#FamilyFriday – Parents Must Hold Schools Accountable

#FamilyFriday – Parents Must Hold Schools Accountable

#FamilyFriday is a weekly series of voices from the field of families and advocates from across the State of New Mexico. Each Friday, a new voice will be posted. If you would like to submit a blog post for consideration of publication, please submit it to Family.Liaison@state.nm.us. Enjoy and share!

Parents must hold schools accountable

By Bonnie Murphy, School Family Partnership Academy Member

After talking to hundreds of families over the last few months about their children and their school experiences, I have realized that there are just too many schools out there not doing their students and families right, and nobody else is talking about it. New Mexico has laws that tell schools, administrators and teachers how to deliver high quality education for the best interests of the students. We also have Administrative Codes that tell school administrators how to run schools. This gives them a lot of responsibility but a lot of freedom. This definitely isn’t working.

How would I know? My entire working career, since I was 19 years old, has been spent in some form of education, but I have recently left teaching and administration because this project is more important right now. Honestly- knowledge, experience, and training helps, but the key is what I have learned about education through the eyes of parents who tell me story after story of how they think schools have failed their children.

Most parents just want to make it better, not to add drama, embarrassment or backlash for their already struggling children. They are trapped in the boundaries of their district school, so they devise a plan to enroll their child in a different school, tell their child to suck it up or fight back, or try talking to the school about their concerns. Unfortunately, these don’t always solve the problem because parents simply don’t know what they don’t know. However, not all situations end up unresolved for all children and families and not all schools and teachers are failing all children. The key is how educated parents are about school laws and policies and how knowledgeable and honest teachers and school administrators are.

New Mexico just lost a major lawsuit accusing [the state of] inappropriately educating many children. The public blames the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED), funding, teacher quality, teacher preparation programs, and the list goes on. These issues are important, but they miss what is actually going on at ground level. The judge in this lawsuit ordered the NMPED to come up with a plan by April, of next year! NMPED has taken definite steps in the right direction and made progress, but it takes time, and there is an election for governor around the corner. I know of so many families who need help with their issues with schools right now. They can’t wait.

The biggest and most positive impact on the education of all youth of New Mexico could be educating and mobilizing the sheer masses of families to keep schools accountable for doing what they are supposed to be doing. There is nobody more concerned about their children’s futures than parents. They just need to know how.

Now, what good would it do for families all over the state to suddenly file a rash of lawsuits and send our schools and Public Education Department into constant fighting and money-draining court battles? Not much, when you really think about it. Parents simply want their children’s schools providing what their children need by following the laws, rules and policies already in place to make their education better, to access needed supports and increase their child’s opportunities. PED should begin more detailed data collection, disclose to the public all schools’ adherence to the laws and policies, and enforce accountability.

My suggestion is for parents to rise up in masses with your tools of knowledge in hand to hold your child’s school accountable. Make sure your child’s school and teachers know that you know what they are supposed to be doing. Parents are going to help change New Mexico’s education history.


4 Replies to “#FamilyFriday – Parents Must Hold Schools Accountable”

  1. Bonnie, can you be more specific about your comment of parents knowing what the schools and teachers are supposed to be doing …can you note specifics

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Certainly! One example I can give is when a child is struggling academically or behaviorally and is not proficient in reading, but they are not placed in the SAT process, even after Tier 1 interventions have been unsuccessful.
      As you know, after 1-2 years of not making sufficient gains and after their one and only retention waiver having been signed, the parents still may not know that there was a skipped step in their child’s education and then their child is retained.
      The whole time there is confusion, anger and blame circling around the dynamics of the family and the school. Parents (and even teachers) can feel shame and helplessness for not having caught the child up.
      Some families take their child to a different school and don’t say anything to the new school or to their family and friends, because they are embarrassed about their child’s performance or the stigma that is attached to being retained. Sometimes, they are afraid the new school will have to hold their child back, just as they wanted to do at the last school, so they don’t say anything and hope they brought their child to a school that will work miracles. That could add fear and guilt to their already possibly stress- filled lives.
      Unfortunately, many schools don’t have a system in place where student records are transferred immediately from Cumulative or Special Education files to the next school, so the child is enrolled in the same grade level as they would have been at the last school and there is no communication about where the child is at in their reading skills.
      Teachers in the new school may not figure out where that child ended up in reading in the last school until about a few weeks or months into the school year, depending on how practiced they are at using data to inform their instruction. That is wasted time for that child and every year the consequences compound.
      That is just one smaller example of what happens at some schools, not all, of course.
      Unfortunately, especially when parents find out that their child was not helped to the extent that the last school could have helped, through the policies and laws in place for this very reason, they feel resentful and frustrated, helpless and victimized. Parents are leery of some schools and have nothing but bad to say, but their criticisms are vague, not typically very specific, like much of the public’s criticisms. They don’t know what they don’t know. They just know that one school or another, sometimes more than one school, did not catch up their failing child because it can get harder and harder for teachers to do so every year they are behind and not receiving the proper interventions.
      There are times where a teacher, for another example, is unaware of the specific wording in NMAC 6.19.9 Early Literacy Remediation, Interventions, and Parental Engagement and NMSA § 22-2C-6 and if their school administrator(s) tells a teacher to do interventions, but they aren’t documented or if the parent isn’t involved in the Tier II intervention SAT plan, or the parent isn’t notified by the end of the 2nd quarter, etc., then the child’s school hasn’t done all that it can do to help the child.
      Sometimes, schools don’t inform parents of their child’s rights and don’t follow through with following the NM law and the NM administrative policies. Those schools give the rest of the schools in NM a bad reputation when families find out that their child was not given a high quality and equitable education, so families come into a new school on guard, confused, angry and can lose heart and hope in our educational system.
      The best way to solve this dilemma is to educate parents and families, teachers and the public about how schools are supposed to operate, so that if anyone at one of these kinds of schools tries to pull the wool over their eyes, they can advocate for their child(ren) and hold that school accountable to do what is right and lawful. Transparent schools welcome parents and families in. They have nothing to hide and welcome parents, families and teachers to hold them accountable, but they have little reason to when the school is already doing what is right. That builds trust, community and teamwork. Students feel it, families feel it, teachers feel it and the administration feels it. I could bet that you know what I am talking about because you have certainly experienced it.
      Parents and families must be the ones to ultimately hold schools accountable because they are the ones that will hopefully be there for their child for the rest of their educational experiences, not typically that school or that teacher.
      I know we all want to be there for our previous students as much as we can, but the reality is that if their family, hopefully, will be the ones supporting them through their education, and if the family doesn’t know how to support them, they can’t do it.

      I wrote that nearly 5 months ago and have learned so much since then. Unfortunately, through all of my efforts to learn about how our education system works and to learn from parents, families and community members and their experiences both inside and outside of the classroom this calendar year, I have learned of many more examples. I could go on, but it is more difficult to convey all of this in writing.

      Teachers and schools who are strong, principled, and willing to teach their families and walk with them, using every tool available to them to help their students succeed, and schools who are willing to be transparent and engage their families and teachers in ownership, contribution and leadership of this era of NM’s education history; those schools will ultimately be the brightest beacons of hope and trust for all of our communities.

      Thank you so much for asking, Nancy! I hope that helps.

  2. What is it, exactly, that teachers and schools are not doing or providing? I think it’s important for parents to meet us halfway. Parents are their child’s first and most important teacher. I am a National Board Certified Teacher and my school and colleagues are stellar.

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