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Friday, January 27, 2023


New DOE framework puts a bandage on problems facing U.S. education

Schools want parents to be more involved, and parents want schools to be more involved. They both turn to the government to help them ease into this interaction, but the U.S. government does not have its priorities intact.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education released a proposal called “The Dual Capacity Building Framework For Family-School Partnerships.”

The proposal lays out a framework for schools and families, especially parents, to become more interactive and engaged with each other for the sake of the student.

This framework consists of the “4 C’s”: capabilities, connections, confidence and cognition.

Capabilities addresses individuals’ skills and knowledge, connections addresses important relationships and networks, confidence addresses individual self-efficacy and cognition addresses a person’s assumptions, beliefs and worldview.

The framework is a good first step toward cultivating an enriching learning environment, but it fails to address the underlying issue — there are not enough resources for both schools and parents to properly do this.

The DOE has admitted that each process needs to be tailored for the specific context and situation, but that will take time, something that school administration and families do not have.

This is a bold step and one in the right direction, but there are too many variables and problems underlying the main problem. It just seems like a quick fix laid on top of a shaky foundation.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes that “when parents are involved in the educational process of their children, students are more likely to attend school regularly, to take more rigorous courses, earn higher grades, graduate and go on to both college and careers,” according to the press release for the framework.

It’s hard to believe that many families will have time to be engaged in their children’s education, considering they have to focus on making money to support their children first.

Families, especially low-income ones and ones with limited English proficiency, face multiple barriers to school engagement and often lack the resources and understanding to really immerse themselves in their children’s education.

It’s important that the DOE acknowledged learning doesn’t stop outside of school and extends to the home as well, but given the way school is currently structured, the student will not want to bring school into their home.

Hotel and restaurant management junior Angela Calderon said she believes parents may not want teachers to encroach on their privacy, either.

“If a child is doing badly and the teacher asks the parents why they might be struggling, the parents might say that they don’t need to know and that it’s none of their business,” she said.

However, the framework proposal cites one case study in which having teachers and school staff come into the family setting has worked. Stanton Elementary School in Washington, D.C., successfully implemented home visits in its attempt at family-school partnerships.

In Stanton’s case, teachers and other staff members visit the home of a student in order to understand the student’s situation and build a relationship with the parents. They ask the parents what their hopes and dreams are for the student and what strengths and challenges their child has.

This idea is good in theory but could be disastrous on a larger scale.

Finance senior Ferris Elestwani said, “We already ask a lot of teachers, especially with young ones. And that would be a lot more.”

Many school and district family engagement initiatives, in the places that do have them, focus too much on what parents need to do and how they need to change in order to be more engaged in their children’s education.

This leads to tension between families and schools, since families find that schools aren’t receptive to their efforts and don’t consider their feedback.

Therefore, school and district staff need to help foster relationships with families and be as transparent as they can so families have relevant and meaningful information. Schools can also play as advocate for parents if the need arises.

It worked for Stanton Elementary because the foundation it already had in place enabled it to adopt these new ideas. It also had easy access to resources. The same can be said for the two other cities cited in the case studies from the proposal: Boston, Massachusetts, and Santa Clara, California.

If the government can extend that support and affluence to all schools, especially low-income areas, then the framework doesn’t sound so far-fetched.

Without attention to training and the building capacity for these partnerships, well-intentioned partnership efforts fall flat.

The very foundation of school needs to be changed.

“I think it would be great if they focused on improving what they can affect without overstepping their bounds, like improving their education system. That’s within their scope. They’re a school, not life coaches,” Elestwani said.

The U.S. is asking an awful lot from families and schools but has not established any concrete plans to help provide these resources. It has only given suggestions as to what schools and parents do.

Families and schools do play a key role in a child’s education, but they are not the only ones. The government has a responsibility to enable these two entities with the best opportunities they can.

Opinion columnist Julie Nguyen is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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