“Engage families for anywhere, anytime learning”

Engage families for anywhere, anytime learning is the title of an article in Phi Delta Kappan and written by leaders of the Harvard Family Research Project.

Here’s how it’s summarized:

As society expects children and youth today to explore content-area topics in depth and to develop critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills, out-of-school settings are becoming increasingly important to individual learning. These settings, which include libraries, museums, digital media, and after-school programs, are evolving into extended classrooms. In this context, it is no longer appropriate or fruitful for educators to focus family engagement solely on what happens in school; educators must reimagine this concept within the many opportunities now available for anywhere, anytime learning.

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“After Divisive Start, Use of ‘Parent Trigger’ Law Matures”

Though I’m not impressed with Education Week’s headline, After Divisive Start, Use of ‘Parent Trigger’ Law Matures, its recent article shares some pretty useful info on the parent trigger.

I especially liked this excerpt:

John Rogers, an associate professor in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, predicts the parent-trigger law may have run its course in California.

Mr. Rogers, who co-authored an upcoming research paper about the law, for the journal Teachers College Record, explained that the parent-trigger law was a byproduct of the nation’s crippling fiscal crisis, which ultimately left public schools facing steep budget cuts and angered some parents who already felt their schools were underfunded. Now, California is injecting more money into public schools, and the state’s new funding law requires parental input.

Calling it an “old Wild West metaphor,” Mr. Rogers said the law “taps into a real frustration at the core of many parents’ experiences, but it deflects from the real cause of that frustration.”

Instead of shifting power from a “recalcitrant bureaucracy to parents with a holster,” he said developing empowered relationships among parents and educators would be more effective for the entire community.

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“Family Success at the Heart of Engagement Efforts in Mass. District”

Family Success at the Heart of Engagement Efforts in Mass. District is the headline of an Ed Week article last month.

It describes what appears to be a fairly extensive parent involvement effort at the schools in Springfield, MA.

Here’s how it begins:

If parents in the Springfield, Mass., school system want to help their children with the college-application process, figure out how to balance the family budget, learn to knit, or even become a certified lifeguard, there’s a class for that, thanks to the district’s Parent Academy.

Now in its fourth year, the academy, started by Patricia A. Spradley, the chief parent and community engagement officer in the 26,000-student district, offers more than three dozen courses. Some are geared toward academics, some toward student well-being, some are just for fun.

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“Why should we fear teachers visiting their students’ homes?”

Why should we fear teachers visiting their students’ homes? is the headlined of Jay Mathews latest post at The Washington Post.

Here’s an excerpt:

Whitaker and the other D.C. home-visiting teachers are trained and paid with funds from the D.C. public schools and the Flamboyan Foundation. Using a model developed by educators in Sacramento, the teachers visit in pairs after school or on weekends. They don’t do surprise visits. They don’t make assumptions about kids or parents. They don’t take notes. They listen more than talk.

He also happens to link to a piece I wrote critical of his take on home visits in a previous column.

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“Parent-trigger showdowns loom nationwide”

Parent-trigger showdowns loom nationwide is the headline of a new Hechinger Report article that gives a decent overview of what’s happening around the country related to the parent trigger.

Here’s how it begins:

Lawmakers around the country are gearing up for showdowns against teachers unions and school administrators who are seeking to squash a new round of education bills that would create and strengthen so-called “parent trigger” laws.

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“Texas Lawmakers Consider “Parent Trigger” Schools Law”

Texas Lawmakers Consider “Parent Trigger” Schools Law is the headline of a recent article in The Texas Tribune.

Here’s how it begins:

Hoping to prompt parent involvement and quicker turnarounds at struggling schools, Texas lawmakers are considering a controversial policy known as a “parent trigger” law.

A state Senate panel heard testimony Thursday on legislation allowing parents of students at underperforming public schools to campaign to make changes at their campuses — including hiring new staff, contracting with a charter school operator to take over management or closing the school altogether.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools.

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New Issue Of Harvard’s Parent Involvement Newsletter

I’ve shared previous issues of Harvard’s parent involvement newsletter, called FINE (Family Involvement Network of Educators).

They’ve just published another issue. Here’s how they describe it:

We dedicate this issue of the FINE Newsletter to the transition to school. We do this because a smooth transition to school makes a difference for student outcomes, and also because it is a matter of equity. Research shows that children from homes with increased social and economic risk benefit the most from transition activities; yet these are the children least likely to receive them. We seek to not only explore the evidence-base supporting the importance of the transition to school, but also, to profile programs in high-risk districts that are working to address inequalities.

In this issue we:

Highlight four important things research tells us about the transition to school;
Explore strategies the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Center for Early Learning has used in its bold initiative to develop ready children, ready families, ready schools, and ready communities, in one county in California;
Discover how Iridescent, a national nonprofit, stimulates children’s early interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through workshops and mentoring for the entire family; and
Talk with the program Comienza en Casa | It Starts at Home to learn how the program uses technology to prepare migrant children and families in rural Maine for the transition to school.

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Ed Week Article On Parent Trigger Might Not See The Forest For The Trees

I’m obviously a big fan of Education Week since I’ve been writing a weekly teacher advice column there for the past four years.  Even before I began writing for them, though,  I was (and continue to be) impressed with its coverage of education issues.   However, I was a bit disappointed with their recent article, Parents Used ‘Trigger’ Law to Leverage School Changes, because I think it makes the mistake of telling the detailed relatively positive story of one school without describing the destructive force it’s been in most other areas.

If you’d like to learn more about the damage it’s caused, check out The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools.

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Boy Oh Boy, Christmas Has Come Early For Teachers With The New StoryCorps Mobile App!


Crossposted at my other blog

Anyone who’s every listened to NPR is probably familiar with StoryCorps, and I’ve published several posts sharing their resources.

They just unveiled a new free mobile app at the TED Conference that allows anyone to record an interview with anyone and upload it their new site, StoryCorps.me. They have both iPhone and Android versions, and they’re great!

The app provides multiple suggestions for questions, depending on who you are interviewing (you can also add your own). It’s a perfect tool for having students interview their parents, grandparents or other older family members (which also makes it easy to ensure students have parental consent — by the way, their policy states users must be over 13). It’s super-simple to use. Of course, classmates could also interview others, as long as teachers had parental permission.

I’m definitely adding it to The Best Student Projects That Need Family Engagement — Contribute Your Lessons!

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“Parents in poor communities do care about their children’s schooling. Here’s how to get them involved”

Parents in poor communities do care about their children’s schooling. Here’s how to get them involved is an interesting article at The Hechinger Report.

Here’s how it begins:

Let no educator, parent or advocate ever say parents don’t care about how their children do in school. Most really do, and given the right chance, will do all they can to help.

Here in the heart of the nation’s poorest region, in a historic but partially destitute town, parents are gathering regularly to chart a course for better schools, a better community and better lives for their families.

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“How to cope when a student’s parent just doesn’t like you”

How to cope when a student’s parent just doesn’t like you is by Angela Watson, and offers advice to teachers, all of whom are likely to face this situation at some point in their career.

Here’s an excerpt:

So, don’t let these situations surprise you or throw you off your game. For the most part, it’s normal. Now, if you seem to be getting more than your fair share of complaints every school year, then it’s time to take a look at that, and get a colleague you trust to give you some honest feedback about why relationships with parents have been so tough for you and how you can improve. This is especially important if you’re getting the same complaints from multiple parents across multiple years– that’s a sign that you may need to either change something you’re doing, or change the way you’re communicating it to other people so they have a better understanding up front of what you’re doing and why.

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“For California parents, a new way to view test scores”

For parents, a new way to view test scores is a pretty interesting post over at Ed Source.

Whether you’re from California or not, I think it’s worth reading. Here’s how it begins:

The vocabulary has changed, and so have the numbers and the format. The two-page report that parents will receive later this year describing their children’s results on the new Smarter Balanced tests on the Common Core State Standards will be very different from what they’ve seen in the past.

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“High School History Teacher Named National Family Teacher of the Year”

Here’s an excerpt from a National Center For Families Learning press release. You can read more here.

A Washington, D.C., high school teacher who is an expert at engaging students’ families in their children’s education was named today as the 2015 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year. Kristen Whitaker – who teaches history and government at Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC), a Washington, D.C.-based school of 100 percent minority and 90 percent low-income students – was surprised with the award this morning during what was billed as a routine assembly at her school. She was joined by more than 400 attendees, including teachers, students, local and national education and civic leaders, representatives of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) who presented Whitaker with a $20,000 grant that she will use to fund a family summer camp program for low-income minority students and their families. She is the first high school teacher to win this annual award.

Whitaker is the catalyst behind more than 200 home visits made by CHEC faculty since the start of the current school year. Home visitation builds a meaningful relationship with a student and their family, and is a particularly successful strategy for connecting with families from cultural minority groups. She has trained teachers at CHEC and other schools to conduct successful home visits and regularly hosts parents at student portfolio presentations. She also leads CHEC’s offering of an after-school program in which students and parents work together on collaborative media projects about items in the news

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