Jay Mathews, ed-beat superstar for the Washington Post, has a story today that perfectly sums up the government school response to involved parents; leave it to the professionals, stupid.
Across the country, parents hit a solid wall of silence when they question the actions of school administrators. But these same administrators have the gall to blame uninvolved parents for the sorry state of our government schools. Mathews reports:
Schools nationwide are calling on parents to get involved. The Maryland State Board of Education endorsed a broad range of family outreach initiatives in a 2005 report that called public education "a shared responsibility."
Yet some parents in Montgomery County and elsewhere have discovered limits on the get-involved policy when they ask questions about individual teachers, whether those queries are about alleged abuse of students or a decision to fire a popular instructor.
In Montgomery County, beloved third-grade teacher Soon-Ja Kim was bounced on the word of one reviewer despite an outpouring of support from parents who knew what great work she had done with their children. I can’t say it better than it’s reported:
But a panel of eight teachers and eight principals charged with reviewing Kim's performance gave little weight to the parent letters when they considered her future in a closed-door meeting, according to panel members.
Doug Prouty, vice president of the Montgomery County Education Association and co-chairman of the panel, said in an interview that the strong parental support for Kim was considered only a "secondary data source."
The good test scores of Kim's students, he said, were also secondary. The primary sources for the decisions, he said, were the judgments of Principal Elaine Chang, a consulting teacher assigned to evaluate Kim and the panel members themselves that Kim was ineffective in the classroom and hurting her students' progress.
"That's a bunch of hooey," said Elyse Summers, one of the multitude of pro-Kim parents. "Our children went to Mrs. Kim's class every day, came home and are performing extremely well."
"We take parent feedback, both good and bad, about teachers very seriously," Edwards replied. But the Montgomery schools spokesman added that "the final decision about the effectiveness of teachers must come down to those with the professional expertise."
Thanks to Mathews for pointing out these object lessons in government schooling. Teachers work for the government school system, not the children or the parents.
I only wish that Mathews had pointed out the obvious solution to this problem; giving parents the power through school choice. Otherwise, “those with the professional expertise” will continue to demand more money and less input from parents.