.

English teachers are protesting district plans to introduce College Board’s Springboard textbook set and curriculum, complaining it eliminates classic books in favor of short readings. From the Record-Courier:

(Douglas High teachers) argued SpringBoard prevents students from being exposed to classic, challenging texts with rich vocabularies. Rather, they said, students are stuck with one novel a year and random excerpts, some of which deal with movies and television shows, resulting in a loss of the English literary tradition.

More specifically, teachers argued that SpringBoard lacks rigorous grammar, vocabulary and writing instruction.

Sophomore Taylor Gray said her ninth-grade honors English class, which piloted Springboard, didn’t teach her how to write an essay, because “I was spending time learning about ‘Edward Scissorhands’ cinematic value.”

Middle school teacher and supporter Susan Van Doren thinks the curriculum could serve as an academic equalizer. “SpringBoard makes it possible to throw open the doors to Advanced Placement that have long been closed to all but the elite.”

Springboard’s thematic approach is supposed to prepare students for AP classes. But many Hillsborough County, Florida teachers complain it lacks substance, contains too much pop culture trivia and repeats material taught in lower grades. Some call it SpringBored.

There are fans. Sylvia Ellison, an English teacher at Brandon High in Florida, taught the American Dream theme to 11th-graders, many of whom were low achievers. “They like the variety,” Ellison told the Tampa Tribune.

Her class took about seven weeks to cover Jon Krakauer’s biography, “Into the Wild,” about a 24-year-old man’s adventures and death in the Alaska wilderness.

“We listened to the whole book on iTunes,” Ellison said. “Last year, they read ‘The Great Gatsby.’ I think they got more out of this one.”

And this will prepare students for AP English?

Update: James Elias of Common Core piles on, asking Where’s the Beef? and linking to reading lists.

In 12th grade, for instance, SpringBoard replaces a unit on the English Renaissance (Spenser, Raleigh, Shakespeare, and the King James Bible) with a unit on My Fair Lady, The Manchurian Candidate, Nine to Five, Cinderella, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. 12th grade Victorian literature (Tennyson, the Brownings, Kipling, Dickens, Bronte) is replaced by a current events unit focusing on the Waco massacre, Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” and newspaper editorials.

A SpringBoard supporter says, “If you can read, you can read the classics on your own.” Oh, OK. No problem.