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| Volume 68 | Number 8
Table of Contents
To create the kinds of school-family partnerships that raise student achievement, improve local communities, and increase public support, schools need to understand the difference between family involvement and family engagement. Schools that emphasize the latter tend toward doing with families, rather than doing to families. These schools do more listening than talking; they strive for two-way conversation rather than one-way communication. Their vision of the school community does not stop at the school grounds, but encompasses the overall neighborhood. Ferlazzo, an English teacher in an urban high school, describes how his school has developed partnerships with parents that address not only school challenges but also family and community needs.
As a researcher in parent engagement in school and former parent activist, the author shares three lessons for sparking more authentic partnerships between schools and immigrant families. First, schools need to move away from deficit thinking and validate families' cultures. In the case of Latino immigrant families, this entails understanding families' conceptions of "education" and "support." Second, when educators offer smaller-scale parent activities and infuse personal touches into outreach, immigrant parents feel less intimidated and respond with more open participation. Finally, school programs should encourage parent voice and leadership development. These approaches are especially important with immigrant parents who often feel marginalized by urban schools.
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When it comes to academic achievement, many parents in upper- and middle-class communities have gone overboard, hiring tutors for their preschool children and going to enormous lengths to secure a spot for their child in a prestigious college. Even though poor children face many hardships, teenagers in affluent families suffer emotional and moral problems at roughly the same rates. Students are overpressured to achieve and undervalued for aspects of their character. Schools can work to curb destructive forms of achievement pressure and help parents interact more constructively with their children around achievement. They can also make changes so that high achievement is only one of many ways of measuring how students value themselves.
In an education environment focused on high-stakes testing in reading and math, service learning may seem like an unnecessary frill. But well-planned service learning projects can enhance student engagement in school and give students opportunities to use academic skills and knowledge to make a difference in their communities. This article gives examples of service learning projects connected to literacy and math and offers guidance for planning projects.
Eileen Gale Kugler
The author describes her experiences leading a family engagement program in a South African elementary school and the parallels with her work with low-income immigrant families in U.S. schools. Schools often expect little from such parents, she writes, thus missing the opportunity to benefit from their strengths. When parents are welcomed and empowered—for example, through family quilting or mural projects that the author has led—they gain confidence in their role at school and can become effective advocates for their children. The article offers specific suggestions for new parent engagement strategies that reflect the reality of today's diverse families.
In Maplewood Richmond Height, Missouri, the Teacher Home Visit Program has become a crucial component of the district's success. At the end of the first semester of the 2010–11 school year, discipline referrals were down 45 percent, and parent attendance at each school's first open house was up by almost 20 percent. Attendance is nudging up as well. Teachers new to the program attend two three-hour training sessions offered by the Kalish Foundation and are paid for the training session as well as for the home visits. The Teacher Home Visit Program has moved the district to the next level in terms of serving families and educating students.
Orhan Agirdag and Mieke Van Houtte
Two innovative programs in Belgium promote both educational equity and quality as they reach out to ethnically diverse families. The Bridge Person project in Ghent addresses Belgium's immigrant achievement gap by creating meaningful relationships between schools and socially disadvantaged families. The School in Sight project in Antwerp seeks to achieve desegregation by bringing more middle-class students into schools that enroll a majority of low-income and immigrant students.
Anne T. Henderson, Judy Carson, Patti Avallone and Melissa Whipple
Wouldn't it be great if a school's administrators and teachers could sit down with parents and exchange ideas about what part each might play in supporting students' learning—especially in schools with at-risk students? Henderson, Carson, Avallone, and Whipple describe how they helped three elementary schools in Connecticut do just that, through guiding the schools in revising their school-family compacts. Under No Child Left Behind, all schools receiving Title I funds are required to create "compacts" that outline how parents, school staff, and students will share responsibility for improving students' achievement. Compacts are meant to give parents information about a school's goals and strategies and how the home environment might support learning. But most schools create formulaic documents that parrot general language about parental responsibility. Connecticut's Department of Education initiated a program to improve compacts in urban schools throughout the state. The article describes how participating schools used this process—and district support—to build relationships, spark dialogue with parents, and make parents more aware of and involved in their children's school work.
Peter M. De Witt and Josephine Moccia
When a beloved school closes, community emotions run high. De Witt and Moccia, administrators in the Averill Park School District in upstate New York, describe how their district navigated through parents' anger and practical matters in closing a small neighborhood elementary school and transferring all its students to another school. With a group of disgruntled parents setting up a Facebook page and a blog to vent their ire, the principals of both schools learned how to communicate sensitively with the community. They created specific events to help students and parents transition to the new reality, such as arranging joint learning activities for kids from both schools before the transfer took place and hosting an open house at the new school for parents from the closing school. The authors share lessons learned about making school closings easier on everyone and keeping school community relationships on an even keel.
Ira Harkavy, Matthew Hartley, Joann Weeks and Cory Bowman
More than one-half of all institutions of higher education are located within or just outside urban areas. These colleges and university can offer rich resources to provide stability to a city and to improve the quality of life and learning in their communities and schools. The authors describe the university-assisted community schools model that they have developed at the University of Pennsylvania. This model, which connects the university deeply with its West Philadelphia community, is now expanding to more and more urban universities throughout the United States.
Like many relatively affluent suburban schools, James E. Daly Elementary in Montgomery County, Maryland, has seen a rapid increase in its Hispanic and bilingual student populations. Many of the school's English language learners come from low-income, immigrant families. Zimmerman-Orozco, the school's assistant principal, describes the strategies the school has developed to reach out to Hispanic parents and make them full partners, including monthly Hispanic parent meetings, after-school activities, a summer enrichment program run by staff volunteers, and frequent home visits. Although these practices make a difference, she writes, the key to the school's success is "the match between the school's core commitment to creating a welcoming school climate and nurturing personal relationships and the traditional Hispanic styles of interaction."
No matter how hard teachers and administrators work, they cannot fulfill society's enormous list of demands for schools without addressing the four basics of public sentiment: community understanding, trust, permission, and support. They can do this through the Great Conversation, a positive, ongoing discussion between educators and the public that promotes the growth of social capital that leads to increased child well-being and student success. The great Conversation runs on both an informal and a formal track. The informal track means that those who work in schools must stop bad-mouthing schools in public and regularly share something positive about their schools, students, and coworkers. The formal track involves mapping the community, deciding on the message, developing a script, building teams, conducting a communications audit, creating a presentation schedule, and launching phase one.
The obesity level and related health problems in American children have risen to the point where the Centers for Disease Control predicts the current generation may be the first to die at younger ages than their parents. Ann Cooper, a chef and long-time advocate for healthier food choices and health education for children, argues that child advocates must push for healthier school food programs based on cooking from scratch rather than on processed, non-nutritious foods. Cooper describes how she works around obstacles to create more nutritious school meals in Boulder Valley School District in Colorado. The Boulder district met five challenges to creating a school food program centered on meals made from fresh local ingredients: foods, facilities, financing, human resources, and marketing healthy food to students. Cooper highlights the particular challenge involved in switching from processed foods to scratch-cooked meals within the structure of the National School Lunch Program, which—because of its position within the U.S Department of Agriculture and its connection to the commodities program—is geared to providing processed foods high in fat and low in nutrition.
Jane L. David
Robert J. Marzano
William M. Ferriter
Thomas R. Hoerr
Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes
Twitter can be a valuable way to easily provide real-time information to interested members of your community. Porterfield and Carnes discuss the benefits of using Twitter and offer tips for getting started. They also share strategies for writing effective tweets and several examples of good and not-so-good tweets.
Jennifer Esler Reeves and Lino O. Rodriguez
A K-2 school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Orlando, Florida, (with 100 percent of students eligible for free lunch) found parents became more engaged with the school and more involved in their children's learning when the school developed programs to bring parents into building, get to know families and their situations, and meet families' basic needs. The authors describe the initiatives Grand Avenue Primary Learning Center created to build respectful relationships with parents, including a weekly breakfast for parents followed by presentations and group discussion on topics of parents' choice; a Family Services Center that provides basic health care and intervention services; and a program that shows parents how to work with their children and assist learning at home.
Changes to demographics and family life in the United States mean that the students in our schools live in a different world from the one most educators grew up in. To be effective, teachers need to understand what students' home lives are really like and how those home lives shape interactions at school. It's therefore more important than ever that teachers find ways to connect with all students' parents and listen to parents' expert knowledge about their children. Freeman-Loftis, a professional development specialist with Northeast Foundation for Children, offers concrete suggestions of things she's sees teachers and schools do to create opportunities to listen to parents—and encourage parents to trust teachers enough to open up.
The author, who has served as superintendent of two of the largest school systems in the United States (New York City and Miami-Dade County), describes the Miami-Dade County Parent Academy created under his watch in 2005. The Academy provides a wide range of free workshops and courses to help parents support their children's school achievement, develop their own life success, and cope with complex tasks, such as completing home loan or college applications. The Academy depends on the involvement and support of other community entities, such as businesses and government agencies. Crew explains that the aim is to turn supply parents—who see their role as just handing their children over to the school—into demand parents—who actively participate in their children's education, provide ideas and feedback, and take part in decision making.
Copyright © 2012 by ASCD
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