My colleague, Mary, already blogged this report, “Clarity from Connections Academy,” but in re-reading the newspaper story from the pile in my in-box, the article still bothered me. Pointing to the clarity is important, but I find it pushy that an NEA representative virtually says that parents put one over on … whom? …, by teaching their children at home. Who is the loser?
For a long time, the received wisdom about children doing well in school hinged in part on parents helping the children with their lessons. Social authorities have dinned it into parents’ heads to be active in helping their children learn. Government tells parents to do this, as do television ads, and academic researchers:
- University of Michigan: “The most effective forms of parent involvement are those, which engage parents in working directly with their children on learning activities at home.”
- Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory: “The research overwhelmingly demonstrates that parent involvement in children’s learning is positively related to achievement. Further, the research shows that the more intensively parents are involved in their children’s learning, the more beneficial are the achievement effects.”
- NEA: “Reading achievement is more dependent on learning activities in the home than is math or science.”
The NEA has changed its stance from “adamantly opposing” virtual schooling:
New concerns are being raised by the recent proliferation in California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and elsewhere of non classroom-based charter schools, or “home-study schools.” These include online schools and distance-learning schools-an abuse of the charter school concept that NEA adamantly opposes.
… to thinking that the schools are not so bad after all:
NEA believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children.
Still, the NEA is not entirely comfortable with handing over the keys to learning. An NEA representative does not think that parents should horn in on the virtual teaching of children. She expresses a fear that the virtual programs are “homeschooling in disguise” and that parents will botch the job. I guess if the kids have questions they are supposed to stay glued to the computer screen, or wait their turn in virtual lines.
Virtual Schools Click With Parents, 13 August 2007, Tampa Tribune, Tampa, Florida
Home Schools In Virtual Clothing?
Stein, from the NEA, questioned to what extent such programs are home schooling in disguise.
Stein, who has helped draft standards for online education nationwide, said neither she nor the NEA objects to them. But an excess of parent involvement raises concerns about quality and accountability. “There are concerns about deputizing whoever happens to be at the kitchen table as a teacher.”
So, what does “home schooling in disguise” mean? It cannot mean parents using taxpayers’ money to buy substandard books or religious materials because the virtual school puts together the subjects, tests and books. Children who use virtual schools are (for the most part) public school enrollees and subject to NCLB testing. If the parents substitute materials, the children will not learn the same lessons that the tests are checking, and the kids might flunk. I assume that by using a virtual school, the parents want their children to do well in the program as it is structured. If this is the case, then tests take care of “accountability.”
Maybe the NEA representative meant that parents ‘get away with something,’ by using the virtual school but then teach the kids themselves. This kind of fudging, though, does not fit with the advice for parents to help their children at home.
Results suggest that schools struggling with unsatisfactory student achievement may benefit from focusing parent involvement efforts on building parenting capacity and encouraging learning-at-home activities.
What are parents supposed to do? Just pay the taxes and then hush up?
As for the “deputizing,” the schools are not the ones who deputize the parents; it is the other way around. We The People pay taxes to support schools to replace the at-home teaching of children. In loco parentis means that parents delegate their duties to others, not that schools allow parents to be caretakers.
The concept of public service has been mangled in the re-telling of who is serving whom.
posted by Valerie