Schools Working To Increase Parental Involvement

Guests

Kym Worthy, Wayne County prosecutor
Charles Saylors, national president, PTA
Tracy McDaniel, founder, KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Reach College Preparatory in Oklahoma City

Research overwhelmingly shows that parental involvement in a child's education improves academic performance. But there are a lot of reasons why parents keep their distance — including cultural and class divisions. Guests discuss strategies to get parents more involved in their kids' schooling.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Jennifer Ludden, in Washington. Neal Conan is away.

In Detroit, a prosecutor is making headlines for proposing jail time for parents who don't attend teacher conferences. It's one of the more drastic efforts to get parents more involved in their kids' education. More than 20 percent of parents did not attend teacher conferences in 2007, according to the Department of Education. In some districts, the share can be much higher.

Research tells us that children perform better in the classroom if parents are more involved at home and in school. Still, there are lots of reasons why parents keep their distance from the education system. We'll talk about some of those reasons and what schools are doing to get parents more involved.

If you're a parent and you don't attend parent-teacher conferences, tell us why not. What are your schools doing, or what should they do to encourage parents? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. You can send us an email. The address is talk@npr.org. Or you join the conversation at our website. Just go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the hour, because we still like you, we'll talk with the author of the new oral history of the Mickey Mouse Club.

But first, Kym Worthy is the prosecutor in Wayne County, Michigan. She proposed the ordinance forcing parents to attend conferences with teachers, or face the possibility of jail time. Kym Worthy joins us from Detroit.

Welcome.

Ms. KYM WORTHY (Prosecutor, Wayne County, Michigan): Good afternoon.

LUDDEN: So explain to us, how could a parent end up in jail if your proposal is adopted?

Ms. WORTHY: Well, yeah. That's the sexy thing for the media outlets to say and people to say, but really, you have to do a lot of not attending before we get there.

This - the way I proposed (technical difficulties) I am contacting all legislators, state, local and federal about this, because I think it's that dire here in the city of Detroit in Wayne County. And really, this -(unintelligible) give you four opportunities to miss them. And - in order for one of the possibilities is a day or two in jail.

So it's not the main thrust of it. There's parenting classes involved. There are training things for parents to do before we get to that point. But all we want you to do is go to one parent-teacher conference a year.

LUDDEN: And why did you, the local prosecutor, why did you take on this issue?

Ms. WORTHY: Because I'm really, really - two reasons. I'm really tired of seeing young men and women - some as young as 10, 11, 12 - committing a violent crime. It has spiked over the last couple of years. It seems to be consistent with the economy and how that's doing. But really, we get tired day by day of charging 11-year-olds, 10-year-olds, 15-year-olds, 16-year-olds - well, not 16, because in Michigan you can be 16 and you don't have to legally go to school -but 15-year-olds with murder and rape and robbery and molestation.

And there's a common thread through all of it, and that common thread is they're not in school. Their parents know they're not in school, and they're out there doing other things when they should be in school.

LUDDEN: So a direct link, as you see it?

Ms. WORTHY: There's a - oh, yes. A direct link. There's a bullet-point link toward juvenile delinquency and poor performance, or no performance in school and a lack of parental involvement.

LUDDEN: Now, you've had some mixed reaction. You said you're going around speaking to different city councils and so forth, some more open to the idea than others. Do you actually expect this proposal to become law?

Ms. WORTHY: Well, I would I like it to. Do I expect it to? I don't expect it to as written, but I would hope that some form of that. But what people don't realize is the laws that are already on the books are quite more stringent than what we have now, they're just not enforced this specifically.

For instance, Michigan has a parental responsibility law, and we certainly have truancy laws where you have to have your child in school if they're from six to sixteen. I think it should be older, but six to sixteen. And you can go to jail if you offend that for the second time for a full month.

So what I'm proposing is a lot less than some of the laws that are already on the books, and people don't realize that.

And the other faction of people that don't like it say, well, we shouldn't have to legislate this. Well, that's true. But we shouldn't have to legislate you putting your baby in a car seat, or you sending your children to school, or you being responsible for your children's behavior, or curfew, what time your children are home. We shouldn't have to - texting while driving. We shouldn't have to legislate any of those things, either, but we have to.

LUDDEN: All right. Kym Worthy is the prosecutor for Wayne County, Michigan, and she joined us from Detroit. Thank you so much.

Ms. WORTHY: You're very welcome.

LUDDEN: Joining us now from a studio in Greenville, South Carolina, is Charles Saylors. He's the national president of the Parent-Teachers Association.

Welcome.

Mr. CHARLES SAYLORS: (National President, Parent-Teachers Association): Good afternoon. Thank you.

LUDDEN: So tell us first: Why is it important for parents to attend teacher conferences and be involved in their kids' education?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, you mentioned it in the introduction to the story and the fact that you have case study after case study that proves that when a parent or both parents are involved in a child's educational experience, both at school and at home, the child's more successful.

And so what we're trying to do as an association is generate a conversation to get more parents engaged and in the school door.

LUDDEN: What can you tell us - you know, what does research show about who is involved and who's not? Who comes to these conferences, who doesn't?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, most of the information that we've been able to glean and to review shows that mom does the vast majority of that legwork, if you will. And they do great jobs. Most of our members are moms, and when you approach the dad in the home, or the male role model, one of their concerns is well, I don't know that I have the time, or this is just not my thing - you know, those kinds of issues.

And so what we're trying to do is encourage more men to get engaged, and to help mom out when these issues come up, and participate in these school-level functions.

LUDDEN: And we should point out: You are the first male to hold the position of national president of the PTA. And though you way you want more dads involved, your research has showed that their involvement has risen in the last decade.

Mr. SAYLORS: They have, indeed, and we're greatly appreciative of that.

LUDDEN: And why does it matter if dads show up, as well?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, it also shows that the children - to the children that when both parents are engaged, the children notice that. And I'll use a personal example. My youngest child, who is currently 12 years old, is in middle school here in Greenville, South Carolina. Well, when he was in the first grade, I was asked to come to a school function and participate during a week of reading. And I went in, I spoke with the class on a Friday. The kids were, I thought, just normally excited. The next day, I see the teacher, and she commented and thanked me for being there. My response was well, others did the same thing. She politely pointed out that I was the only father that came that entire week, and the kids noticed it.

My point is, the children do notice this.

LUDDEN: Okay. So you said moms do the bulk of this. Who does not show up, besides fathers?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, you've also got situations today where more parents work than they did when you or I were in school. When I was in school, dad worked, mom did not, so my mother had an opportunity to participate. Today, both parents work, and in many cases, more than one job each. So the time that they can spend at parent-teacher conferences are a challenge.

On top of that, we have started encouraging our schools, our teachers, to look at alternative times to have these parent-teacher conferences. In most cases, they're in the evenings, usually early afternoon, late afternoon. Parents not necessarily can get off work to come to the parent-teacher conference.

So what we've encouraged teachers and schools to do is look at morning conference times. Look at evening conference times, after work hours. Look at the possibility of the teacher actually visiting the home. And I've seen cases where that has taken place, and it has been a tremendous success. It all comes down to a working, cooperative environment.

LUDDEN: All right. Let's get a caller on the line. Caroline is in Anchorage, Alaska.

Hi, there.

CAROLINE (Caller): Yes, good morning. My mother taught from the late '40s through the '60s, and what I saw back then was she had to beg to get parents to come. And this was back when - before women went into the workforce, and the men certainly wouldn't have considered it. I think our schools right now, why it's not seen as a national security issue, I don't understand. And I think everyone should be encouraging of the schools. The schools sometimes spend a lot of money on administrative, and not into the classrooms. And that gets reflected in the amount people want to vote for school bonds and so forth. But again, it's a matter of respect for the teachers.

And I would encourage any parent to volunteer, to set up the time a month or whatever it takes ahead in order to volunteer and go into the classroom and see what goes on.

Pay the teachers very well. Expect a lot from them, and make sure that they have classrooms in the elementary areas of not more than 18 kids. It's hard to teach third-graders when you've got 30 kids. It's also hard it's much better if they have assistance in the classroom.

All we have to do is look at Japan and many of these other countries that are beating our brains in when it comes to our achievement, and look and see what they're doing.

We don't have to reinvent the wheel. The actions of other countries are improving their students, and I see it as a national security issue, and I don't understand why it's not touted as such.

LUDDEN: All right, Carolyn(ph), thanks for that call. We have an email here, as well. I'm not sure of the name, but the person writes: We stopped going to parent-teacher conferences because our daughter was punished for our criticisms of curriculum.

As one example, we complained that Disney's "Pocahontas" was shown as history in her class. Her A dropped to a C because of her, quote attitude, and it took her the rest of the semester to bring her grade back up.

Some teachers can be vengeful. We found that none of them want any criticism, and it was a waste of time to go.

So hostility there, and we heard from the caller in Alaska, this is a long-standing problem. Charles Saylors?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, first of all, I would agree with your caller in the fact that the environment needs to be more welcoming. And let me give you an example of when we hear a lot of parents come to us and say: You know, I would go in and volunteer more, but I just don't feel welcome.

You know, how many times have your listeners gone to a school, and it just didn't feel like it was a welcoming environment? And so working with other education associations, administrators, principals and so forth, we've started a conversation to try to get that welcoming environment when a parent comes in the door.

LUDDEN: What do you tell teachers?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, and I've had the same thing happen to me. You know, you go into a school, and the first person you see doesn't necessarily give you a great welcoming feeling. And so those are some things that we're trying to address.

But talking about the volunteerism is an interesting point that I would like to touch on for a moment in the fact that I would ask all of your listeners, whether they have a child in school or not, to be willing to give their local school three hours during the entire school year.

Just go in and offer to volunteer three hours during the entire school year, helping a child with their homework skills, their reading skills, their math skills, doing something to help lift up that child's educational experience. I think you will see more people come in and volunteer.

LUDDEN: All right, but very briefly, welcoming what do you tell teachers? How can they show that they're welcoming?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, for one thing is taking into consideration a lot of the concerns the parents do show. And another thing that I'd like to encourage is colleges of education.

You know, we get new teachers that come in from college every year, and they know little or anything at all about engaging parents. You've just taken a new student, you've thrown him into the deep end of the swimming pool, if you will, and you're telling them to facilitate a relationship that they have no training for.

And so I would encourage colleges of education to spend some time teaching their teaching students how to engage parents.

LUDDEN: We're talking about how to get parents more involved in their kids' education. If you're a parent and don't attend parent-teacher conferences, why not? What are your schools doing, or what would you like them to do to encourage parents? Call us at 800-989-8255. Or drop us an email. The address is talk@npr.org.

I'm Jennifer Ludden. It's TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

LUDDEN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Jennifer Ludden. We're talking about parents' responsibility in their kids' education, from teacher conferences to homework.

If you're a parent and you don't attend parent-teacher conferences, why not? What are your schools doing, or what should they do to encourage parents? Call us at 800-989-8255. You can drop us an email. The address is talk@npr.org. Or you can join the conversation at our website. Just go to npr.org, and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

In a few minutes, we'll talk about what one school is doing to get parents more involved. Our guest right now is Charles Saylors, the national president of the PTA. And let's get another caller on the line. Amanda(ph) is in Wellston, Ohio. Hi, there.

AMANDA (Caller): Hi.

LUDDEN: Go right ahead.

AMANDA: Hi. I just wanted to make a comment. Both of my sisters and all of my cousins dropped out of high school, and one of the biggest problems their parents had was they didn't know how to get their kids to talk about school or know what to help them with when they came home with homework.

So I think if teachers would come up with a system to email parents and keep them up-to-date on what's being studied and what the kids are learning, it'll give more parents things to talk about with their kids.

LUDDEN: Charles Saylors, what about that?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, that's an excellent point. And I'm sorry to say that not every school district in this country has the mechanisms, the means to do that.

But in those areas where teachers have the electronic means, as this young lady's mentioned, to communicate with the parents at home, that does show some tremendous advantages.

You know, there's a number of programs that national PTA has related to parental engagement. I would encourage your listeners to go to our website, which is pta.org, and look at some of the wonderful tools we've got in that area.

LUDDEN: All right, Amanda, thanks for the phone call. And that proposal in Detroit, where parents who don't show up could be jailed, you would be exempt if you're in email communication with your teacher.

But Charles Saylors, is there does this bring in another opposite problem, where maybe some teachers are feeling inundated? I mean, that's a heavy load if you have a lot of teachers emailing you - or a lot of parents.

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, and you're correct. And you look at the recent evolation(ph) of having more students in the classroom. One of your previous callers talked about having lower student-teacher ratios. And that is a tremendous issue in itself. And I agree that we need to work toward having lower student-teacher ratios in the classroom.

But there is not a single state in our country currently that is not facing dramatic school-funding issues in as far as reductions go. I know in my home state of South Carolina, I am also a school board member in my hometown. Our current financial budgets are equal to the mid-1990s, and that's because of cuts that we've had to absorb over the last several years.

I don't know of a school district in this country that's not facing a similar issue, and again, that's where people can get engaged, as well.

LUDDEN: Let's bring another perspective here. Tracy McDaniel is the founder of the KIPP Reach College Preparatory School in Oklahoma City. He joins us from a studio there now. Welcome.

Mr. TRACY McDANIEL (Founder, KIPP Reach College Preparatory School): Thank you, Jennifer. How are you doing?

LUDDEN: Good, thanks. Now explain for those who may not know: What is a KIPP school?

Mr. McDANIEL: Well, KIPP is an inner-city college prep school. We happen to have a middle school here in Oklahoma City. And so our goal is to get these kids, they come in two and three grade levels below in reading and math.

And our goal is to get them through college. And so we focus on that quite a bit, just to make sure they're getting through college.

LUDDEN: And you actually have a contract - a kind of contract - for parents to abide by to make sure they are involved. What's in it?

Mr. McDANIEL: Well, basically, we don't actually call it a contract, but it's just a commitment and that we want parents to actually be there for their student.

And, you know, for example, when they go home at nighttime, we want them to make sure that the kids are reading. And so we ask the parents to make sure that happens. If the kids have a problem with the homework, and the parents can't help them, then make sure that the kid is calling a teacher because we take cell phone calls at night.

Make sure the child is coming to school on time. And it's a commitment we have to actually teach and educate our parents to live up to that commitment.

LUDDEN: Now, 80 percent of KIPP students are low-income, and research has shown it can be more difficult for parents in those circumstances to be involved. What has KIPP been able to overcome that some schools can't?

Mr. McDANIEL: It's very difficult, Jennifer, and what we try to do here at KIPP in Oklahoma City is we have an open invitation now, this year, to parents where we actually set aside two hours in the week. So Tuesday and Wednesday at the end of the day, we have an invitation where we actually parents in for parent conferencing. And we try and we're full, too, by the way.

And if we cannot and I agree with Charles. If we cannot meet those times, when we will meet them at other times, as well, even going to the house. So we try to make sure that we get our parents involved and engaged in their child's learning.

LUDDEN: All right. Let's go to another phone call here. Kimberland(ph) is in May's Landing, New Jersey, and she has a question. Hi there.

KIMBERLAND (Caller): Oh, hi. Actually, I have a statement, and I want to, you know, just say that, and then I'll get off.

LUDDEN: Sure.

KIMBERLAND: I respect teachers, and I respect schools. Both my husband and I are professionals, and we have master's degrees. But we have two children in the Hamilton Township School District in May's Landing, New Jersey.

And for the last three or four years, our six-year-old and our 10-year-old have gone through incredible, an incredible situation, which we filed complaints, starting with the teacher. We went up to the superintendent of the school, then to the county superintendent, with our complaint.

From there, the county superintendent couldn't do anything. We then went up to the Department of Education for New Jersey. From there, they simply said, well, it's not our problem, it's the Office of Civil Rights problem.

We then filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, and now they're bouncing it back over to the Department of Education for New Jersey.

So the case is still going, but it's really unfortunate because we have always been interested in education and engaging. We have been pretty much ostracized by the community. We have been told, they would like us to have an invitation to come and sit in on classes, because they are afraid that we will observe something that's inappropriate that they've done or are doing.

It is not a friendly environment out here, even though I do know that, since we are from Chicago, we know of school systems there that are very kind, and I'm sure many other school environments here in New Jersey, outside of this particular district, are friendly.

LUDDEN: All right, so you're frustrated with...

KIMBERLAND: So we're very unhappy, very unhappy.

LUDDEN: All right, well, Kimberland, thanks for the phone call. Z(ph) is in Phoenix, Arizona. Hi there.

Uncle Z (Caller): Yes, greetings. This is Uncle Z calling from Phoenix, Arizona. And I want to call, and I want to encourage not just parents but the entire family to get involved in the education of the children of America.

I've got a nephew, God love him, Gregory(ph). He's a senior in high school right now. I taught him to read before he went into kindergarten, and now that he's in high school, I've been away from his life for several years now, and he's strayed away from following his educational career like I encouraged him to do when he was younger.

Now that he is in high school, he is playing hooky, and he is not pursuing the education that he should be. And his parents, God love them, have called me and encouraged me to give him a little bit of push to finish his high school education.

And 3,000 miles away from Phoenix to Boston, I was able to, pardon the pun, but kick his butt and get him back into education. It's an entire family thing.

LUDDEN: So you, as an uncle, have a bit more sway than the parents there. Z, thank you so much for calling. Charles Saylors, is it an extended family thing? We have a lot of grandparents in this country who are raising their grandchildren. I mean, what do you tell teachers about, you know, reaching out to the larger family, and especially for families who may find it difficult to make it to school?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, they need to be accepting of all comers, whether it's a parent, a grandparent, any adult role model. PTA has a set of standards related to parent engagement, family engagement. And so we try to work from that family viewpoint, if you will, and your previous caller was right on the money in the fact that it is a family event.

As I mentioned earlier, mom and dad in most cases work more now than they did in previous years. And so it does fall on other members, other adults, in the family environment to participate and to support these children.

And so I would definitely agree with your caller and encourage your listeners to go to our website again and look for those standards on family engagement.

LUDDEN: Tracy McDaniel, of the KIPP schools, what do you tell teachers to you know, how do you teach them or train them to kind of connect with families who may not have been engaged in school before?

Mr. McDANIEL: It's very ironic, the conversation you had earlier, when you talked about parents are very intimidated by the school system. And that is very true. But a little secret: Teachers are just as intimidating to parents.

So what we try to do at KIPP is built a rapport. So we educate our teachers first for professional development. You know, how do you built a rapport? How do you have a communication with parents?

And so during this session that we have with our parents, we actually sit down with the parent and teach them: What do we want them to what does homework look like? What does reading look like? What does note-taking look like?

We give them examples of what good note-taking is. We give them an example of what good questions are to ask. And so we make them feel as comfortable as possible to be in charge of their child's learning, and we'd say, hey, we're partners with you. You own this, so we're going to be here right with you throughout the career of this child.

LUDDEN: And do you have immigrant parents there? Is language an issue? How do you overcome that?

Mr. McDANIEL: Oh, we do have some immigrant parents this year, over the last two or three years. And what we do - we have some Spanish-speaking, you know, members on the staff. A lot of times, though, the kids translate for the parents as well. And if we have to, we'll get a surrogate in. But we do whatever it takes for our kids to learn.

LUDDEN: All right. There's an email here from Leslie(ph) in Muncie. Conferences are usually a waste of time. Teachers get about 10 to 15 minutes to talk, and you can't really have a useful conversation. Charles Saylors, what about that sentiment?

Mr. SAYLORS: I agree with it completely. I mean, they're - the teachers have a finite amount of time to get so many conferences accomplished according to their schedule. That's why looking at other options like other times during the day, the teacher going to the home, things like that, is definitely something that should be considered.

Also, teachers need to understand that not every parent that comes in the door understands the language of education. For example, how many parents understand what an IEP stands for, which is an Individual Education Plan? Not saying that the teachers are doing anything wrong, but again, they have a lot to do and very little time to do it in.

So, you know, teacher-student ratios are an issue, as we've said earlier, and that's where if a parent can come in and participate just a little bit -whether it's a parent, a grandparent, any role model in the child's education. If they come in to the school, it helps a great deal.

LUDDEN: Let's take another call. Vaughn(ph) in Bentonville, Arkansas. Or is that Alaska?

(Soundbite of laughter)

VAUGHN (Caller): No, it is Arkansas.

LUDDEN: Okay. Go right ahead.

VAUGHN: I find a lot of difficulties going into the schools because I'm a single parent. I know I've been hearing the conversation about like grandparents and other adults. But when you're the only parent that the child has, either due to divorce or death, it creates a new spin on the socioeconomic status, and the teachers really look down on that. I mean, I get so much for why isn't my son's dad around. What happened?

LUDDEN: Really?

VAUGHN: He needs to be around too.

LUDDEN: Teachers say that to you.

VAUGHN: I've had about three teachers say that to me until I finally stood up and said, you know what - this is my family and I am the one you're going to deal with.

LUDDEN: Tracy McDaniel, what about that?

Mr. McDANIEL: Well, that's so unfortunate, because in my community - a matter of fact, I'm a product of my community as well. I grew up three blocks from the school. That's status quo in my community. About 75 percent of my kids are raised by single parents, female parents. And so we do a great job in that area because we know and understand that the pressures are there. They work. Some of them work two jobs. And so we're there with this kid, nine, 10 hours a day. We want to make sure that we help this parent educate this child. So that's very unfortunate what she went through, and hope she can find a school that would meet her needs.

LUDDEN: Vaughn, thanks for the call.

VAUGHN: Thank you so much, and bye.

LUDDEN: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

There's an email here from Amy(ph) in Buffalo. My son's school conducts student-led conferences rather than traditional parent-teacher conferences. Students keep portfolios of their work and present their work to their parents with their adviser present. This is done three times per year. It gets parents to school and puts the onus on the child for understanding what they know and where they need to improve. Charles Saylors, is that a new trend?

Mr. SAYLORS: It is. It's a growing trend and something is very positive. I mentioned earlier my youngest child who's in the sixth grade, and this year, I participated in my first student-led conference. And it was an interesting experience to say the least.

LUDDEN: But isn't the idea that you're supposed to be able to talk about your child without the child being there?

Mr. SAYLORS: Well, sometimes, it's not necessarily a bad thing to have the child in the room because the child needs to see that both the parent or the adult role model, and the teacher, do communicate. A lot of times, and I can speak from personal experience, where you have a child who wants to play both ends against the middle, and will tell the teacher one thing and the parent the other. And so the child needs to see that the parents and the teachers do communicate.

And so this is a great opportunity to have them in the room, but it also gives the child an opportunity to answer questions that a parent may have when a teacher says, well, the child did do this but did not do this.

LUDDEN: Hmm.

Mr. SAYLORS: And so it's a good interactive opportunity.

LUDDEN: All right. Renee(ph) is on the line - San Antonio, Texas. Hi there, Renee.

RENEE (Caller): Hi. I was so excited to be on the show, especially because of the topic. But what I wanted to say was - first, I wanted to comment on what the gentleman from KIPP school said about parents who come from other countries, immigrant parents. I, myself, am an ESL teacher, and I have a lot of parents who come to me - out of the entire year - that will come to me once and it's only when we find out that the child is failing, and it's because there was no communication between the school and the parent in their language, and they just didn't understand what was going on.

And so I was - I'm fortunate enough that I could communicate with them because I speak Spanish. But I know a lot of teachers who don't have - who teach at school, especially a lot of private schools, who don't have those resources, you know? So that's something I really admire about the KIPP school.

And the other thing that I just wanted to say was that I think that, in order to facilitate communication between the school and the parents, there needs to be some sort of general meeting or mass meeting in which the school informs the parents of what exactly is there - the school expects of them and what they should expect from the teachers.

Because I think a lot of times, parents expect way too much of the teachers, and then when the child doesn't perform up to par, then the parents become, you know, upset with the teachers and think that it's all the teachers fault when 50 percent of the learning happens in the classroom and 50 percent of learning happens at home, as well.

LUDDEN: All right, Rene, thanks for the call. Tracy McDaniel, it's a question of expectations?

Mr. McDANIEL: You know what, I want my parents, Jennifer, to hold us accountable. And I tell the parents, you know, hold me accountable for what we say, because I definitely will hold you accountable as well. But it's all about the child. You talked, earlier, about the student-led conferences. I mean, that's the ultimate, Jennifer. We've done this in sports for years.

A kid can tell you why you can't get him to the game to play basketball. He doesn't shoot left-hand layups pretty well or he doesn't shoot free throws well. And he tells you what he needs to do to get better. But why can't education be like that in the classroom too? So we want to be held accountable because that's our job. Our job is to teach children, so we do small meetings, though, initially, maybe 10 in a room and just set the expectation. And then, we'll meet with you again throughout the school year.

LUDDEN: All right. We got to leave it there. Tracy McDaniel is the founder of the KIPP Reach College Preparatory School in Oklahoma City. He joined us from a studio there. And Charles Sailors is the national president of the PTA. He joined us from Greenville, South Carolina. Thanks to you both.

Mr. McDANIEL: Thank you.

LUDDEN: Up next, to look back at one of the TV shows that help a generation, we'll talk with the author of a new oral history of "The Mickey Mouse Club." I'm Jennifer Ludden. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.