This week Blair Taylor, President/CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, also President of the Board of the Greater Crenshaw Educational Partnership (GCEP) wrote an article in the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper titled “Cameras in Classrooms: Reality Television for Parent Advocates” and ties the article to a facet of school reform. Blair talks about low-income parents seem powerless to influence outcomes in low performing schools. Putting cameras in public school classrooms is not a new concept. Parents and even some educators (including this writer) have contemplated the idea in recent years, and even shared it publicly. However the political and legal issues surrounding such a progressive and innovative concept have kept it off the table.
Blair talks about how parent involvement was critical to him and his brothers being able to attend and excel in College. He tells a story about how back in the 70’s his oldest brother wanted to attend Dartmouth College – but was told by his high school counselor not to apply because he would not get in. Blair’s parents went to the school and “diplomatically” as he states it informed the counselor that their son would in fact be applying to Dartmouth. And after the visit the counselor prepared the necessary documents for his brother, and he was accepted and attended the University. The parents had to intervene with the same counselor when it was time for Blair’s second oldest brother to apply for college. He was also able to attend his college of choice. So by the time Blair was ready to apply for college the counselor told him “apply to whatever schools you want to Blair” and of course I had a smile on my face after reading that statement.
You see that demonstrates the power of parental advocacy. Informed and educated parents are a critical and missing link to student achievement, and better schools. And parents themselves don’t have to have a college education to ensure that their students can have one. However they do need adequate training, and the ability to monitor their students at school and home. So yes putting cameras in the classroom may sound radical to some – but when public education is screaming out for innovation and change, it makes better sense than continuing to spend billions of dollars on human and material resources delivering mediocre results system wide.
In addition to installing cameras in the classroom, parents should also be trained on what to look for inside the classroom. That’s why I continue to teach parents on how to observe classrooms, and what they should see to confirm that teaching and learning is occurring. With schools being challenged with less resources – engaging parents is a win – win for the entire school system.
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