What about parents?
We’re often asked, “What is the parents’ role in response to intervention, in behavioral supports, in education?” And not to put too fine a point on it, but our response is, “What have you told them their role is?” Parents can be incredible partners in our joint effort to ensure that all students are future ready, but we can and must take the lead in defining what expectations should be and how families can complement the primary efforts of schools. So, share homework policies, grading policies, and information about next-generation standards with parents, and also share with parents the why, how, and what of schools’ expectations and supports in the areas of mindsets, social skills, perseverance, learning strategies, and academic behaviors. Specify how these skills can be reinforced in the home. Explain why these skills are more important than ever and describe what is takes to be successful in college and a skilled career. We should not expect parents to already possess this knowledge and we cannot expect them to impart this sophisticated and critical behavioral skills to their children – at least not without our support. Again, we are the answer we’ve been waiting for. Involve parents early, engaging them in a determination of the skills that the broader community most wants students to possess. Involve parents in the measuring of student progress in these behavioral skills. And “teach” parents about the unwritten rules of schools (including the importance of noncognitive factors) and how they can support their children in developing the skills that help them navigate these rules. What about parents? What are we doing to empower them to success?
Time, staff, and resources.
Perhaps the most common frustration that we hear from educators is an absence of resources: Enough time to provide supports, enough staff to provide supports, the appropriate strategies and programs, and the money for all of it. Before reviewing, we feel compelled to quote Ron Edmonds, the father of the effective schools movement: “We can whenever and wherever we choose, teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it, must finally depend on the fact that we haven’t so far (Edmonds, 23). The time to teach, model, and nurture can be and must be built into school days and behavioral skills can and should be integrated into the teaching and learning of academic concepts and skills; behavior and academics are inextricably linked. All staff must be involved in the consistent, collaborative modeling and teaching of behavioral skills; in addition to teachers, administrators and psychologists can take an even greater lead in supporting staff in the support of students; there need not be and most likely will not be additional staff for behaviors –we’re all teaching behaviors whether we like it and know it or not (Buffum, Mattos, & Weber, 2009; 2010; 2011). Researched-based strategies and programs exist, but the best “strategies” are a fierce commitment to nurturing behavioral skills and the strength of positive relationships. Lastly, while more financial resources would be welcome, repurposing time and staff does not cost money and there are free or low-cost resources for supporting behavioral skills; we can and must prioritize the development of students’ behavioral skills within the realities that presently exist. Edmonds’ call to action applies to behavioral skills just as much as it applies to academic skills. The research exists. The resources exist. Other schools are effective and effectively leveraging the time and staff that we currently have. We have the skill; do we have the will?