When All Else Fails, Should You Phone A Friend?

When I plan an awesome vacation to some country I’ve never visited, I call my friend Kathy. I can almost guarantee that she’s been there and had a great time. She’s one of those people. You know, the ones that can tell you the best time to go, how to avoid the overpriced tourist traps, when to change your US dollars into local currency and which super cool spots you have to hit.

Kathy’s advice cuts through the internet overload and saves a lot of time. And, I trust her because she’s passionate, aware and informed.

For parents, getting advice on education is no exception. We turn to our friends when choosing schools, programs, or 3rd grade teachers. But it may not be that easy for all things educational because our opinions are only as good as the information we have.

The $100M questions

I recently asked a bunch of well trusted compadres some random questions about the new Florida ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) plan. This plan outlines how Florida will measure their schools in meeting educational standards for all kids, including the lowest performing ones.

Questions were:

  1. Have you heard of the Florida ESSA plan?
  2. What do you hope would be in the plan?
  3. How will Florida let you know how schools are doing?
  4. What is Florida doing with schools that are considered less effective?

I suspected not many folks had even heard of ESSA, and unfortunately I was correct. Just one person of 8 thought it sounded familiar but couldn’t say much else. Each person wanted to see measures put in the plan, for students and schools alike, to know when skills are being mastered and gaps filled.

But, most surprising of all was the expectation that the district would communicate the school’s performance directly to parents on a regular basis through phone calls, town hall meetings, emails with links to school-specific data, newsletters and press releases.

I get a lot of phone calls and papers in my 3rd grader’s folder, but I can’t say I recall any on ESSA or school performance. One respondent described the actions being taken for low performing schools as…

Putting a bandage strip over a bullet wound.

Maybe some of those communication suggestions could change that perception. Or, maybe not. But it sure couldn’t hurt.

Don’t phone it in

Hopefully my informal survey doesn’t establish me as the go-to-phone-a-friend, because I’m not. But, my gut check was right on point. Most of us just don’t get the information we need to stay abreast of the moving parts of education.

We will always have Kathy’s in our lives for all kinds of things like buying a new printer, or having work done on our house. But until the communication about school performance becomes direct and commonplace, you probably don’t want to phone this one in.

Check out these sites to learn more: Florida Department of Education, Understanding ESSA, The 74, Not Counting Minorities, and A Little More on Florida’s Plan.


What do you think?


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