A debut manual delivers advice to parents looking to assess their children’s schools and strengthen local partnerships.
In this book, Baumann explores the qualities of a strong school, offers a rubric for evaluating a system, and provides guidelines for parents who want to get involved in their children’s education. The volume introduces the question of appraising school quality as a series of puzzle pieces reflecting the interactions among students, parents, educators, and the community. It then looks at school success through three lenses: culture, learning, and accountability. There is a strong emphasis on consensus (“This means the ‘community voice’ regarding education is never a single voice. It is a chorus of voices representing a variety of perspectives and motivations, not always in harmony”). And after a high-level overview of the factors that contribute to strong schools and effective learning, the book presents a series of contrasting perspectives on educational issues (accountability, transparency, curriculum) and advocates a middle-ground approach to each. An extensive appendix defines specialized terms from the world of pedagogy and interprets them from a parental perspective (“ ‘Standard’ has become an increasingly popular term to describe what a student, teacher or school is expected to accomplish in order to show excellence”). Baumann opens with an overview of his own education credentials (as a student, a parent, and a member of state and local school boards) and takes a positive approach to public schools throughout, acknowledging problems in the sector but presenting them as opportunities for an engaged community to make a difference. Although the graphics-heavy design adds to the book’s slightness (24 pages, more than a fifth of the volume, are left blank for note-taking), it does make for an engaging and easy-to-follow presentation in which key points are clearly highlighted. Parents who are interested in evaluating and improving their children’s schools without delving into the nuances of education policy will find this a useful tool for organizing thoughts and suggesting courses of action.
A brief but thorough handbook for improving the relationships between schools and their communities.