Secretary Duncan flip on parental involvement a real flop

parentAccording to the Educational Testing Service web site, ETS is

the world’s largest private educational testing and measurement organization, ETS develops, administers or scores more than 50 million tests annually in more than 180 countries at more than 9,000 locations internationally.

Back in 2003, ETS released a report that identified factors in and out of school related to student achievement. According to the report, parental involvement and the home environment is just as important as what goes on in the school.

It is generally well recognized, in research as well as in the public generally, that parenting plays a critical role in child development and well-being, as well as in performance in school. It seems logical that, if parents are important, having two is better than having just one—at least on the average…

Research has pointed out that much of the large difference in achievement between children from two-parent and one-parent families is due to the effects of the lower incomes of one-parent families…

The report concludes by making a case  for education policies and practices that focus equally on supporting and strengthening both the school and home environment…

Gaps in school achievement, as measured, for example, in the eighth grade, have deep roots—deep in out of school experiences and deep in the structures of schools. Inequality is like an unwanted guest who comes early and stays late..

Nothing about the impediments to learning that accumulate in a child’s environment should be a basis for lowering expectations for what can be done for them by teachers and schools, or for not making teachers and schools accountable for doing those things.

And denying the role of these outside happenings – or the impact of a student’s home circumstances – will not help to endow teachers and schools with the capacity to reduce achievement gaps.

Also, insistence that it can all be done in the school may be taken to provide excuses for public policy, ignoring what is necessary to prevent learning gaps from opening. Schools are where we institutionalize learning; they are also places where we tend to institutionalize blame.

Fast forward to 2011 and just as states around the country are reviewing and adopting the Common Core State Learning Standards, the U.S. Department of Education discontinued funding for Parental Information And Resource Centers. According to the PIRC web site

Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs) help implement successful and effective parental involvement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student academic achievement and that strengthen partnerships among parents, teachers, principals, administrators, and other school personnel in meeting the education needs of children.

What a great parental involvement program and resource to help students and families transition to the higher standards and academic expectations of the Common Core. Yet the notice posted on the web site explains…

Funding for the PIRC program as a whole has been discontinued by the US Department of Education. Therefore, most PIRC programs are no longer in operation although several are continuing with funding from other sources. You may contact PIRCs directly to determine their status.


Guess all the money the Federal government expended on developing national standards and tests to measure student learning, they could no longer afford to fund programs that actually supported student learning?

Back in 2011, The Answer Sheet posted a guest commentary by Arnold F. Fege andEdwin C. Darden regarding the poor timing and negative impact of this decision…

For 16 years PIRCs have helped low-income families, school districts and state governments nurture high-quality parent involvement programs….We aren’t losing a bureaucracy here; rather, we are enduring a real loss that will reverberate across all 50 states and several U.S. territories.

What makes this cut a shame is that PIRCs demonstrate a commitment of taxpayer dollars to ensure that the home-school partnership remains strong.The investment is not just good public relations. Decades of research prove that family involvement and academic success go hand-in-hand, especially for kids in poverty…

Indeed, the PIRCs have had amazing results. According a recent survey conducted by the National Coalition of PIRCs: *Eighty-eight percent of families said that because of the information and services received from PIRC, they were better able to support their children’s learning at home…

the impact of living without the PIRCs will be immediate and dramatic — a major blow for kids in high-poverty communities, the parents who love them, the school districts who teach them, the communities who care for them, and a nation that relies on them.

Hard to understand why the U.S. Department of Education would discontinue such an important parent involvement program at the same time states were rolling out the Common Core State Standards and increasing academic demands on students across the country?


Even more perplexing is the fact that this decision was made during the tenure of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who commented in 2012 on the critical importance and role of parents, and more specifically involvement of dads, in supporting student achievement.

Somewhere during the course of our national dialogue, our expectations for parents have lowered, particularly for fathers. Today, I want to challenge every father to step up. If we want strong schools and strong communities, we need more dads involved…

The statistics on this front are staggering. Almost 24 million children — one in three — are likely growing up without their father involved in their lives. Those statistics are even higher if you look at the numbers inside our communities of color. That absence puts much too great a burden on our strong moms and teachers. Everyone is trying to do their part, but when dad is not around, we are all playing a man down on the team.

We know that increasing parent involvement, particularly the involvement of fathers, is key to improving schools and communities across the country. As we work to drive down drop-out rates and increase graduation and college completion rates, fathers have an important role to play…

It is dishonest for the Feds and Department of Education to claim they are supporting efforts to raise student achievement when our taxpayer dollars are devoted to the creation and administration of national assessments that facilitate expanded efforts to collect, share, and monetize student data while at the same time eliminating funding for existing parental involvement programs that have helped to increase student academic achievement.

Clearly Arne Duncan is more experienced and qualified to coach a basketball team than to lead a federal agency tasked with administering national education policies and programs.

Perhaps the Secretary of Education could learn a lesson from Michael Jordan and understand that athletes and students are continually learning even though individual performance does vary and will fluctuate from day to day.

That is why it is foolish and dishonest to claim to measure the skill level of students and the quality of their teachers based on performance during a single end of the year high stakes “game”, especially when in too many cases, teachers and students practiced most of the school year one or even two players down.



1 thought on “Secretary Duncan flip on parental involvement a real flop

  1. Great article. The impact of parenting on the education of students cannot be denied. I like the infographic at the beginning of your post, and the quote at the conclusion. I think the most telling statement regards the closing of the parent centres when you say, “Guess all the money the Federal government expended on developing national standards and tests to measure student learning, they could no longer afford to fund programs that actually supported student learning?”
    Thanks for the information.

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