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Parent Choice and School Reform: The Case of the Science Leadership Academy

Parents and Students
Originally uploaded by PGoGS

Meaningful parent involvement requires more than just programming. Some would argue it begs for major school reform.

Mark Holmes, Honourary Patron of the Society for Quality Education and Professor Emeritus at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education lays bare his personal bias on his views of the aims of education while advocating for choice for all parents in his book The Reformation of Canada’s Schools: Breaking the Barriers to Parental Choice. Holmes’ book describes a reformation of Canadian education that would combine area public schools directed by elected parent councils and distributed programs of choice accessible (at least nominally if not geographically possible) by all. School districts would become managers of support infrastructure systems (buildings, human resources, transportation, administrative operations) rather than directors of a particular educational philosopy. Provincial authorities would provide central policies and standards respecting outcomes, student evaluation, funding to schools (not just districts), collective agreements for staff especially teachers, and collection of data to support decision-making by parents and schools.

The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia PA is a such school of choice that is lauded for its educational and physical design. Parent involvement is key. SLA provides programs for parents that truly engage them. The school’s mission and vision page includes the following: “At the SLA, learning will not be just something that happens from 8:30am to 3:00pm, but a continuous process that expands beyond the four walls of the classroom into every facet of our lives.”

I had the opportunity to dialogue with Chris Lehmann, the principal, in Alec Couros’ graduate class (listen to the recording). Chris doesn’t understand why some schools don’t honour the parents by sharing the rich life of high schools with them. Why not take announcements and email them home? He suggests it is such a simple way to start. At his school, they run social networking sessions just for parents, so that they can participate in the same technologies that their children are using. And they broadcast frequently using ustream.tv (but he does beliee there is a limit to transparency – kids need to have a place to make mistakes. So their Moodle environment has both a walled garden and a public place.) Chris believes that parents have a right to know what is giong on in their children’s lives.

How much is the Science Leadership Academy an example of Holmes’ view on educational reform? Not only is SLA a school of choice, but it also operates under a particular philosophy of education (which despite its self-described progressive curriculum, I would suggest Technocratic-Traditionalist) as evidenced through the three questions in its mission statement: “How do we learn?” “What can we create?” “What does it mean to lead?” Leadership is distributed among parents, teachers and students.

Perhaps there is more to learn from the Science Leadership Academy than just an instructional methodology.

Holmes, M. (1998). The Reformation of Canada’s Schools: Breaking the Barriers to Parental Choice. Montreal & Kingston, McGill-Queen’s University Press.


2 Responses

  1. […] read with interest this post written by Cindy Seibel at tech4learning. She talked about parent choice and school reform. She […]

  2. Remember how students would like us to stay away from their “space”?

    I wonder if announcements count! 🙂

    Seriously, Chris’s comment was great. School blog the announcements!

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