Friday, March 30, 2012

Parental Involvement & Lynn: Is it Apathy, Barriers or are Parents Simply Involved in Less Visible Ways?

The seeming lack of parental involvement by Lynn public school parents has been decried by many particularly in light of the poor physical condition of a significant number of the city's schools as well as sub par standardized test scores. The reason for this is also likely due to research and reports which indicate that parental involvement has been associated with positive academic outcomes including less grade retention, better attendance, higher grade point averages, increased achievement in reading, writing and math and lower dropout rates (LaRocque, Kleiman, & Darling, 2011; Anderson & Minke, 2007). In the literature, family involvement is defined as the parents' or caregivers' investment in the education of their child(ren) (LaRocque, Kleiman, & Darling, 2011). Much of this research is school centric or school-based as it examines how parents are engaged in activities  that are designed by the school and includes behaviors like serving as classroom assistants, visiting a child's classroom or being on a school council (Jackson & Remillard, 2005). Many Lynn residents seem to hold a similar view of what constitutes parental involvement. Therefore, in the context of poor parental attendance at events like school committee meetings or debates as well as an absence of PTO organizations at many Lynn public schools, it seems apt to label public school parents in  the city as generally "uninvolved."  Jackson and Remillard (2005) also concluded that parents whose activities are not visible to the school are often classified as minimally involved.
There are, however, several key barriers or factors that may contribute to what appears to be a lack of parental involvement particularly relevant to a discussion of the current climate in Lynn. Anderson and Minke (2007) found that parents make an initial decision to become involved according to their beliefs (role construction, sense of efficacy) and general opportunities and demands for involvement from the school and their children. Role construction refers to parents’ ideas about what they should do in relation to their child’s schooling; parents with a high role construction tend to also exhibit a high level of involvement (Anderson & Minke, 2007). Efficacy is the belief that their involvement in their child’s schooling will positively effect their learning and success (scale items include “I know how to help my child do well in school” and "I  feel successful about my efforts to help my child learn") (Anderson & Minke, 2007). Finally, general opportunities include generic invitations from the school and child (Anderson & Minke, 2007). Reed, Jones, Walker and Hoover-Dempsey (2000) found that role construction, efficacy and perceptions of teacher invitations accounted for much of the variance in parent involvement behaviors with specific teacher invitations showing the strongest relationship with parents' involvement behaviors.

Most salient for this discussion is probably the concept of 'role construction.' Though many parents are deemed uninvolved or uninterested based on school related activities, Jackson and Remillard (2005) stated that it is important to highlight the number of ways in which parents help their children. One avenue is indeed 'involvement in the school' by having an active presence in the school by volunteering or attending school functions. Some parents, however, are involved in their child's education in other, less visible ways. Other parent involvement concepts include 'involvement in schooling' which refers to assisting with homework or communicating with a teacher when difficulties arise as well as 'involvement in learning' or that way in which parents structure, foster, and support a child's learning in a variety of contexts (Jackson & Remillard, 2005). While some parents exhibit parental involvement behaviors in all three categories, other parents may be "involved" more heavily in only one or two categories. Anderson and Minke (2007) found that schools may potentially be underestimating parental involvement by only including activities that occur at school as most of the study’s respondents reported more involvement at home; Overstreet, Devine, Bevans and Efreom (2005) found that African American parents have greater involvement in home based activities. Furthermore,  lower resourced families may respond differently to calls for increased parental involvement than families with more resources (Anderson & Minke, 2007). Thus, a parent who does not have an active presence at a school (or committee meeting) is not necessarily apathetic; it may simply be that his or her role construction falls more so under the latter two categories which are more home-based in nature and do not fit into traditionally accepted behaviors associated with parent involvement (Jackson & Remillard, 2005).
It is also important to note that parent choices regarding involvement in their child's education are often constrained by their employment (job schedule) as well as competing demands (childcare, competing activities) that limit one’s time and energy (Anderson & Minke, 2007). Low income parents may work hourly jobs that do not allow them to participate in the way that people with stable salaried employment can (LaRocque, Kleiman, & Darling, 2011). Additional consideration must be made of the barriers or challenges to school-based parental involvement faced by increasing number of non-English speaking parents or guardians. The Lynn public school system is currently 53.6% First Language not English and 19.6% Limited English Proficiency. Turney and Kao (2009) found that foreign born Hispanic and Asian parents were 5.5 and 9.7 times, respectively, to report language as a barrier to involvement at their children's schools. This study also found that parents who had limited English proficiency were more likely to report meeting time inconvenience and not feeling welcome (Turney & Kao, 2009). Time spent in the United States and increased English language ability was, however, positively associated with increased parental involvement (Turney & Kao, 2009; LaRocque, Kleiman, & Darling, 2011). Other factors include feeling welcome or invited, the importance for parents of their own negative school experiences and trust which was found to be an essential element in family-school relationships (Anderson & Minke, 2007; Raty, 2002; Adams & Christenson, 2000).
From this, it becomes more clear that a lack of visible parental involvement in Lynn as well as other districts is a complex issue resulting from a variety of factors. To answer the question posed in the title of this piece, the situation in Lynn is likely a combination of all three factors. While some parents may be apathetic, others are experiencing a language barrier that prevents them from being involved at the school and/or are involved in more home-based activities.  There is also the potential for some parents to be apathetic in certain scenarios and become an active presence in others. Additional consideration must be made of the way in which the school or school system's characteristics, beliefs and educational approach may either facilitate or hinder increased parental involvement (Feuerstein, 2000). Koonce and Harper (2005) found that the thoughts or opinions of parents who were unable to participate in school activities were often dismissed because these parents were viewed as not "actively" involved in their child's education; dismissal of their insights tended to alienate these parents resulting in a withdrawal from the parental advocacy role. Finally, whether one agrees or disagrees, there could be a large number of Lynn public school parents who are generally satisfied with their child(ren)'s education and therefore do not see a reason to get involved at the school or district level. Thus, because a parent is not present at a school committee meeting or speaking out about a school-related issue, does not necessarily mean that he or she are uninvolved. It is important to understand the multiple ways in which parents choose to be engaged in their child's education given their particular circumstances and encourage 'involvement' in whatever way is possible for the family. While actively seeking to increase parental involvement and address language barriers is essential, there are many behaviors that deserve inclusion and recognition by schools and school systems under the umbrella of 'parental involvement' in the interest of cultivating strong school-family relationships which undoubtedly will result in the aforementioned positive academic outcomes.

*Adams, K.S. & Christenson, S.L.(2000). Trust and the family school relationship: Examination of parent teacher differences in elementary and secondary grades. Journal of School Psychology, 38, 477-497.
*Anderson, K.J. & Minke, K.M. (2007). Parent involvement in education: Towards an understanding of parents' decision making. Journal of Educational Research, 100:5, 311-323. 
*Feuerstein, A. (2000). School characteristics and parent involvement: Influences on participation in children's school. The Journal of Educational Research, 94:1, 29-40. 
*Jackson, K. & Remillard, J. (2005). Rethinking parent involvement: African American mothers construct their roles in the mathematics education of their children. School Community Journal, 15:1, 51-73. 
*Koonce, D.A. & Harper, W. Jr. (2005). Engaging African American parents in the schools: A community-based consultation model. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 16(1-2): 55-74.
*LaRocque, M., Kleiman, I. & Darling, S.M. (2011). Parental involvement: The missing link in school achievement. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 55:3, 115-122.
*Overstreet, S., Devine, J., Bevans, K., & Efreom, Y. (2005). Predicting parental involvement in children's schooling within an economically disadvantaged African American sample. Psychology in Schools, 42, 101-111.
*Raty, H. (2002). The significance of parents' evaluations of their own school for their educational attitudes. School Psychology of Education, 6(1), 43-60.
*Reed, R.P., Jones, K.P, Walker, J.M. & Hoover-Dempsey, K.V. (2000). Parents' motivation for involvement in children's education: Testing a theoretical model. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.
*Turney, K. & Kao, G. (2009). Barriers to school involvement: are immigrant parents disadvantaged? The Journal of Educational Research, 1002:4, 257-271.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lynn School Committee Meeting 3/29/12

The next Lynn School Committee meeting  is scheduled for Thursday March 29 2012 at 7pm. SC meetings take place at 90 Commercial Street.

Items on the agenda for the next meeting include:

-Request for Executive Session - Contract Negotiations for Non-Union Personnel; Confidential Secretaries (Tabled from SC March 8, 2012)
-Vote as Policy the "Open Mike" Guidelines - (with changes from SC March 8, 2012)
-Massachusetts Building Authority (MSBA) update
-Policy Sub Committee - Extended Vacations/Unauthorized Absence of Students - Dress Code - Nurses on Field Trips
-Department of Health re: Drewicz Air Quality

*For the Full Agenda, see:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Urban Districts Struggling with High Absenteeism

Lynn Superintendent Catherine Latham recently commented on the increasing number of unexcused absences in the Lynn Public Schools which has had a negative effect on some schools' Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status. Other urban districts like Lynn are also seeing a much higher average number of days absent than the state average (9.1 days).

  • Boston: 13.5
  • Brockton: 10.7
  • Fall River: 14.4 
  • Holyoke: 15.1
  • Lawrence: 12.1
  • Lowell: 11.1
  • Lynn: 10.8
  • New Bedford:  12.8
  • Springfield: 15.1
  • Worcester: 9.8

*All Data Taken from:

Monday, March 19, 2012

This Day in History: March 19

-The U.S. Congress establishes times zones and daylight saving time, 1918.

-Gambling is legalized in Nevada, 1931

-Texas Western becomes the first college basketball team to win the Final Four with an all-black starting lineup, 1966.

-President George W. Bush orders the start of war against Iraq, 2003

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Unexcused Absences a Problem for Lynn

In the March 15th edition of the Lynn Item, it was reported that unexcused absences in the Lynn public schools are on the rise with 94 students responsible for 1,071 unexcused absences this school year. Unexcused absences do not include students who are sick. The absences have largely been attributed to students taking extended vacations during the holiday season among other reasons. So which Lynn schools had the highest average number of absences in 2010-11?


The schools with the top 3 highest average number of school absences in 2010 - 11 were:
  • Sisson: 9.4
  • Brickett: 9.2
  • Callahan: 9.3
Washington Elementary had an average of 17.6 absences in 2010-11 but there population is 100% special education which has a significant effect on its absentee rates. The elementary schools with the lowest number of school absences were Lynn Woods (6) and Aborn (6.8).

Middle School
  • Pickering: 11.1
  • Breed: 11.1
  • Marshall: 10.4

Junior/Senior High
  • Fecteau-Leary: 36.2

High School
  •  Lynn Tech: 17.2
  • Lynn English: 12.8
  • Lynn Classical: 12.4 

*Data Taken from:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lynn Graduates Post-Secondary Plans 2010-11

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) reports the plans of high school graduates at the district and individual school level. This information recently became available for the 2010-11 school year. 

4 yr Private College31%
4 yr Public College28%
2 yr Private College1%
2 yr Public College22%
Other Post Secondary 2%
Work 7%

Overall, 59% of Massachusetts students planned to attend a 4 year private or public college/university while 23% planned to attend a 2 year public or private college/university.

4 yr Private College12%
4 yr Public College21%
2 yr Private College8%
2 yr Public College42%
 Other Post Secondary 1%
Work 7%

In Lynn, 83% of students planned to attend college at either a 2 or 4 year college or university. The highest percentage of students planned to attend a 2 year public college which is unsurprising given the close proximity of North Shore Community College as well as other 2 year schools like Bunker Hill Community College. In comparison to the state statistics, Lynn had lower percentages of students plan to attend 4 year public or private colleges or universities but a higher percentage of students planning to enroll in a 2 year public college; the rates of students joining either the military or the workforce were essentially the same as at the state level.

4 yr Private College14%14%0%6%
4 yr Public College26%25%0%7%
2 yr Private College9%9%17%4%
2 yr Public College39%40%67%46%
 Other Post Secondary 1%0%0%4%
Work 2%3%6%25%

At the individual school level, both Lynn English and Classical had a higher percentage of students planning to attend a 4 year private or public than the city average. A quarter of students at Lynn Tech planned to enter the workforce while nearly half planned to attend a 2 year public college. Rates of military enrollment ranged from 2% to 5% while the rate of students with 'unknown' plans was considerable particularly at Fecteau Leary. Still, it appears as though the great majority of students graduating from Lynn Public Schools have established some sort of post secondary plans.

*All Data Taken from:

Most Massachusetts Districts See Higher than Average Proficiency Rates in 3rd Grade Reading

The blog Eye on Early Education published this color-coded map which indicates proficiency rates on the 2011 third  grade reading MCAS exam for the individual districts in Massachusetts. The map reported that, of the 274 districts with available data, more than half  (60%) achieved a 65% or greater proficiency rate on the exam. The percentage range with the highest number of districts was 65% - 79%. More specifically:

  • 15% of districts achieved a 80% - 100% proficiency rate. These districts included Wellesley, Needham, Sharon and Acton.
  • 45% of districts achieved a 65% - 79% proficiency rate. Districts included Danvers, Weston, Hadley and Dartmouth.
  • 28% achieved a 50% - 64% proficiency rates. Districts included Chicopee, Saugus, Taunton and Framingham.
  • 12% achieved of proficiency rate of less than 50%. Districts included Lynn, Chelsea, Ludlow, and Fitchburg. All ten of the Commissioner's Urban Districts also fell into this category.

Overall, 61% of third grade students in Massachusetts were proficient  in reading according to their MCAS exam results.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Ford School: Comparing Student Populations in 2001 to 2011

Originally founded by English settler Edmund Ingalls in 1629, Lynn has clearly undergone substantial changes in its population since then. Today more than a third of Lynn's population is Hispanic or Latino. Interestingly, some neighborhoods/communities in Lynn have seen more considerable changes in terms of their population in short periods of time than others. One indication of transformations in a specific community's population are changes in its student demographics. The Highlands in Lynn is one neighborhood that has seen an evolution in its population over the past decade as evidenced by changes in the population attending the Ford School. Here we will compare Ford's student population from 2001- 02 to 2011-12. While the actual number of students attending grades K - 5 at Ford in 2011-12 is not much different from 2001-02 (605 versus 592), the demographic composition of the school has in a number of ways.

2001- 022011-12
African American20.2%10.5%
Native American0.2%0.5%
Multi-Racial, Non-HispanicN/A3.0%

First and foremost, one notices the substantial increase in Hispanic students at Ford; between 2001-02 and 2011-12, this population grew by 113%. Additionally, the African American and Asian student populations at the Ford School have decreased over the past 10 years. The white or Caucasian population has decreased by 72% since 2001-02.

2001- 022011-12
First Language Not English36.90%65.1%
Limited English Proficiency1.5%37.1%
Low Income83.50%90.0%
Special Education0.0%7.0%

As the Hispanic and other immigrant student population at the Ford School has increased, so has the percentage of English as a Second Language (ESL) and Limited English proficiency (LEP) populations. The ESL population has increased by 76% while the LEP population has increased by an astounding 2373%.  The low income population has not changed much since 2001. Interestingly, despite changes in ESL and LEP populations, the percentage of students achieving proficiency on the 3rd grade reading MCAS exam has only decreased by 13 percentage points (74% in 2001 vs. 61% in 2011). Thus, from this we see that while Ford continues to educate a majority low income population, language barriers have become a much more salient issue as the LEP and ESL population has grown exponentially. As far as demographic changes in the Highlands as a whole, this data indicates the racial/ethnic makeup of families with younger elementary school age children has changed over the past ten years from almost equal among the racial/ethnic groups to a Hispanic majority. 

*Data taken from:

Friday, March 9, 2012

This Day in History: March 9

-The first documented discovery of gold in California occurs at Rancho San Francisco, 6 years before the California Gold Rush, 1842

-The United States Army Air Forces begins The Bombing of Tokyo, one of the most destructive bombing raids in history, 1945

-The Barbie doll makes its debut at the American International Toy Fair held in New York, 1959

-The first same-sez marriages take place in Washington, D.C., 2010

-Holiday: Teacher's Day, also known as Eid Al Moalim (Lebanon)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lynn PAC Meeting 3/5/12

The Lynn Parent Advisory Council (PAC) will meet tonight March 5, 2012 at 7pm.  The meeting will be held at the Ford School, 49 Hollingsworth St. The topic for discussion is "30 Things Every Parent Should Know about their Child's IEP." Snacks, Spanish translation and child care will all be provided.

Lynn School Committee Meeting 3/8/12

The next Lynn School Committee meeting  is scheduled for Thursday March 8, 2012 at 7pm. SC meetings take place at 90 Commercial Street.

Items on the agenda for the next meeting include:

-Bullying Awareness Campaign: Alan Melanson
-Request for Executive Session - Contract Negotiations with non-union personnel: Superintendent, Deputy Superintendents and Confidential Secretaries
-Request Lynn Youth Street Outreach Program - Antonio Guttierez to speak in schools on the topic: "Going Straight" - Mr. Starbard

*To view the full agenda see:,%202012.pdf

Friday, March 2, 2012

Passing and Proficient are Two Different Things

Oftentimes when discussing MCAS or other standardized testing, results are reported in terms of the percentage of students who achieved 'Proficient' or 'Advanced' on the exam. In Massachusetts, however, in order to "pass" the MCAS students actually only need to achieve 'Needs Improvement' better at every grade level except the 10th grade exams. Thus, there can be a considerable difference between the percentage of students who are considered to be proficient in math, for example, when compared to the percentage of students who passed the test. For students who have not achieved proficiency on the 10th grade math and English language arts exams, students are required to have an Educational Proficiency Plan in order meet the Competency Determination standard. 

Below are the proficiency and pass rates for the Lynn Public School System on the 2011 Reading/ELA MCAS exam.

Hood 4487
Lynn Woods5083
Sewell Anderson4485


Lynn Classical7878**
Lynn English7474**
Lynn Tech5353**

Lynn (District)5185

*Lynn (District) does not include KIPP.
**In order to graduate from high school, students need to score a 240 or better which corresponds to achieving proficiency. Thus in high school, passing and proficient are the same. 

Here we see that some schools saw the majority of their students pass the MCAS but a much lower percentage achieve proficiency. At Brickett, for example, 96% of students passed the MCAS in Reading/ELA while only 53% achieved proficiency. At Cobbet, 53% of students were in the 'Needs Improvement Category' which accounts for the difference in proficiency versus pass rates. The percentage of students achieving proficiency ranged from 4% to 78% while the percentage of students passing ranged from 52% to 99%.

Below are the proficiency and pass rates for the Lynn Public School System on the 2011 Math MCAS exam.

Hood 4384
Lynn Woods4083
Sewell Anderson3983


Lynn Classical6868**
Lynn English6666**
Lynn Tech3434**

Lynn (District)*4174

*Lynn (District) does not include KIPP.
**In order to graduate from high school, students need to score a 240 or better which corresponds to achieving proficiency. Thus, in high school proficiency and passing are the same. 

Here we see that at the middle school level (excluding KIPP), math MCAS proficiency rates 50% or lower while pass rates were between 54% and 79%. Also while less than half of the students in Lynn achieved proficiency, nearly three quarters passed in 2011. Proficiency rates ranged from 12% to 74% while pass rates ranged from 50% to 97%. 

**All Data Taken from: