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Turning Those Buzzwords into Meaningful Action

 

Take it from me a parent. It is time for some unconventional measures that are colorful and as diverse as a rainbow yet work in a practical sense for everyone in the room. As I navigate the world of education on both sides of the spectrum I can’t help but to notice a mundane world of old habits instead of a space of fresh ideas and actions. One such course of action that generally gets parents talking is the constant overuse of buzzwords.

What is a buzzword anyway?

A Buzzword: A word or phrase often an item of jargon, that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context.

First off, I do believe that everyone who habitually uses these buzzwords are genuine in their commitment and desire to do right by kids and educate them the way they deserve.  We may differ on how that goal should be funded but I hope we can agree that all children are equally deserving of a high quality education in a publicly funded school.  And let’s not get it twisted; education enthusiasts on both sides of the debate are responsible for giving life to these words and phrases. These are some of the buzzwords.

“School Choice”

This has to be the most used and recognized one of all. And though I do believe that families deserve to have quality options, it’s the context or lack thereof when using the phrase that I believe gets regular folks questioning this notion. Many don’t even really understand what “school choice” is. And isn’t. I believe and have had conversations with other parents with similar beliefs that it is impossible to speak about school choice without addressing the rising cost of transportation associated with it, at least here in Louisiana.

Moving beyond the words themselves, there are issues of substance that we must address. If we are to move forward collectively we must figure out how to curb the enormous expense and impact that transportation has on a school’s operating budget. An article in The Lens by Della Hasselle and Marta Jewson reveals the enormity of this problem.

The cost of busing students to New Orleans’ public schools has risen by about 67 percent since the school year before Hurricane Katrina when it cost $18 million . This year, it’s $30 million, although there are fewer students and schools now.

One cannot speak about school choice without at least considering solutions for the problems and challenges surrounding school choice. Our conversations need to be more inclusive of the good and the bad that go along with the ‘School Choice” that we champion.

Another factor that weighs heavily on school choice is the enrollment process. In New Orleans,  our OneApp system that was started and then overhauled by two nobel prize winning economists is still a subject for debate. Parents know that the process still needs tweaks if it is to truly benefit the families it is designed to serve. Just as recently as last April glitches and flaws in the system garnered heavy backlash from parents who were trying to prepare early for the next school year. The system allows for deadlines to be too close to one another forcing parents to risk losing placements and money in other schools as they wait for news on their OneApp.  

“Parent Engagement”

This just may be the buzzword that most parents hear the most. Districts and charters use the term, some in meaningful ways, other in empty ways. Since my aim is to bring about positive conversation and change, I’ll give a few examples of what I see as being effective parent engagement in the hope that it sparks conversation and action.

 

  • A quality parent center. One with resources and the ability to access those resources that includes several computers, copy machines, and internet access. While many take all of this for granted, there are families who lack access these very basic amenities.

 

  • A better translation system. At my daughter’s school the act of translating meetings, ceremonies and everyday school functions was becoming cumbersome and antiquated. The administration invested in a translation system that allows parents to wear a headset that translates in real time. In my opinion, it has brought more unity and understanding between students and adults to our school.

 

  • A meal. Providing a meal to families who are expected to attend an after-school function on a weekday. The strain that this takes off of a parent before or after  attending an important parent teacher conference, math night or award ceremony can be a game changer.

 

Moving away from just talking about encouraging parents to actually doing it can bring about a renewal in terms of the relationship between school and home. We must function together as a team that embraces our responsibility for the future or our children.

“Equity and Equality”

These words literally are used by all in education but fly well over the heads of parents and families and even some of the folks using them, if you ask me. Wouldn’t it be a good notion to have the people who are working to empower understand exactly what is being said? I am sure that education enthusiasts can come up with a way to speak about equity and equality in terms that are clear and make sense to parents.  So let’s do it.
In the end, we are all allies working to achieve all three of the buzzwords and catch-phrases I’ve highlighted here.  We fight for school choice, parent engagement, equity and equality. Let’s recognize that our power is in our unity around a common goal. Demanding that more action accompany the words we speak, the pieces (and tweets!) we write will bring us closer to our goals. And that is good for kids.

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