Tree of learning at elementary school.
Think of an elementary school. From my last several classrooms, I could take just a few steps and see the front and back doors at the same time. The glass doors were sparkling clean with no smudges except from children’s hands. Those spots appeared to be cleaned immediately. The sparkling glass made the school doors transparent. Therefore, it is assumed that the school is transparent and not opaque in any way.
Is every aspect of the school transparent? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The sparkling glass can possibly be a mirage in many ways.
One way that the sparkling glass may not be completely transparent occurs because of necessary security. In many (if not most) schools, parents and other visitors are not readily allowed to walk into a school of their own volition. This is incredibly important. Visitors may have to punch a button on an intercom for possible entry to the school. There may be several monitors in the reception area of the office to show visitors at the door. Parents also should be given explanations for security measures at the school. Security plans vary from school to school, from district to district.
A person in authority may look at one of the screens and either allow the person to enter or not approve entrance. In this case, the door would be automatically unlocked to let the visitor in and automatically locked back again. A security guard might spend the day near the front door… monitoring every move of the children and visitors. Teachers might not be allowed to enter the building at free will when arriving at school.
Did I feel safer and in a good position to keep the children safe when I was teaching? Absolutely. Security measures were in place. No doubt, a safe environment moves teaching to a new and more confident level. Have these security measures taken away a sense of total transparency? Yes, they have and thank goodness for that!
There might be parents who feel left out of their child’s classroom and do not understand the new stringent requirements for entering school buildings. Or they may not understand the need to make an appointment to visit their child’s classroom. Certainly, background checks on parents or guardians are appropriately made when a child enrolls at a school.
Without a positive background check, a parent would not be allowed to help on a Field Trip… plus other restrictions. Definitely a sign of the times! However, excellent schools can be identified to be positively transparent and not opaque in several other important ways. The U.S. Department of Education has published a document regarding best practices for school transparency.
The following information is from… http://ptac.ed.gov
The U.S. Department of Education established the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) as a “one-stop” resource for education stakeholders to learn about data privacy, confidentiality and security practices related to student-level longitudinal data systems and other uses of student data.
PTAC states the following regarding the look of transparency concerning information collected within schools…
PTAC has published this document to provide several recommendations for keeping parents and students better informed about schools’ and districts’ collection and use of student data. The recommendations contained in the guidance can be divided into three main categories: (1) what information schools and districts ought to communicate to parents; (2) how to convey that information in a way that parents can understand; and (3) how to respond to parent inquiries about student data policies and practices.
Some of the best practices for transparency covered in the PTAC document include:
making information about your student data policies and practices easy to find on your public webpage
publishing a data inventory that details what information you collect about your students, and what you use it for
explaining to parents what, if an, personal information is shared with third parties and for what purpose(s)
using multi-layered communication strategies that tailor the complexity of the information to the medium, and telling parents where they can get more detailed information if they want it
Data indeed does drive instruction in many school districts. Privacy protection for any and all dissemination of student information is paramount in building parent confidence. This practice can begin the atmosphere of transparency on a school campus already questioning security measures. The key is dialogue between administrators, teachers, parents and students. The result is open discussion and trust without a hint of anything opaque.