Tuesday, September 15, 2015

To improve schools, de Blasio goes after parents

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 9:47 AM

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio may have borrowed from Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas’s playbook. The mayor, who controls the nation’s largest school district, recently organized a door-knocking campaign. But unlike Vargas, who has organized routine searches for chronically absent students, de Blasio’s is aimed at parents who are not engaged with their children's education. 
 
According to a recent New York Times article, de Blasio spent $1 million to train and hire people, including parents, to go door-to-door to urge some 35,000 parents to step up and get involved with their child’s school. The reason: New York City has 62 low-performing schools that the state will take over if de Blasio is unable to show substantial improvement within one or two years.

The mayor believes – and there are many educators who agree – that when parents are engaged with low-performing schools, their children are more likely to attend and do well.

Vargas has said repeatedly that students can’t do well if they aren’t in school. And low attendance rates contribute to low-performing schools. Vargas has 13 schools that are at risk of a state takeover if he is unable to improve them.

New York City’s mayor is also trying something else that Rochester’s school officials have explored in some schools: turning the schools into community centers. Mayor de Blasio wants to offer services such as medical and dental care, and adult education courses.

Will de Blasio’s outreach work?

If Vargas’s attendance push is any kind of indicator, the results will be mixed. And one researcher at the University of Texas, the Times article says, has concluded that methods like de Blasio’s are emotionally appealing, but don’t lead to better student achievement. Nor does it matter much whether parents become involved in activities such as bake sales, PTA's, or school board meetings.

According to the research, student achievement improves when parents make it clear to their children that they expect them to go to college. 

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