Letters to the Editor

VanDorien misses parents' point

I just finished reading the Your Turn article written by Federal Way School Board president Earl VanDorien (Aug. 17, Ž“ParentsŽ’ roles in schools must be cost-effectiveŽ”). I am quite offended by his personal comments about Bob McKenzie. While I do not personally know Mr. McKenzie, it is my understanding he is a highly respected member of this community. This article inappropriately smeared him without an ounce of proof. Mr. Van Dorien, who, I understand, declines to send his own children to Federal Way Public Schools, feels he has the knowledge and the experience to make decisions for the rest of us on how to provide a quality education for our children.

I am not a Bob McKenzie advocate. I have not met him. However, I am an involved parent with one current student in the Federal Way schools. Unfortunately, I know perfectly well what it is to have my attempts at involvement be rebuffed by the school system.

I know very well the experience of a parent who tries to monitor the progress of their child only to find teachers do not know. Why? Because at the schools my children attended, qualifiers are used. This involves a series of homework handed out over a two to four-week period of time but not collected until the end of a unit or section of work.

Often, I found teachers were not actually correcting homework themselves but allowing student peers to do so. The problems with this are, I think, obvious. As a result, neither teachers nor parents can effectively monitor their studentŽ’s progress or intervene if there is a problem or an area of the material that has not been thoroughly understood.

This lack of communication from teachers was not isolated to one teacher or one subject or one year or one particular school. Further, I have noticed the difficulties and barriers to effective communication between parents and teachers have significantly increased over the last several years, as my children have progressed through the schools here.

I would suggest to Mr. VanDorien that instead of simply dismissing Teacher Parent Advocacy System as unproven, or the product of an unscrupulous man, or too invasive, or too expensive, that the School Board really listen to the valid concerns of parents who are increasingly expressing their frustration with the current system and formulate an alternative plan.

I would also suggest to Mr. Van Dorien that student-led conferencing does nothing to resolve the lack of communication from teachers to parents. It also does nothing to create an atmosphere in which parents are welcomed as full partners by the teachers in their studentŽ’s education.

Elizabeth Conner

Federal Way

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