Looking at the problem of inner city education from the outside, it was easy to point a hypothetical finger of blame at the issue of parental uninvolvement/apathy. But working at the school I work at, I can categorically say that that is probably the least of my concerns. That’s not to say that my students have rosy home lives, because that’s definitely not true for many, if not most of them. But I have yet to speak to a parent who doesn’t, at the very least, care about their child’s success. A couple of my parents have taken their misguided anger out toward me, but the vast majority have put their complete faith in me and my judgment.
My school, like the other “transformation” and charter schools in the city, does not have admissions criteria. Students sign up on a school preference sheet, and then they are selected for us by lottery. The top several schools in the city do select students based on performance, and they take most of the top students out of the pool. Consequently, we get a roughly similar cross-section of student as the zone schools the kids would go to by default. The biggest difference between us and the zone schools, I’m told, is that our parents cared enough to sign their students up for the lottery.
Generally, this better cross-section of parents manifests itself in the fact that I can generally look a student up in the phone directory, and maybe 75% of the time, I can get a hold of a parent right away. And when I get a hold of that parent, 95 times out of 100, that parent tells me I’m going to see a difference in their child come the next day (although whether I typically actually see that difference is a totally different topic).
The sad thing is that despite the fact that so many of my students have parents who are very well put together, some of them still come in to school acting completely misrepresenting their families in their behaviors. As a rookie, I didn’t know where my students were coming from, and therefore, what expectations I should have of their behavior. I have learned over the past year that most of my students truly have been raised to behave themselves appropriately. Some of my parents are completely shocked to hear the words that are coming out of their child’s mouth, or what their kid did in the hallway.
I guess it just goes to show how corrosive the most negative parts of urban culture can be to the morals of even the best-raised children.
On a similar note, I read an article the other day on the topic of charter schools and urban education that struck a chord with the same thoughts I was having when I wrote this entry (I wrote most of this 5 days ago):