June 13, 2013
In this issue:
New Book: Improving Teacher Evaluation

Parent Engagement Strategies

Engaging Ideas

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What You Can Do During Your Summer Vacation to Transform Public Education
As the school year winds down in communities across the country, we hope the resources we share in this Alert can help spark fresh dialogue among parents, teachers and education leaders everywhere about solutions to public education woes. Let's take the summer to prepare for a new school year ready to make a difference!
Engaging Teachers to Improve Evaluation Reform: A New Book for Your Summer Reading List

Next September will bring a lot of changes to teacher evaluation policies for many schools across the country, including in our home state of New York. The teacher evaluation conversation has been challenging at best and poisonous at worst. While confronting such a complex issue will never be easy, it doesn't have to be as hard as it has been.

Next week, Public Agenda and American Institutes of Research (AIR) will release Everyone at the Table: Engaging Teachers in Evaluation Reform, a book that we hope will change the conversation on teacher evaluation in this country. If you're in DC next Thursday, please join us to talk about how we can revolutionize teacher evaluation reform across the country.

On June 20th, Public Agenda and AIR will host a panel discussion on teacher engagement in evaluation reform. Celine Coggins, founder and CEO of Teach Plus; Ross Wiener, vice president and executive director at the Aspen Institute; and Anthony Mullen, 2009 National Teacher of the Year, will join coauthors of Everyone at the Table to explore how education leaders can arrive at sustainable teacher evaluation systems by engaging teachers in design and implementation.

The event will provide an opportunity for you to learn about the book's field-tested approach to productive dialogue that leads to effective policy, hear what teachers have to say about current evaluation systems, learn about efforts afoot to include teachers in evaluation reform, and explore ways to expand these efforts nationwide.

If you're not able to make it to the discussion, we hope you add Everyone at the Table to your summer reading list. Instructors, you can order a review copy now at the publisher's website.

Differentiating Parent Engagement Strategies:
A Guide for Next Year's Initiatives

It's widely argued that parent involvement in a child's education can help improve that child's success. Studies support this argument, indicating that parent involvement boosts grades and improves the likelihood a student will attend college. Yet, until recently, we have failed to ask important questions about what we mean by parent involvement.

Meanwhile, teachers and school leaders admit they struggle with engaging parents on education issues at their schools. Perhaps our failure to examine what parent involvement means has impeded our ability to successfully harness that involvement.

Public Agenda's recent study, "Ready, Willing and Able? Kansas City Parents Talk About How to Improve Schools and What They Can Do to Help" is a key primer for teachers and school and district leaders across the country as they plan parent engagement initiatives for the fall.

In the study, we found that parent involvement means very different things to different parents. Parents have different, and at times competing, opinions about what kind of involvement helps improve education most. They also have different priorities and capacities when it comes to the parent involvement activities they are or most likely will be interested in.

For instance, many parents are interested primarily in traditional roles at schools—bake sales, volunteering at extracurricular events, attending PTA meetings. Other parents are interested in more politically active roles. These parents say they would be interested in speaking to legislators about improving schools or writing an op-ed for local media. Still other parents seem to be totally maxed out when it comes to their involvement at schools. Yet these parents also say they could be doing more at home to help their children succeed in school and could use some guidance from school leaders.

Education leaders should tailor parent engagement efforts to reach every type of parent, whether they be a potential transformer ready to act on big education policy issues, a school helper willing to get more involved at their own child’s school, or a help-seeker needing more guidance in improving their children’s learning.

It may be more work up front, but, in the long run, well-planned and differentiated plans to bring parents into schools can bolster education and insure that all children have the opportunity to learn and flourish.

Jean Johnson, the main author of the report, discusses the findings more on her blog at the Huffington Post. Check out her post and learn more about distinct groups of parents and what education leaders can be doing to engage them effectively.

Engaging Ideas

Could changing the "Like" button to "Respect" encourage people to interact with others who have different views? The Engaging News Project, presented at the Personal Democracy Forum last week by Talia Stroud, is looking at how to encourage news readers to engage in civil and diverse discourse online. 

A question came in to the EdTech Teacher blog regarding Common Core's effect on students' civic education. Read the response, which includes what research has been conducted on the subject so far and where others are grappling with the same query.

As the bi-partisan immigration reform bill entered the Senate for debate this week, House Speaker John Boehner remarked on ABC with George Stephanopoulos, "My job is -- as speaker -- is to ensure that all members on both sides have a fair shot at their ideas," which we hope is a signal of his inclination to let the debate continue on the House floor.

This series of maps of the US gives a snapshot comparison of which areas are below the poverty line, which are most reliant on food stamps and which have older populations without a high school diploma.