I enjoy Tony Norman’s columns. I may not always agree with him but I find the arguments he advances interesting and enlightening. Not so much recently when he made a turn into the world of blaming the parents and students and discounting what we now know about the role of effective teaching and its measurement (“Biggest Gap in Black Kids’ Learning: Parents,” Feb. 18).
Let’s be clear: The involvement of parents in the education of their children is paramount to the success of their children. And that is not just in their children’s lives but also in their child’s school. When I was principal at Allderdice years ago I learned this in real ways.
But this is not the case for many students. Parents are busy earning a living, may not understand the very large role they can play in their child’s education or may have had poor experiences themselves as students, so they choose to stay away from the source of the hurt. In addition, as Mr. Norman says, some children are challenging and disaffected; in fact, some of them are downright difficult to reach.
But it is precisely because some parents are not involved in their child’s life and school that highly effective teachers and school leaders are so critical and significant to leveling the playing field. Factors such as poverty and lack of parent involvement do influence the child’s life in school. But if that child spends up to a year in the classroom of a basic or failing teacher, research tells us all is lost for that year and years to come are affected. So doesn’t it make sense that all students deserve to study in the classrooms of highly effective teachers? And, yes, teachers’ levels of effectiveness do vary and that variation can be measured.
Finally we know that the students who are most likely to spend time in ineffective teachers’ classrooms are children from poverty and children of color. Why do we continue to stand by and let that happen when we know all we need to know to make it different?
JUDY A. JOHNSTON
The writer, chair of the A+ Schools advisory board, worked in public education for 49 years.