Community Resources and Education When One Thinks Essay

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Community Resources and Education

When one thinks of educational reform, people think of what teachers, principals, and other educators can do for students. However, the reality is that educators can only drive a small portion of education reform and can only institute some change in an educational system. Parents and other community members, who have high stakes in the outcome of the educational process, have to be involved. However, while school systems have traditionally said that they need parental involvement, they have not always been welcoming to parents who want to try to get involved. Instead, they have sometimes been uninviting locations, seemingly hostile to parents who want to get involved in the school and make real changes in how the schools are run. Furthermore, community efforts to improve the schools have been met with resistance because the community groups suggest approaches that differ from the traditional approaches taken by schools and school districts. When community groups do not have a direct stake in children's lives, they may actually be told to redirect their efforts to other areas of improvement. However, what more and more communities are coming to embrace is the idea that improving a community is meaningless if one does not improve the lives of the children in the community.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Community Resources and Education When One Thinks Assignment

Today, after school programs are considered an important way for the community to interact in education. They have not always been seen as tools to help enrich students, though their origins are based in increasing opportunities for children. For example, when the demand for child labor was high in urban areas, there was not a need for after school programs because children were working after school. After school programs "came about when the need for child labor decreased, and, at the same time, societal expectations that schooling should be compulsory grew. These shifts created a new temporal zone: the out-of-school hours" (Hull and Zacher, 2010). In response to concerns that these unsupervised children faced dangers and, perhaps, created dangerous conditions within the community, people began to organize outside play, which eventually became organized indoor play. Thus, the afterschool program was born.

However, practically since their inception, after school programs have faced some hurdles. "First, after-school programs (particularly those serving low-income children) have always been underfunded and overly dependent upon volunteers. Yet they are regularly asked to assume more and more responsibilities, to take up the slack for overworked families, and to assist students whose schools struggle to help them" (Hull and Zacher, 2010). What this means is that these afterschool programs are asked to take on responsibilities of the school and the family, without having the funding, resources, or authority of either. This can make their task impossible to accomplish. "Second…after-school programs have typically had a range of emphases -- academic, athletic, artistic, and social -- and have used their flexibility in programming to distinguish their offerings from those of schools" (Hull and Zacher, 2010). However, these programs are facing increasing pressure to become more academically focused, at the expense of losing the unique other opportunities that they can offer to children. Finally, after school programs have faced internal conflicts between their role as babysitters and advocates for growth. "On the one hand, for example, they are expected to ensure safety and socialization through the control of children's and youths' time and movement. On the other, program officials see their mission as enabling youths to grow toward adulthood by giving them the freedom to take ownership of their activities and products and placing their interests and desires in the foreground" (Hull and Zacher, 2010). All three of these issues can make it difficult for an afterschool program to even determine a curriculum, much less develop the means of carrying out that curriculum in an appropriate fashion.

Not that these problems are insurmountable. Speaking of the information contained in VUE, Voices for Urban Education, a periodical dedicated to community involvement in urban schools, Robert Rothman discussed how this periodical brought together differing voices. He says:

As we intended, the voices did not always agree. Community leaders, for example, sometimes spoke of their frustrations with district officials who appeared resistant to community involvement; district officials, for their part, spoke of community groups' narrow interests. Issues of race and class often reared their heads. Yet, as we hoped, these disagreements also created opportunities for common ground (Rothman, 2009).

Rothman also discusses how this national dialogue has led to the creation of a different approach to the educational system. Rothman refers to this as a smart education system, which:

links a high-functioning school district with a web of supports for children and families that collectively develop and integrate high-quality learning opportunities in all areas of students' lives -- at school, at home, and in the community. Such systems actively engage youths and community members in the development and implementation of services, to ensure that they meet community needs. Community members provide pressure and support; districts and service providers are accountable to the community for improving a broad range of outcomes for children and youth (Rothman, 2009).

Bill Purcell, mayor of Nashville, Tennessee, believed that educational reform was an important part of community improvement, and that community involvement was a key to educational reform. Discussing his experience when he became the mayor, Purcell talked about his perceptions of why there were problems in the school. His impression was that, "Schools wanted -- genuinely wanted -- the support of the larger community, but had an ambivalent attitude towards the active presence and involvement of parents. Parents felt that" (Purcell, 2010). Purell worked to help change this attitude of hostility and make schools a more inviting place for the parents, as well as for the students. Changing the tone of the schools helped increase parental involvement.

Increasing how welcome parents feel in a school seems like a surefire way to increase community interaction within the school. In Chicago's Logan Square Neighborhood, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) made a concerted effort to increase parental participation in the schools. Logan Square is composed of a mostly-immigrant population, specifically Latinos, and the neighborhood is generally low-income. Many of these parents are not native English speakers. These factors generally contribute to lower parental involvement in schools. The LSNA came together to join together parents in various neighborhoods and really try to increase parent involvement in schools, and it did so by treating all parents as valuable resources for the children. For example, the LSNA worked with parents to get several of them into classes to learn English or other skills (Brown, 2010). Moreover, sixty parents were in college classes to become bilingual teachers (Brown, 2010). Most importantly, these parents really got involved in the classrooms. "About 170 parent mentors and parent tutors are in elementary school classrooms tutoring children; [and] every evening two or three teams of parents and teachers make Literacy Ambassador home visits" (Brown, 2010). This high rate of parental involvement is the direct result of the LSNA's Parent Mentor Program, which was launched in 1995. This parent mentor program was aimed at involving non-working mothers with the goal of furthering their educations and finding them jobs, not specifically with the goal of having them help children in the classrooms (Brown, 2010). The program began with fifteen mothers trained to help work in the classroom with students. However, what it really did was help break down much of the isolation these immigrant parents felt, and give them a support network.

The parents involved in the parent-mentor program helped develop bigger things. For example, they helped establish a Community Learning Center (CLC), which provided after-hours care for students and adult education for parents. The CLC helped give parents ownership of the school, giving them a stake in the educational process. From there, the LSNA's activities continued to grow, with Parent Mentor Programs and CLS instituted in a number of schools, and the success of the program has been immense. More than 1,300 mothers have graduated from the Parent Mentor Program:

The majority returned to school or got jobs. About fifty hold part-time jobs working for LSNA in schools running parent programs, tutoring, or working in community centers as childcare providers and security guards; ten have been AmeriCorps volunteers with LSNA; eight hold full-time jobs at LSNA as education organizers, community center coordinators, or health outreach workers; and two are teaching after graduating from LSNA's teacher training program. At the CLCs, thousands of adults have studied English, while 500 have earned their GED certificates. About 700 families participate weekly in activities that range from adult education and family counseling to tutoring, recreation, and music and art for children (Brown, 2010).

In short, the LSNA has done nothing less than involve an entire community in the educational process, and, by doing so, has not only improved the situation for school children, but also for their parents.

Given the success of these programs and the very real, very positive results that can occur when communities really get invested in education,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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