For the Columbia Public School District, parents are the key to bridging student achievement gaps. Parents said Wednesday that better communication between educators and parents is the solution.
The district sponsored a parent forum Wednesday to hear what parents of struggling students thought were the reasons for differences in student success and what can be done to address them. The main disparity discussed at the meeting was the one between black and white students.
Communication was a word repeated throughout the night. Many parents voiced concerns about being kept in the dark by administrators and staff in the district — including complaints about the lack of information about the Wednesday meeting.
“Communication is a must — it’s the only thing that can keep us above water,” said Angela Whitman, who has four children, two elementary students and two junior high school students. “I’m tired of the same thing. (The district) shouldn’t wait until kids are not succeeding and then come back to the drawing board and say something needs to change.”
Issues addressed at the forum ranged from parents feeling unwelcome in school buildings to lower achievement expectations for black students.
“Parents entering the school feel defensive and are seen as having an attitude,” said Georgia Prince, who has three children in the district. “Really, we’re just trying to be there for our kids.”
The parents also brought up the topic of hiring more minority teachers. There were differing opinions about increasing parental involvement at home or expecting more responsibility from the teachers and the administration. Most agreed, however, that communication between the groups is key to solving the problem.
Rosie Warren, who has five grandchildren in the district, said the meeting was a good start to the dialogue. “But I don’t want this just to be a first meeting and then see no action taken.”
Monica Naylor, the multicultural coordinator, organized the forum and said the discussed topics would be taken to Superintendent Phyllis Chase. Future meetings were talked about, with more advanced notice and word of mouth communication recommended to draw more people.
But parents still have concerns about where the district will take this information.
“I wonder who gets to determine what is the priority and what is needed and what is not,” Whitman said. “I don’t want them to tell me to come and meet and discuss and then only implement what they want to hear.”
Prince said she was unsure of what will happen now.
“Closing the achievement gap won’t happen overnight, but hopefully in the future there will be less of a communication gap,” she said.