An Independent School in Littleton, MA serving Students Ages 15 Months–Grade 8
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Parents engaged in their child’s education

Parents engaged in their child’s education

By Jay Scheurle |

On Tuesday night, Oak Meadow School co-sponsored with AISNE a public speakers program featuring nationally recognized educational consultant and author Grant Lichtman. The event was designed to help parents better understand the transformations that are occurring in the field of education, and to provide parents with tools to help them better navigate these changes to improve their child’s learning experience. For parents who were not able to attend on Tuesday night, here are a few highlights.

What are the forces that are propelling change in education today?

  • Societal reorientation toward meeting customer needs
  • More educational options available to parents than ever before
  • The rate of change in our world (largely related to technology and science) is outpacing our ability to adapt

What do these changes look like?

  • A shift away from what we teach and toward how students learn
  • A focus on deeper learning and student engagement
  • Students taking ownership of their own learning
  • Learning spaces designed to facilitate student engagement in learning (looks more dynamic, messy, and sometimes noisy)
  • A shift from students being knowledge consumers to being knowledge creators
  • Breaking down boundaries between school and the surrounding community and world
  • Academic schedules adjusting to support the best learning outcomes
  • The integration of relation-rich technologies

How can parents be more effectively involved in their child’s school experience?

One of the simplest and most illuminating illustrations shared by Grant is the Venn Diagram pictured here. For schools to be effective in the rapidly changing world of today, Grant advocates that schools focus on three overlapping  priorities: educational standards, how students learn best, and what customers love.

“The sweet spot for schools,” Grant told the audience on Tuesday night, “is the place at the center of those three priorities.” All schools, of course, have to pay attention to essential educational standards, including core competencies and knowledge. At Oak Meadow, we use a variety of lenses to align our curriculum with standards that are important in student success at Oak Meadow and also at the selective high schools where our students matriculate after graduating from eighth grade. Oak Meadow teachers are specialists in understanding how students learn best. Teachers are constantly developing their capacity to make sure that all children are progressing and performing in ways that facilitate self-achievement as well as their potential to have a meaningful impact in their community and in the world.

The last part of this diagram is so important as well, and that’s making sure that the educational experience offered by the school is aligned with what has real value from the viewpoint of the parents. Every school needs to make sure that they are well informed by the perspective of parents, and this can only be done by listening to parents on a regular basis, throughout each school year. It also means that schools must take seriously the role of educating parents about the standards and practices that allow the school to operate at the “sweet spot” at the center of this diagram.

In this model, there is a responsibility for parents to have clarity about what they value most in their child’s education and to make sure this is well aligned with the school they have selected for their child. Parents need to be engaged as partners with teachers in their child’s learning trajectory and learning plan. There should be ongoing conversations between teachers and parents about each child’s learning goals, with opportunities to share examples of success and areas for improvement. If parents are in any way uncertain about their child’s progress, or have questions about the program or curriculum, they need to make sure they are communicating clearly with teachers, and teachers need to create opportunities to hear from parents and better understand parent perspectives. Parents need to be engaged in the school more broadly as well, taking advantage of opportunities to learn and grow themselves as parents, and to better understand how they can support key school initiatives that are aimed at being in the sweet spot.

Last school year, Oak Meadow created multiple opportunities to hear from parents, through program-level breakfasts, focus group discussions, and surveys. This effort is continuing, with the goal of making sure our school is always attuned to what has value to parents. We also will continue to work as a school to find new and more effective ways for parents to participate in educational discussions and events. There is a real opportunity today for schools to expand and deepen the opportunities for parents to be engaged not only in their child’s experience, but also in being partners with the school in the work of improving and advancing best practices and current research in the field of education. That will continue to be a priority at Oak Meadow as we clarify, along with our parent partners, the school’s path forward in creating a school environment and culture dedicated to student growth and success.