Saturday, August 23, 2008

more rising tide mental purging

Rising Tide III was worth skipping derby, if only to give me things to chew on in my blog. While everything else was interesting in its own right, I'm still mentally stuck on all the things said during the education panel because that's really the only area under discussion where I feel like I can have any sort of informed opinion (and even then, huge gaps in my knowledge). As I said before, this really needed a whole other conference to really get at the heart of the matter and cover everything that ought to be covered. I was physically shaking half-way through just through sheer frustration/inspiration/information overload.

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around a thought that hasn't quite made all its connections yet. All sorts of information that I have just been too busy or sheltered to stumble across yet, new perspectives. But let me say that Cliff was a valuable addition to the panel and I wanted to hear more from him. After a lot of discussion today about those who are working to undermine and privatize public schools and some pretty direct negativity about the state of charters in the city, what I felt was lacking was a sense of what's going right (if anything) and what parents want for their kids. Cliff brought that, I think, but we need more.

When I was at the CEC conference in Boston this spring, I attended a presentation about a program that was aimed at helping families who had to deal with multiple government agencies (schools, social workers, probation officers, etc), consolidating their needs. And what the organizers found to be the most effective way to get the parents to "buy in" was not to try and tell them what to do or dictate what they should have to run their families or their kids' lives. It was simply to ask them what they needed and then to provide that. It made the biggest difference in the long run as far as improvement for students with special needs in inner city schools and their acheivement levels.

This comes to mind now because of what was brought up in the panel about charters being created or schools being converted without community imput. It is desparately needed, however, I don't believe that New Orleans has the mechanism to really reach out to the parents. And, as great as the blogger community is here, I don't know that this is even an effective medium to really get to some of the most isolated and marginalized people in the city. The people who really need someone to just ask them what they need. Not to tell them what help they are going to get (which is what our school systems are doing in large part) but to really get out there and ask people what help they really want.

More is brewing in the synapses, but I'll take an interwebs breather for now.

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