“The Best Research Available On Parent Engagement”

There is a substantial amount of research available on parent engagement/involvement, and I thought bringing together a few of the best resources would be useful. You can also see all my parent engagement-related “The Best” lists here.

Here are my picks for The Best Research Available On Parent Engagement:

The Harvard Family Research Project has a wealth of resources.

I discovered a very good article in the “Middle School Journal” that’s about three years old. It’s titled “What Research Says: Varieties of Parent Involvement In Schooling” and was written by Vincent A. Anfara, Jr. & Steven B. Mertens. It gives a good overview of parent involvement research, but what makes this piece particularly unique is its discuss of historical patterns of family involvement in schools over the years.

Awhile back, I wrote a post about a very unusual study. The post, titled Parental Involvement Is Equal To Spending $1,000 More Per Student?, concluded:

“Parental effort is consistently associated with higher levels of achievement, and the magnitude of the effect of parental effort is substantial. We found that schools would need to increase per-pupil spending by more than $1,000 in order to achieve the same results that are gained with parental involvement.”

You can read more about it at that post. Even though it supports my position on the importance of parent engagement, I wrote that I was a little wary of quantifying it in that way.So I contacted Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post about it. She had invited readers to submit research that they had questions about, and she would have other experts review it. Well, she followed through immediately but, for some reason, I missed it then and just by chance discovered what she found. You can read everything she wrote about it here, but this is an excerpt:

The Washington Post’s expert pollster, Jon Cohen, looked at the research and gave it a nod.

He said the methodology is sound and that it is legitimate to estimate in dollar terms the value of parental help in the context of per-pupil school spending.

A belated thank you to Valerie. It seems to me that this research, and that fact that it’s been “validated” can be a very useful tool in encouraging parent involvement/engagement efforts.

Great Expectations Create the Best Young Scholars is an article from Miller-McCune that has some good information about recent parent involvement studies.

Parent Engagement Literature is the title of a useful page on the America’s Promise Alliance website. I was less-than-impressed with their other resources in their “Parent Engagement Toolkit,” but the literature list looks good, and I learned about one or two resources that I hadn’t known before…

The Flamboyan Foundation has developed a very accessible review of the most current parent engagement/involvement research. It includes some surprising info, particularly around issues related to homework. They’ve published it in two parts, and the great thing about it is that both are only two pages long!

The first is called Setting the Stage: The Parent Engagement Field.

The second is titled What Kinds Of Parent Engagement Are Most Effective?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently published What can parents do to help their children
succeed in school?

It’s relatively short, and I think it’s a “must-read.”

Here’s how it ends:

The bottom line: All parents can help their children achieve their full potential by spending some time talking and reading with their children…

The state of California has come up with a series of recommendations that are not very helpful, but includes a great summary of parent involvement/engagement research.

“Improving Parent Involvement in Secondary Schools through Communication Technology” is the title of a new journal article by Laura Bardroff Zieger from New Jersey University. Her thoughts on the possible uses of technology is interesting, but I think the real useful information is in a couple of sections where she provides good summaries and analyses of previous research on parent involvement/engagement.

Sarah Sparks at Education Week has published a very readable summary of new parent involvement research. Her post, Parents Need Differentiated School Engagement, Study Finds, explains that research has:

identified three main types of parents, each of which a school must address to have a successful family-involvement program:

• Help seekers: Roughly 19 percent of parents are most concerned with finding out their own children’s academic progress and learning how they can help their students improve.

• School helpers: This 27 percent of parents is the closest to the traditional picture of the “PTA mom and dad.”

• Potential transformers: Finally, 31 percent of parents said they were interested in and ready to be more involved in shaping how the schools operate.

It’s definitely worth reading her entire post. (also, here’s another very readable summary of the research, Ready, Willing and Able?)

Attendance Works, an organization emphasizing school attendance, has just published a “new toolkit” called Bringing Attendance Home: Engaging Parents in Preventing Chronic Absence. It’s a good piece of work, though most of the ideas in it aren’t anything new. However, one thing did stick out, and that was some recent research done with parents of chronically absent children. It’s in the report, and you can also read about it in a blog post of theirs titled What Parents Really Think About School Attendance.

The National Center For Family Literacy has announced the release of a treasure trove of research on family literacy.

Here’s their announcement:

We are pleased to announce the online publication of the 21st National Conference on Family Literacy Research Strand Conference Proceedings.This document is a collection of research papers from featured sessions presented at the NCFL conference in San Diego in March of this year.

This is the first time a published compendium of the presentations is available. This is possible in partnership with Goodling Institute at Penn State University.

Now more than ever, we must highlight and make accessible research on family literacy. These proceedings are another step in bringing family literacy, as a research-supported issue, to the forefront of policy, academic, and practice-based conversations.

In this publication, you will have the opportunity to explore many facets of the family literacy field as researchers address a range of pertinent topics. These proceedings papers were chosen because they are relevant and informative to teachers, administrators, and scholars.

We were encouraged by the success and feedback we received on the research strand presentations at the conference in March and hope that these proceedings will remind each of us of the work that is being done and continues to be done in the name of family literacy.

The compendium can be accessed on the Goodling Institute website by clicking here.

Anne Henderson, the well-known researcher on parent involvement, made a presentation to the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE) , and was gracious enough to her PowerPoint presentation.

She described her presentation as:

a short update on important new research, including a study from Great Britain that shows dramatic gains for special education students in schools where teachers and parents have collaborative conversations about learning, focused on skills that need to be strengthened. Information about this study is in the PPT…

What Roles Do Parent Involvement, Family Background, and Culture Play in Student Motivation? is from The Center On Education Policy, and, let me tell you, it’s a must-read for anyone interested in parent – and student – engagement.

Parental Involvement and Children’s School Achievement is a study from Canada that looked a parent involvement through a “lens” that I haven’s seen other research use — gender. Here’s a portion of their summary:

Fathers’ academic pressure was predictive of lower achievement, whereas mothers’ encouragement and sup-port predicted higher achievement. Both parents used more academic pressure with their sons, whereas using more encouragement and support with their daughters. The effects of parental involvement were mediated through children’s academic competence. This study demonstrates the interactive influences of parents’ educational involvement and children’s personal characteristics in predicting school achievement.

William H. Jeynes is a California professor who did some exceptional research on parent engagement in 2007 which I cited in my book, Building Parent Engagement In Schools.

He published this newer study I’m highlighting here a year ago and, for the life of me, I can’t believe I haven’t heard about it earlier. It’s titled A Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy of Different Types of Parental Involvement Programs for Urban Students and, like his earlier research, it’s not behind a paywall.

I feel this new study, as did his first one, includes some of the most valuable research on parent engagement that you’re going to find anywhere. It’s a meta-analysis of fifty-one other studies. It’s a typical academic paper but, if you’re interested in parent engagement, it’s definitely worth going through it.

Here’s an excerpt from his conclusions:

It is apparent that parental involvement initiatives that involve parents and their children reading together (i.e., engaging in “ reading”), parents checking their children’s homework, parents and teachers communicating with one another, and partnering with one another have a noteworthy relationship with academic outcomes. In addition, situation specific parental involvement efforts such as Head Start and ESL training for parents yielded effect sizes in the expected direction, albeit falling short of statistical significance.

Lesli Maxwell over at Education Week has written a good summary post, Immigrant Paradox Less Consistent in Young Children, Study Finds, about a new student related to English Language Learners. The study itself is lengthy, but has an interesting section on immigrant parents and schools. I was going to copy and paste that section because it’s pretty short, but it unfortunately is “protected” and won’t allow that action. So, just go to the study link and you’ll find the family involvement section on page 10 and 11. It’s worth a visit.

In my book on parent engagement and my more extended writing on the topic, I emphasize that one key difference between parent “involvement” and parent “engagement” is that we help parents develop their own sense of self-efficacy (confidence and competence) when we “engage.”

A new study reinforces its importance.

How Parents See Themselves May Affect Their Child’s Brain and Stress Level is an article summarizing the researchers conclusions.

Here’s an excerpt:

A mother’s perceived social status predicts her child’s brain development and stress indicators, finds a study at Boston Children’s Hospital. While previous studies going back to the 1950s have linked objective socioeconomic factors — such as parental income or education — to child health, achievement and brain function, the new study is the first to link brain function to maternal self-perception.

In the study, children whose mothers saw themselves as having a low social status were more likely to have increased cortisol levels, an indicator of stress, and less activation of their hippocampus, a structure in the brain responsible for long-term memory formation (required for learning) and reducing stress responses.

The PBS News Hour has done a segment titled Parents study up on how to improve college prospects for their children. I’ve embedded the video below, and you can also read the transcript at this link. In addition, they published a blog post about it. This “Parent College” sounds fine, though it does seem to have the same shortcomings of other parent academies that I’ve pointed out at My Best Posts On Parent “Academies” & “Universities.”

What I find most useful about the PBS report, though, was their discussing a recent study on parent engagement that was new to me. It’s called Does capital at home matter more than capital at school? Social capital effects on academic achievement.

“Five Stereotypes About Poor Families And Education” is a very useful excerpt from a new book by Paul Gorski that highlights some important research on parent engagement. It appears in Valerie Strauss’ blog at The Washington Post.

Here’s an excerpt:

There exist several common stereotypes about poor people in the U.S. that suggest that they are inattentive and, as a result, ineffective parents. Low-income parents or guardians who do not attend parent-teacher conferences can become targets of stereotyping—or worse, targets of blame—by those educators. According to Jervis (2006),

Judgments…can be self-reinforcing as ambiguous evidence is taken not only to be consistent with preexisting beliefs, but to confirm them. Logically, the latter is the case only when the evidence both fits with the belief and does not fit the competing ones. But people rarely probe the latter possibility as carefully as they should. (p. 651)

So, whereas a more well-to-do parent or guardian might be pardoned for missing structured opportunities for family involvement—she’s traveling for work—a low-income parent or guardian’s lack of this sort of involvement might be interpreted as additional evidence of disinterest in her or his child’s schooling (Pattereson, Hale, & Stessman, 2007).

I published a post titled The Importance Of Telling “Family Stories.” In it, I discussed an article that reviewed a number of studies that found value in parents telling their children about family stories.

The Washington Post wrote a more in-depth piece about one of those studies, and included a pretty useful “Do You Know” series of questions that teachers could easily give to students as an assignment. I love projects that require students asking their parents questions, and this one would be perfect.

Meta Analysis of the Studies of High Performing Family Literacy Programs comes from Toyota Family Literacy Program Research Project, and it looks pretty useful.

Here’s a description:

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) announces the release of Toyota Family Literacy Program Research Project, a meta-analysis of high-performing family literacy programs in a variety of communities/cities across the U.S. NCFL invited seven cities that have shown exemplary development and implementation of Toyota Family Literacy Programs to participate in unique research projects. The research projects represent a culmination of data collected over the course of program implementation and identified positive outcomes related to the program itself, program participants, and program staff. The participating cities are located in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Florida.

Through the research projects, NCFL sought to identify positive outcomes for parents and children, as well as for teachers and other program staff, as a result of family literacy programs. Data collection ranged from scores on standardized assessments and surveys to focus groups, personal interviews, or document review.

The Power Of Parents: Research underscores the impact of parent involvement in schools is a new accessible report from Ed Source (done in collaboration with New America Media.

It provides a well-written summary of a fair amount of parent involvement research, and is definitely one of the best overviews out there. It could have been THE best, but it was a little surprising to me that most of the research it cited (with a few exceptions) was ten years old or more. There have been a fair number of more recent studies (so many, in fact, that I have a lengthy collection to review for a chapter in an upcoming book), and their report could have been the best thing out there if they had incorporated more of them.

Nevertheless, it’s still an excellent piece of work.

Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research looks like a useful review of studies on the topic. It’s a report by the Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth for the Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau.

Parental Involvement in Selected PISA Countries and Economies comes from OECD.

Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework is the title of an article in The Atlantic by Dana Goldstein. It describes research shared in a new book, The Broken Compass:Parental Involvement With Children’s Education by two professors which, at least according to Dana Goldstein, questions most the effectiveness of what most of us would typically consider parent involvement/engagement. Based on what The Atlantic article says, this new research apparently disproves most of what you’ll find shared in this post.I’m not convinced that everybody else is wrong and these professors are right, but I’ve just ordered the book to see for myself what they have found. I also recognized that a short article does not always provide the best summary of a full-length book. I’ll write a future post about my conclusions. (for more info, read “Questioning Parental Involvement”)

The National Center For Families Learning has just published a useful “Family Engagement Brief.”

I don’t think people familiar with parent engagement research will find anything new in it, but it provides a well-written and concise review of research on the topic, along with providing some case studies.

Analysis Offers Insights Into Tapping Parent Power to Increase Achievement is the headline of an Ed Week article that appears to do a very good job of dissecting a major new research study on parent involvement whose results seem to be all over the place.

I’m not going to even try to summarize it, but I was struck that one action researchers highlighted was the positive effect of providing interpreters and translated materials in urban schools.

The Strengths of Latina Mothers in Supporting Their Children’s Education: A Cultural Perspective is a new report from the Child Trends Hispanic Institute.

Feedback is welcome.

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The Best Resources On Parent/Teacher Conferences

As regular readers know, I’ve been “curating” resources I’ve posted about over the past three years. You can see all my parent engagement-related “The Best” lists here.

Here are my choices for The Best Resources On Parent/Teacher Conferences:

Successful Student-Led School Conferences is from Middleweb.

Parent–Teacher Conference Tip Sheets (Hojas de Consejos Para Las Reuniones de Padres y Maestros) are two hand-outs — one in English and one in Spanish — that “are designed to support educators and families in conducting productive, successful parent-teacher conferences.” They’re from the Harvard Family Research Project.

“Student-led conferences benefit parents, kids” is the headline in a Yakima Herald article about a local effort to do teacher/parent/student conferences that are led by students.

Education Research Report provides a pretty interesting summary of a study done analyzing what actually happens in parent-teacher conferences. Check-out “In Parent-Teacher Conferences, It’s Often Not About the Student.”

Student-Led Conferences: A Growing Trend comes from Education World.

Acing Parent-Teacher Conferences is the headline of an article in The Wall Street Journal. There’s nothing particularly new or insightful there, but it does some decent advice. It seems to be an unusual article to find in the mainstream media.

Conferring with Parents — Part One and Conferring with Parents — Part Two both come from Choice Literacy.

Student-Led Conferences is a post by Peter DeWitt at Ed Week.

Why Parent Teacher Conferences Matter is a useful post from a middle school principal, Mr. Bernia.

Student-Led Parent Conferences: How They Work in My Primary Classroom is a nice post by teacher Kathy Cassidy.

Seven Ideas for Meaningful Parent-Teacher Conferences is an excellent post by Nancy Flanagan over at Education Week Teacher.

How to hold an effective conference with parents of ELLs is by Judie Haynes. This is how she begins:

Do you feel unsure of how to hold productive conferences with the parents of your ELLs? Sharpen your communication skills by reading these tips.

It’s Show Time is a post by Jessica Lahey where she offers some excellent advice to teachers about parent conferences.

Tips for Parent-Teacher Conferencing is a good post by Elena Aguilar over at Edutopia.

Here’s how she ends it:

Don’t underestimate the power of the positive, and lead with it. Be specific in the positive data you — tell an anecdote or show a piece of work. Make sure you truly feel this positivity — we can all sniff out empty praise. There is always, always something positive and praise-worthy about every single child. It’s your job to find it and that data with parents.

Matt Davis at Edutopia has published a nice post titled Five Resources for Parent-Teacher Conferences.

How To Do Student-Led Conferences is a good post by Pernille Ripp how to organize student-led conferences with parents and teachers.

Sligo Creek Elementary moves to group meetings for parent-teacher conferences is the headline of a newspaper article about an interesting twist on on family involvement.

Here’s an excerpt:

Parent-teacher conferences at Sligo Creek Elementary School in Silver Spring are taking on a new format.

Rather than teachers meeting with individual parents and families, the conferences are moving to a group setting starting this November

How to Get the Most Out of a Parent-Teacher Conference is a useful post over at Mind Shift.

Rethinking Parent-Teacher Conferences is the subject of The New York Times feature “Room For Debate.”

It includes responses from eight educators — my favorite being Jose Luis Vilson.

Teachers switching format of parent conferences is an article in St. Louis Today sharing how teachers in one school began moving their parent-teacher conferences into student-led ones.

Principal Connection / Tips for Better Parent-Teacher Conferences is a nice article by Thomas R. Hoerr in ASCD Educational Leadership.

Here’s an excerpt:

Too often, parent-teacher conferences are seen as one-way reports from teacher to parent, but a parent-teacher conference should be a collaboration. Teachers have information to share, but they also need to allocate time for questions and discussion. We all need to work to be good listeners (I sure do), and this can be difficult for people who are used to speaking to students from a position of authority. No matter how valuable our words, if we talk so much that parents can only listen, we’re missing a chance to work together and serve our students better.

Two recent posts by parents at other blogs both made the point that they are tired of having the focus of their conversations on measuring their children by numbers.

In What parents don’t want to hear at parent-teacher conferences, Journo Adviser says:

When my wife and I sat down at our daughter’s 5th grade parent-teacher conference last week, we hoped to get a sense that the teacher understood our daughter and her strengths and weaknesses. But we didn’t.

Instead, the teacher provided us with a litany of numbers and test results the school and the education-testing industry use to define our daughter and her education.

And, in EduSanity: The No Number Parent-Teacher Conference Challenge, Jason Endacott begins this way:

I met with my sons’ teachers yesterday for parent teacher conferences. Both of their teachers are amazing in their own unique ways, but they share a common love for young people that long ago convinced me that my boys were in good hands.

I started with Cooper’s second grade teacher and after exchanging the usual pleasantries, we sat down at the little table where my adult knees didn’t quite fit and I told her I wanted to issue a friendly challenge.

“Let’s discuss Cooper’s progress in your class without using a single number that you did not generate.”

Feedback is welcome.

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Head Of New York City Schools Pledges To Increase Parent Involvement

Walcott Pledges Measures to Increase Parents’ Involvement is the headline of a New York Times article describing that City’s Chancellor committing major changes to parent involvement programs.

I hope he follows-through on his plan. They certainly need to make some changes — read Now It’s New York City’s Turn To Show Us How NOT To Do Parent Engagement to find out why.

“Idaho schools tie merit pay to parent involvement”

Idaho schools tie merit pay to parent involvement is the headline from a newspaper article that may sound like a joke, but it is true.

Obviously, I believe that teachers should encourage parent involvement/engagement, but now they plan to tie teacher pay to the number of parents who attend parent-teacher conferences? We’re accountable not only for student achievement, but the behavior of their parents, too?

Incredible.

And, just as teachers whose evaluations are based on student test scores feel pressured to do short-term test prep instead of emphasizing developing life-long learner, this kind of parent involvement merit pay idiocy will result it emphasizing just getting “bodies in the door” and not encourage the kind of work that will result in long-term and high-quality parent engagement (the kind discussed in my book).

This certainly will be added to The Worst Parent Engagement Ideas list.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning Why Teacher Merit Pay Is A Bad Idea.

The Worst Parent Engagement Ideas

I’ve posted a lot about good parent engagement/involvement ideas, but sometimes you can learn just as much from looking at bad examples. You can see lots of good ideas at all my parent engagement-related “The Best” lists here.

Here are my choices for The Worst Parent Engagement Ideas:

Putting Parents in Charge is a condescending NY Times column on parent engagement that was written by Peg Tyre. Among other things, she talks about how parents aren’t “sophisticated” enough to truly know what a good school is because often times they will pick ones with “low academic achievement” — and that’s usually a code phrase for low test scores. Excuse me — perhaps many parents know that there is far more to getting a good education than being able to do well on a multiple choice standardized test! She calls for “substantive training programs” for parents so they can make choices about what “works best in schools.” I wonder who will make that determination? How much you wanna’ bet that not many teachers would be invited into that process? And it doesn’t look like many parents would be, either….

Family Engagement: Four Great Ways to Get Involved is a report on the Department of Education’s blog about a family engagement forum they recently hosted. If the blog post is an accurate indication of what occurred, then it’s a sad commentary about the level of the Department’s sophistication and leadership on topic — just bland obvious recommendations.

Are Parents Making The Grade?is a good post by Tara Zrinski challenging the perspective that punishing parents will enhance parent engagement in schools.

I’ve written several posts about the unhelpful idea being pushed in Florida to have teachers grade parents. Happily, it doesn’t look like its making any kind of substantial progress. Here’s a news report giving an update and a Florida newspaper’s editorial against it.

“Teachers at an East Harlem elementary school are bizarrely forbidden from communicating with parents without first getting a supervisor’s permission and from calling parents outside of normal school hours, the teachers handbook says.” Read more about the bizarre rules discouraging parent engagement in article at The New York Post.

NPR reports about it in a story titled In Hartford, Parents Don’t Always Pick Best Schools. School District officials just can’t believe that parents might use a different standard to judge their schools other than the arbitrary method of standardized test scores (maybe they need to read The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven”). Because parents don’t “understand” that test scores are the only true basis on which they should judge a school, the district believe that they need to initiate a campaign “to get more information out to parents because, the theory goes, good information makes for better school choices.” They’ve even hired an advertising consultant to help them do it. After all, what do parents like Myesha Simpson know:

“I love the school because I love the teachers, I love the way they teach, I love they way they solve their problems, I love the way they handle things,” Simpson says…She says that more information from the district might change the choices some parents make, but it won’t change hers.

No, instead of trying to learn from parents, hubris and a condescending attitude is the way to really connect with families….

The New York Times reports about the Office of Family Engagement:

In January, at a meeting of parent coordinators from a number of schools, employees of the office asked them to forge relationships with parents who they thought might speak out in support of the department’s policies, including its controversial push to close failing schools. The employees at one point used a nickname to describe the type of parents they were looking for: “Happy Harrys,” and not “Angry Sallys,” as two coordinators recalled it.

And on Tuesday, an employee at the office circulated a petition among nearly 400 coordinators citywide, asking them to round up parents’ signatures. The petition was in support of one of the mayor’s most concerted political efforts of the year: to persuade the Legislature to end the law protecting the most senior teachers in the event of layoffs.

You can read more about at Gotham Schools.

Of course, why should District staff spend their time asking parents for ideas, connecting them with other parents, and helping teachers and families work together to help students? Instead, let’s develop our political agenda, organize parent against parent and parent against teacher. That is what parent engagement is all about, isn’t it?

I’ve posted about a Florida legislator’s proposal to have teachers grade parents. I’ve also written about a Michigan prosecutors plan to jail parents who didn’t attend parent-teacher conferences. An Indiana legislator wants parents to perform community service if their child misbehaves in school, apparently targeting instances of bullying. I’ll admit that punishment can sometimes be effective for some people in some circumstances. But, as most teachers know. punishment generally just teaches the perpetrator to be more careful about being caught the next time. On top of that piece of common sense, punishing parents is just a simplistic approach to a complex problem. How about if, instead of lashing out at parents, we encourage schools, and provide them the resources they need, to put more energy into genuine parent engagement, including providing supportive family services?

Why paying parents to attend school events is wrong is a piece I wrote for The Washington Post.

In my book, I emphasize the importance of two-way conversation as opposed to the typical one-way communication schools use with parents — calls home to inform parents about problems with their children, notices given to students to carry home, “connect-ed” automated phone calls. Check-out Pearls Before Swine comic strip to get an idea about how NOT to define a conversation.

The ‘Parent Trigger’ doesn’t help schools or parents is the headline of a piece at The Washington Post.

An elementary school in Delaware was criticized for having separate meetings for parents from different ethnic groups (see Delaware schools: Race-based approach snarls plan for parental involvement). I’m sure it was a well-intentioned effort to help engage parents, but I think it sends the wrong message. Parents from different ethnic groups might have some different concerns (for example, ELL parents are probably more concerned about services for ELL students than native speaker parents), but schools can also play a key role in helping parents connect with each other about common concerns and build relationships with each other. I could easily see some natural small group divisions that might tend to divide along ethnic lines when it comes to working on specific issues, but, as in effective community organizing, it comes from a united larger group where relationships have been built and done in the context of “dealmaking” (I’ll support you and you support me).

I support the idea of high school ethnic studies classes that are designed to help students see that the greatest racial equality efforts have come when different groups have worked together, and which have regular joint projects between those different classes. I think those are a bit different, though, because in those cases students are a “captive audience” and teachers can ensure that message and those activities happen.
In parent involvement programs, it’s all voluntary, and schools need to work hard to make sure that divisions are not made worse in everything they do.

Parent Revolution, the charter school affiliated group behind the faulty and ill-conceived “parent trigger” mechanism in California the facilitates charter school takeovers of schools, has produced an awful video to publicize “trigger.” It begins with :

Our schools are failing because they are not designed to succeed. They are designed to serve the needs of special interests and bureaucrats — not children. The only way to change that is to give power to the only people who only care about children — parents.

Now, that’s what I call a positive message communicating the kind of cooperation we need to help our schools. Let’s start off with stomping on schools, then stomping on teachers and teachers unions (the “special interests”), and then let’s further increase the barrier by not acknowledging that most teachers are parents, too. And let’s not even mention the “special interest” of the charter school operator Parent Revolution works with. The video goes on to not offer even a sliver of possibility of parents working with teachers and schools to improve them. It’s amazing how much self-righteousness and hypocrisy can be combined into a four-and-a-half minute video.

One Delaware School District wants to use a portion of their Race To The Top monies to pay parents to come to certain school events. Very bad idea. New York City Mayor Bloomberg closed down an effort that including paying parents to do the same thing. New York City had started a heralded, and expensive, conditional cash transfer program heavily focused on school-related objectives. The program announced the results of an evaluation of the program in and it didn’t work, particularly for the school-related goals. It doesn’t work to bribe students, and it won’t work to bribe parents. How is the district going to handle it when some parents get the money and others do not? How about using that money to hire someone to work with parents to see if they want to develop a parent-directed Parent University. Or maybe use it to bring in the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project and use those resources to provide stipends so teachers can out to visit parents.

How a fifth-grader spent his summer vacation on worksheets is the title of a post from Gotham Schools. It describes a school giving students a book billed as a “parent involvement resource” to complete over the summer. It’s basically a collection of mind-numbingly dull worksheets. As a commenter on the blog suggests, why couldn’t the school just give the kid cash equivalent to the cost of the book so he could buy some books he wants to read?

With the on-going effort to force parents to be involved with schools or face punitive action, it’s interesting to read about an attempt two years ago in Washington, D.C. to require TANF (welfare) recipients to attend PTA and parent-teacher meetings. Susie Cambria writes:

Welfare and education advocates alike educated the CM [Council Member] about the real reasons for poor parent engagement (including the failure of schools to make attempts to engage parents) and convinced him there was a better way to achieve the policy and practice goal.

Here’s another bad idea to promote parent engagement in schools — a Michigan prosecutor wants to make it illegal for a parent to miss a scheduled parent-teacher conference. As I wrote in my post about an equally ill-conceived plan to make parent involvement mandatory in a San Jose school District (see “School to Parents: Volunteer or Else!”):

Why not make something mandatory… instead of putting energy into building trusting and reciprocal relationships with parents; learning their concerns, visions for themselves, and visions for their children; helping families find the energy and capacity within themselves to want to act; and then working together to do something?

In a “Hall of Fame” worthy example of how NOT to encourage parent involvement/engagement, the Charlotte Observer reports that a school secretary was fired for continuing to translate for parents who couldn’t speak English after a new principal banned her from doing so. The school in question is 42% Latino, and its motto is “Academy of Cultural and Academic Diversity.” The secretary, Ana Ligia Mateo, complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ruled in June that there is “reasonable cause” to believe her civil rights were violated. She is now suing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

The South Carolina Lt. Governor made some ridiculous comments about denying low-income parents government aid if they don’t attend PTA meetings. He went on to compare poor people to “stray animals” that will breed if they are fed. Here’s a thoughtful response to those comments that appeared in a South Carolina newspaper yesterday. It’s titled Bauer’s comments reflect our own misconceptions.

Mary Ann Zehr, who previously wrote for Education Week had a post titled A 5th Grader Is a Translator at School. Is That a Good Thing? It describes an Oklahoma newspaper article about how wonderful it is that a local school is using a Spanish-speaking fifth-grader to translate to parents. Mary Ann asked for reactions.Here’s the comment I left:

Mary Ann,

is terrible! Not only is the school using a student to get out of putting the appropriate resources into having the ability to communicate with parents, it’s putting both the child and the parents in an embarrassing and potentially damaging situation. It forces children to act much older than they actually are. The New York Times ran a story on issue:

URBAN TACTICS; Translating for Parents Means Growing Up Fast

Larry

I could understand it if there were just one or two parents who spoke a particular language (for example, one year we had a student and family who only spoke Swahili). But SPANISH? In a state that has over eleven percent of its students being Latino?

“Idaho schools tie merit pay to parent involvement” is a post I wrote about an incredibly idiotic plan. You can read more about it here.

Parent Involvement is Smart. Don’t Turn it Into Something Stupid is a post by NEA leader Lily Eskelsen. It’s about Idaho’s plan to tie teacher pay to the number of parents who show up to school meetings.

In yet another bizarre and punitive effort to force increased parent involvement, a Washington, D.C. City Council Chairman has announced plans to introduce legislation that would cut-off TANF benefits to parents who didn’t attend parent/teacher conferences and PTA meetings.

What An Awful & Misleading Video About Our Schools

“Twice a year, they’re going to publish in the local newspaper the list of parents or guardian who for whatever reason did not participate in the parent conference,” said Long.

That quote comes from an article about how one Louisiana school district is using a state law that allows them to act against parents who don’t participate in their child’s school. Yup, that’s a great idea. We all know how well shame works with our students, so let’s apply it to their parents. It will certainly build a great school community — NOT!

Tennessee state senator: Reduce welfare payments to families if children don’t do well in school is the headline in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. It begins:

A Tennessee state senator has come up with what I believe is a first: Republican State Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville proposes to cut welfare benefits to parents whose children don’t make “satisfactory academic progress” in school.

Campfield believes that his bill would compel parents to work harder to ensure their kids excel in school. As you might imagine, his Senate Bill 1312 is triggering a lot of comment.

Here’s a Daily Show segment on his bill:

It appears that the School District in Austin, Texas laid-off all their parent engagement staff based in individual schools and then created a Central Office based department.

How did that work out for them?

Apparently, not very well.

Read all about it at A Failure To Communicate.

Even though Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had shown a brief glimmer of understanding about parent engagement at one point last year, it appears he has reverted to previous cluelessness.

In a rant blaming parents
for student learning difficulties, he states his newest idea:

Emanuel wants to tie after-school program enrollment to parents picking up report cards.

“You know, you vote, you get a sticker. We’ll give you a sticker when you pick up your kids’ report card, and then you can enroll them in after school [programs],” he said.

Yes, there are parents who have lots of issues. But, you know, not letting their kids enter an after-school program if they don’t pick up their report card is probably not going to help….

The Mayor is doing something that’s worse than the equivalent of calling into talk radio: Calling in might make you feel good and feel like you’re doing something, but it’s not making a bit of difference. But in the mayor’s case, what he’s wants to do is likely to make things even worse….

Come On, Now – Schools Giving “Stamps” For Each Parent Involvement Activity?

Diane Ravitch features a Tennessee parent in blog post reporting that her school parents group was told that instead of raising $20,000 for iPads, they had to raise that money to buy computers so students could use them to take the new Common Core standardized tests. Certainly, there might be pedagogical reasons why it might make sense to purchase computers instead of iPads — those might very well be worth discussing. However, asking parents to specifically raise money to support standardized testing has got to be added to list.

Here’s the latest addition to list, courtesy of NPR:

The Philadelphia school system was forced to cut millions of dollars from its budget, lay off hundreds of employees and shutter nearly two dozen schools to help close a billion dollar shortfall. Some principals are asking parents to “contribute” as much as $600 per student to help pay for basic supplies and the school superintendent threatened to delay the start of classes month until the city kicked in $50 million to cover the minimum level of staffing.

Utah Republican State Senator Aaron Osmond has introduced a bill that would make a new law:

students who fail to achieve academic proficiency would be required to participate in remediation, the cost of which would be charged in full or in part to their parents.

Here’s the response from a member of the State School Board:

“I think it’s better if we can find ways to engage parents in schools in positive ways and encourage these parent-teacher partnerships and not have to legislate what parents will do and what they will pay for if they don’t do it,” she said. “It can just come across, I think, as punitive or heavy-handed if you’re not careful.”

/15/916c9406-5dc5-11e3-be07-006c776266ed_story.html?wprss=rss_Copy%20of%20local-alexandria-social&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter”>Prince George’s schools charge PTAs that use buildings is an article in The Washington Post.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

The John Hanson Montessori Parent Teacher Student Association has offered after-school dance and chess lessons for years, believing that the enrichment programs help engage Prince George’s County students. The group charges a small fee to pay the course instructors, and until now had been using space at the school for free.

Or so the PTSA thought. Nicole Nelson, the PTSA’s vice president, said she recently received a bill from the school district asking for $2,502.70 in rental fees. Nelson believed it had to be a mistake, as the PTSA has barely $1,500 in its treasury, money it plans to use to honor teachers and to celebrate graduates….

Lawrence said he understands charging a PTA to use a facility on a weekend, when no custodial staff is on duty. But he does not think it makes sense to bill a volunteer parent group for after-school activities while custodial staff is still on duty.

A couple in the United Kingdom was given a substantial fine for taking their two children out of school for a one week vacation.

If you read the BBC article, it certainly doesn’t sound like justice was served.

Listen, I’m a teacher. It doesn’t make my job easier when parents take their kids to Mexico for a few weeks during the holidays, or when students miss school for a trip. But, come on, we live in the real world, and I understand that not everyone has the privilege of having vacation when I do. I also recognize that there are educational benefits for the kids in these trips.

As the father in the article says:

“The people who make these laws and policies don’t live in the real world.”

The Cobb County School Board is considering a member’s suggestion that if a parent doesn’t attend a teacher conference, then the parent could be banned from attending their child’s graduation.

Here’s a news report on the proposal:

 

You may have already heard about what happened in Salt Lake City recently — the parents of a number of students owed money on their children’s lunch account and, because of that, after those students were served lunch it was taken away and thrown in the garbage.

You can read about it in these articles:

Utah School Draws Ire For Taking Kids’ Lunches; Debt Cited is from NPR.

Utah school district apologizes for seizing kids’ lunches for unpaid bills is from NBC.

If parents don’t qualify for the free or reduced lunch program, of course schools should hold them responsible for paying. But, come on, this move does not make for a parent (or student) friendly environment. There are far more relational ways to work with parents on this issue.

It’s possible that the principal at this school might not have had many engagement parents. Now, there definitely will be, and I think they’ll be after his scalp (figuratively, of course).

I think this next school needs to rethink how they relate to parents:

Parents reprimanded for taking children out of school for family funeral is the headline of an article in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.

Here’s how it begins:

Two parents have received a written warning after their children missed school to attend their grandfather’s funeral.

Andrew and Danielle Overend-Hogg were told that their children, aged nine, five and three, had taken an unauthorised absence.

The letter also threatened that any repeat of the absence could lead to Teagan,nine, Isla, five and Elsie-Mae, three could lose their places at Sheffield’s Handsworth Ballifield Primary School.

The Director of Ofsted (which I think is close to the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Education in the United States — correct me if I’m wrong) in Britain wants to give head teachers (principals) the right to fine “bad parents.”

What is a bad parent, you might ask:

Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said in an interview with the Times that heads needed to demand more from parents, saying: “If parents didn’t come into school, didn’t come to parents’ evening, didn’t read with their children, didn’t ensure they did their homework, I would tell them they were bad parents.

“I think headteachers should have the power to fine them. It’s sending the message that you are responsible for your children no matter how poor you are.”

You can read more about it at The Guardian , The Telegraph, and at The BBC.

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New York Special Investigator Finds Unethical Use Of School Parent Coordinators

In March, I wrote about the controversy in New York when Mayor Bloomberg’s staff pushed 400 school parent coordinators to get parents to sign a petition demanding the end to teacher seniority rules.

Today, The New York Times reports that the School Board’s Special Investigator found the effort “was partisan, inappropriate and a violation of the state’s Constitution.”

The Best Examples Of Parent Engagement Through Community Organizing

I was a community organizer for nineteen years prior to becoming a high school teacher, so obviously have a strong interest in how organizing can related to schools.

You can also see all my parent engagement-related “The Best” lists here.

Here are my choices for The Best Examples Of Parent Engagement Through Community Organizing:

What Can Community Organizing Teach Us about Parent Engagement? Five Simple Ways to Rethink the Bake Sale is a long title for a useful short article from the Annenberg Institute For School Reform.

Check-out How a neighborhood organization is bringing parents and schools together so the whole community benefits.

Schools can learn from program that puts parents in classrooms is the headline of a Chicago Tribute article on a unique parent engagement program sponsored by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, and on a new book about it.

Community Organizing for Stronger Schools:Strategies and Successes by Kavitha Mediratta, Seema Shah, and Sara McAlister has just been published. One of the chapters in my parent engagement book focuses on community organizing in Texas and quotes from the research the authors had done previously. You can read the introduction to the book at the link, too.

“The California Educator,” published by the California Teachers Association, has an article about The Algebra Project and how it’s being used to engage parents in Sacramento.The Algebra Project was begun nationally by civil rights pioneer Robert Moses.The article highlights how it was begun in partnership with a local community organizing group, the Sacramento Valley Organizing Community (SVOC). I was SVOC’s first Lead Organizer eighteen years ago.

Last week I posted about a new research article titled “Beyond the Bake Sale: A Community-Based Relational Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools.” You can read more about it on that post, but, at the time, the article was only available if you paid for it. Now, however, you can read it for free.

Community organizing is one of the four parent engagement strategies we outline in our book. A recent study by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform highlights its benefits for students, families,and schools. You can read more about the study here. You can also view a presentation about it here.

One of the chapters in our book highlights the work of the Industrial Areas Foundation in developing Alliance Schools in Texas. The IAF, as far as I can tell, were the first to begin talking about the difference between parent involvement and engagement almost twenty years ago.

If you’re interested in learning more about them, you can access a draft version of a paper describing theAlliance Schools and its philosophy here.

The Industrial Areas Foundation began making the distinction between parent “involvement” and parent “engagement” during its community organizing efforts in schools during the 1990′s, and Professor Dennis Shirley wrote about it in his 1997 book Community Organizing For Urban School Reform. Even though a chapter in our book focuses on the IAF’s work (I was an IAF organizer for the majority of my nineteen year organizing career), I’d encourage people to read Professor Shirley’s book. After he published that book, he wrote another in-depth study on the work of just one IAF organization in Texas — Valley Interfaith And School Reform: Organizing for Power in South Texas . If you go to that link, you can see the table of contents and read the introduction. I’d encourage you to do so.

Bruno Manno’s “Straw Mom” Argument is the rather odd headline of a good article on parent engagement and community organizing. It’s from the Annenberg Institute on School Reform.

“A Match On Dry Grass” is the title of a book and conference on community organizing and schools.You can see read descriptions of the different sites and methods discussed in the book here, as well as learning more about the conference.

Getting Started in Education Organizing: Resources and Strategies is a report published by Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Why I Work With Parents, Not in the Classroom, to Reform Our Schools provides an interesting take on community organizing, parents and schools (unfortunately, there’s no commentary in it on how to work as allies with teachers).

Here’s an excerpt:

Unlike the Bloomberg administration, organizers work from the belief that the people who are directly affected by a problem are the best qualified to identify its solution. Every day, I work with smart, savvy parents who have taught me more about the root causes of inequality in New York City public school system than I could have ever learned in the classroom. Working alongside parents has also helped me develop an understanding of “choice” that is much more complex than reformers (and their opponents) would have you believe.

Feedback is welcome.

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The Best Posts & Articles For Learning About Newark’s $100 Million From Facebook

Last year, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million contribution to Newark schools, and made a public commitment to parent and community engagement. I’ve written a lot since that time about how that second part hasn’t worked out real well.

It’s great that they recognized the importance of speaking to parents. However but just sending out canvassers who have no relationship with the people they’re visiting and knocking on doors without making an appointment is the worst form of what is often called “slash and burn” community organizing. It can provide the illusion of two-way “conversation” but, in fact, just be a form of one-way “communication.” It can allow those who are organizing it to say they are just doing what the people want done, without really involving anyone other than the parents who agree with them. It is not the way any effective organizer would go about building long-term engagement.

However, it is an excellent way to provide the illusion of community buy-in if you already have a set plan you are going to implement, which is appears to be exactly the case.

Here are my choices for The Best Posts & Articles For Learning About Newark’s $100 Million From Facebook:

Yesterday, the Non-Profit Quarterly published Newark Parents Pushed Out of Decision Making on Zuckerberg Donation.

“Mayor Booker’s reform plan was presented fully formed, without involving parents” is a parent quote from NPR’s story, Fight Ensues Over Facebook Money for N.J. Schools.

USA Today published Newark school woes transcend money.

One of the consequences of poorly done efforts like Newark’s and the parent trigger strategy is that it begins to pit parent against parent.Check out Meeting about Newark superintendent search turns into shouting match over charter schools.

Since the donation announcement, I shared my skepticism about the extremely expensive (and, in my opinion, useless) effort undertaken in Newark to go door-to-door to ask residents what they think should be done about the schools. It was paid for by part of the $100 million donation by Facebook’s founder. New Jersey newspapers reported that — surprise, surprise — the school district already had a plan in place they were, and are, going to implement. And it doesn’t look pretty. Read: Broken promises: Newark school plan kept many in the dark.

A New Jersey newspaper subsequently reported more on the plan, which includes a massive expansion of charter schools. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“In an ideal world, you would want results of the community engagement process to drive the reform proposal, not the other way around,” said Paul Tractenberg, a law professor at Rutgers-Newark who is helping to conduct the community survey, due out in late March. “This report has formed a cloud over how all of this will play out.”

Dana Goldstein offers some good perspectives on Newark’s community outreach effort in her post, $1 Million Survey on Newark Public School Reform Proves Inconclusive.

Here’s how a Newark newspaper described the outreach project, “The effort has produced a mountain of survey answers so vague and simplistic that they are of little or no use” which is okay because it was just “meant to generate excitement in the city.”

PENewark outreach to reform Newark schools is a waste of time, money, critics say is another local newspaper article describing the outreach process used. Shockingly to me, Frederick Hess (with whom I don’t ordinarily agree), articulate my perspective exactly:

“Once he’s banged on every door and heard a litany of complaints, I’m not sure how that will position him to better transform the Newark schools,” Hess said of Booker. “If they want the community and parents engaged in an improvement process, asking people to fill out a questionnaire on their doorsteps isn’t the way to do it. This feels more like the census than community organizing.”

There’s a big new article in The New Yorker about the donation but, if you don’t have time to read it, Salon has a very useful summary.

How Zuckerberg’s $100 Million for Newark Schools Actually Turned Out appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly.

Feedback is welcome.

You can see all my parent engagement-related “The Best” lists here.

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The Best Sources Of Parent Engagement Advice For Teachers

I’ve posted many resources providing parent engagement for teachers, and thought I’d bring them all together in a “The Best….” list. The resources listed here provide practical advice to teachers. You can see all my parent engagement-related “The Best” lists here.

Here are my picks for The Best Sources Of Parent Engagement Advice For Teachers:

You can read my article in Teacher Magazine, What ‘Star Wars’ Can Teach Educators About Parent Engagement, without having to register first at this link.

Maybe This Is Why Attacking Teachers Is So Popular…And Why It’s So Important To Speak Positively About Our Students is the title of a post I’ve written at my other blog.

Parent Teacher Conference Dos and Don’ts offers some very helpful advice to teachers. It’s from New York State United Teachers.

Parent Communication: TO vs WITH is another excellent post about parent engagement from Chris Wejr.

How to Reach Out to Parents of ELLs is an article from Colorin Colorado that offers some useful advice.

Communicating With Parents is a nice column by teacher by teacher Gail Tillery.

“Meet The Parents” is a nice blog post by teacher Jason Renshaw offering some practical advice for teachers trying to connect to parents.

Making a Strong Home-School Connection by Being Culturally Responsive is from ASCD, and lists twelve helpful hints for educators.

Building Positive Relationships with Parents in School-Age Programs is a short article that offers some good basic advice.

I’m a big advocate of teachers and administrators call parents when kids are doing well — not just when there’s a problem. You can read a post I’ve written titled “Mr. Ferlazzo, I Need My Post-It, Too” to give you one example of the enormous impact a call like that can have on a family. Another great example can be found in Chris Wejr’s post over at Connected Principals. It’s titled Power of Positivity: The Friday 5. He tells about an effort that he and his vice principal make to call five parents each Friday with positive news. He includes a wonderful “transcript” of one.

How Parent-Friendly is Your Campus? is a useful post in Ed Week by Stephanie Sandifer. In the broader scheme of genuine parent engagement, I think there are far more important things that schools should be putting their energy into — like home visits and helping parents respond to neighborhood problems that affect both them and the school. However, many of the suggestions made in the post are pretty easy to do and can help parents feel welcome.

Parent–Teacher Conference Tip Sheets (Hojas de Consejos Para Las Reuniones de Padres y Maestros) are two hand-outs — one in English and one in Spanish — that “are designed to support educators and families in conducting productive, successful parent-teacher conferences.” They’re from the Harvard Family Research Project.

Teaching Secrets: The Parent Meet and Greet is the title of a useful article for teachers as Back-To-School Night approaches. It appeared in Teacher Magazine, and is written by one of my very talented colleagues in the Teacher Leaders Network, Marsha Ratzel.

Kenneth J. Bernstein has written a great column in Education Week titled “Teaching Secrets: Phoning Home.” At the beginning of each year, he calls the parents of all of his students.

The Alliance For A Better Community, a Los Angeles community organization, has published Engaging Parents in Pico-Union: A Manual for Educators by Educators. It’s a downloadable PDF of ideas that teachers in that L.A. neighborhood offered on how they engage/involve parents.

Edutopia has published a free downloadable “Home-to-School Connections Guide.”

Parents Shouldn’t Have to Talk Educationalese is a useful post from Peter DeWitt at Education Week.

“We need to make sure we use words that will build relationships not walls” is the last line of a post titled Hey, That’s My Kid You’re Talking About! It provides some good advice on how teachers speak with parents.

Building Trust With Parents is another excellent post by Chris Wejr.

Ideas to Increase Parent Communication in Schools is a very useful blog post by Eric Sheninger.

Parent Meetings: Bypassing the Dance of Blame is an excellent article by my Teacher Leaders Network colleague Dave Orphal.

Class Dismissed! Parent Communication Tips for ….. Younger Teachers is a very good article by Roxanna Elden, one of the best writers around.

I was the guest at #PTchat on Twitter to discuss the topic “Partnering With ESL/ELL Families.” The chat has been archived at Storify here, and contains a fair amount of useful information.

Words Of Wisdom That Teachers & Administrators Might Want To Keep In Mind

Engaging English Language Learner Families

Another Reason Why We Need To Be Careful How We Speak To Parents About Their Children
is a lengthy post I wrote about some recent research. If you’ve every called home about a student who was having a problem in class, I’d encourage you to read it.

“Four Ways to Increase Parental Efficacy” is from The Family Linkages Project.

It’s short, to the point, and helpful. It’s suggestions include:

Promote successful personal experiences for family members.

Help family members learn from others and each other.

Always offer encouragement,

Focus on emotional well-being and stress reduction.

The Power of the Positive Phone Call Home is a new blog post at Edutopia by one of my favorite bloggers, Elena Aguilar.

4 Ways We Can Connect With Parents is a very, very useful post from George Couros. It’s a definite “must read.”

Heidi Hass Gable has written a useful blog post containing advice to teachers about parent engagement. Here are two of her recommendations:

4) Listen to parents and listen to what they DON’T say. They may not articulate their concerns very well because fears and insecurities cloud their words/thinking. But whenever a parent is something with you, look for the underlying concern or question. Look for the unspoken. Read between the lines. But don’t assume – revert to asking questions again, if needed!

5) Be curious and open to new ways of thinking. Parents have a different experience and different point of view from the other teachers you spend most of your time with. They will see things differently, and that may be beneficial! Even when you think they “don’t understand” so would have nothing to add…

The Dicey Parent-Teacher Duet is another nice article in The New York Times by Sara Mosle.

Here’s how it begins:

The teacher-parent relationship is a lot like an arranged marriage. Neither side gets a lot of say in the match. Both parties, however, great responsibility for a child, which can lead to a deeply rewarding partnership or the kind of conflict found in some joint-custody arrangements.

Rethinking Difficult Parents is a nice post from Edutopia about a challenge that most teachers have to face during their careers. It offers some helpful advice.

Building Parent-Teacher Partnerships is a resource page from the American Federation of Teachers, and has some helpful info.

How To Connect With Families is a useful article in the summer issue of ASCD Educational Leadership. It’s by well-known parent engagement research Anne Henderson and Melissa Whipple. It includes some excellent suggestions.

Twenty Tips for Developing Positive Relationships with Parents is an older Edutopia blog post from Elena Aguilar which I just discovered. It’s a good one.

When a new school year starts, sending a letter home is a typical teacher activity.

Here are a few resources offering ideas for what to put in letters educators can send home to parents to start the year:

Joe Mazza has a Google Doc full of ideas.

Dear Parents… The Message I Send Home Prior To the First Day is from Matt Gomez.

9 Suggestions for the Welcome Back to School letter from the Principal is from Jonathan Martin.

My Beginning of the Year Parent Questionnaire is from Pernille Ripp.

What Message Are We Sending In Our First Contact With Parents? is a great post by Principal Chris Wejr.

Here’s an excerpt:

Although ongoing communication WITH parents/families helps the school, the students, and the families… it is also important that at this time of year, we work hard to lay the foundation and make that first communication with families a positive one. It is also a great opportunity to our story of who we are as teachers and to find out who our students are as children. Let’s our stories and listen to the stories of our families. Let’s work together as parents and educators to make that first meeting or phone call a positive, effective one.

Q & A Collections: Parent Engagement In Schools is my newest post over at Education Week Teacher.

It brings all my posts on…parent engagement together in one place.

5 Tips for Engaging Parent Volunteers in the Classroom is a useful post from Edutopia.

The Dos and Don’ts of Back-to-School Night is a good post with wise advice for teachers from Abner Oakes.

Here are just two of his points:

1. Don’t ask us to fill out a handout that asks questions such as, “Is there anything that you’d like to with me about your child?” Are we supposed to be listening to the teacher during the short time that we’re in the classroom or filling out this sheet? If a teacher really wants this info, send it home with us, so that we can do a thoughtful job.

2. As one parent said to me about these kinds of evenings, “I want to leave excited about the learning that’s happening, not about the mechanics.” And so don’t spend time talking about grading policy. That’s no doubt somewhere on the school’s or teacher’s website. When teachers spend time on this topic and not on an excited-about-learning topic, a clear message is sent to us: Grades are more important than the teaching and learning.

12 Conversation Starters on What Parents Want You (Teachers) to Know is a useful post by Joe Mazza at Edutopia. It’s sort of a companion to the USA article where several of us what teachers wanted parents to know.

Refining the Weekly Class Newsletter is an article at Choice Literacy about how one teacher and class used a…newsletter as a parent involvement tool.

Good Teachers Embrace Their Students’ Cultural Background is an article from The Atlantic.

Here’s an excerpt:

Culturally responsive teaching doesn’t mean lowering standards, Irvine says. Take dialect, for example. Teachers need to help students speak and write in Standard English, but they’ll be more successful in that effort if they begin by respecting the way a student and his family speak at home.

Creating a link between home and school can enrich all kinds of lessons. Teachers can ask their students to interview their communities and condense the information into a letter to the mayor. Parents can be invited into the classroom to talk about their work. Students can be asked to think critically about articles and texts, exploring them for signs of cultural bias.

How to Guide Parents in Homework Help is an article at ASCD Educational Leadership by Cathy Vatterott, who knows more about homework research than just about anyone.

It offers some excellent and practical advice.

Parents and Relationships is the title of a very good post by Steve Vessey, Superintendent of the Beaver Dam Unified School District.

8 Tips for Reaching Out to Parents is a very good list of suggestions by educator David Cutler that has been published by Edutopia.

Here is one of his suggestions:

6. Call Home to Report Good News

Parents rarely receive a positive call home. Twice a semester, I make a point to call and tell them how impressed I am with something their student did or said. It surprises me when parents nervously answer the phone, as if a student did something wrong. They are all the more relieved and proud when I have just good news to report. These calls let parents know that I care as much about recognizing success and improvement as I do about spotting struggle and weakness. These calls also reassure parents that I’m not out to make life more difficult for their child, that I’m fair in my assessments and feedback, and that I genuinely want to see students succeed.

19 Proven Tips for Getting Parents Involved at School is a useful slideshow created by Edutopia.

Feedback is welcome.

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The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits

I’m a big proponent of teachers making home visits, and I wrote a chapter about it in my book on parent engagement. I work closely with the Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project, which happens to be based in Sacramento.

I thought it might be useful if I brought together some of the related resources I’ve posted about over the past year.

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits:

Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project is the title of an interview I did with Carrie Rose, the director of the Project.

Home Visits and Hope for the Future is a short article Carrie and I co-authored for ASCD.

Teacher Home Visits Are Important, But The Post’s Jay Mathews Misses The Point is a post I wrote.

I wrote about home visits for Teacher Magazine (free registration is required to access the entire article).

Starting At Home is a blog post written by Claus von Zastrow at the Public School Insights blog. It’s a commentary on my article in Teacher Magazine about teachers making home visits.

“Teachers increasingly use home visits to connect with students’ families” is a lengthy article that appeared in The Washington Post.

Before the First School Bell, Teachers in Bronx Make House Calls is a lengthy New York Times article — with an accompanying slideshow — about a school making summer home visits.

“Teachers make summer house calls” is the headline of an article in an Omaha newspaper.

Teachers, families making connections at kids’ homes is the headline of an article in the Denver Post. It tells about a home visiting program being done by parents with assistance from the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project.

The movie “Dangerous Minds” is engaging, but it’s one in a long line of nauseatingly paternalistic hero teacher films out there. However, it does have a great two minute clip of a teacher home visit that shows the importance of telling parents positive news about their children. It’s embedded below (unfortunately, it has been removed from YouTube by Disney):

There’s No Place Like Home…Visits is the title of an article in the National Education Association’s “NEA ” publication.

St. Paul teachers visit students’ homes in search of common ground is the headline of a good article in a Twin Cities newspaper.

More Districts Sending Teachers Into Students’ Homes is the title of a lengthy article in Education Week giving a national overview of parent teacher home visits.

Jason Renshaw found video, and I think it does a good job explaining the benefits that Hobbit teachers (and human ones) can gain from making home visits:

The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project was recently invited to Flint, Michigan to talk about their work. The local television station produced short news clip:

 

Making New Promises in Indian Country is an article from The Atlantic about teachers making home visits on a reservation.

Home Visits Yield Hope and Cooperation is from the NEA Priority Schools Campaign, and is a very good story on teachers making home visits with help from the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project.

Teachers To Visit Homes Of 7,000 Students — In One Day!

Teacher’s Union Convention Considers Support For Making Home Visits

Here’s a video Mai Xi Lee, one of our school’s Vice-Principals, made about our school’s home visiting project and Parent University. For what it’s worth, that’s me speaking after the text introduction….

D.C. Public Schools Reinvent The Home Visit is an article — with audio — from a radio station on a school’s program to make home visits to families.Here is how it begins:

In the past, interaction with parents was almost always one-way: teachers telling parents what they should know. Often the meeting was about bake sales, report cards or discipline.

Kristin Ehrgood is the founder of the Flamboyan Foundation, which is working with teachers in 20 D.C. schools. She says she envisioned a two-way exchange where teachers learn from parents. “What are your hopes and dreams for your child? What do I need to do so I can be a great teacher for your child? That in and of itself changes the dynamic radically.”

A few years ago, The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project made a great video explaining what it does. I recently discovered that they had put it on the web, and have embedded it below. For what it’s worth, two-thirds of the way through I’m show teaching one of my classes while our vice-principal tells about the home visits I made:

St. Paul teachers build parent engagement, trust through home visits is a great local newspaper article about teachers making home visits to parents.

Here’s an excerpt:

Since the project’s beginning with just eight trained teachers, to now with more than 250, the St. Paul Federation of Teachers has been instrumental in ensuring the program’s run. Though in addition to their assistance, trainers still go over guidelines and “nonnegotiables” with interested staff. Teacher-home visits are voluntary. If a teacher does decide to participate in the program, they must go with another teacher to both ensure safety and to be a second point of contact for families. Teachers are also required to attend training and after the visit, their experience. And again, they must be compensated for work done outside of the classroom.

year Faber says he’s encouraged teachers to recognize the importance of diversity. He says parents and the neighborhood take note when visits seem targeted at one type of family, or student.

“Then it starts to become not about building relationships, rather the community gets the notion that is about fixing them,” Faber said.

Making College Readiness Home Visits

Home visits help Sacramento families see college path is an extensive article in the Sacramento Bee that features the staff and families at our school.

District officials turn to home visits to boost schools is a lengthy article in The Washington Post about teachers making home visits.

Here’s an excerpt:

Hundreds of D.C. teachers will spend weekends and evenings fall visiting students and their parents at home, hoping to lift academic achievement by creating stronger partnerships between families and the schools. The push to visit students on their own turf is a shift for the District’s school system, which often has been accused of alienating the families it serves. Now, the aim is to help teachers and parents become allies instead of adversaries in the day-to-day work of educating the city’s children.

One of the few good things that have come out of year’s NBC Education Nation is a short segment on the work of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project.

Here’s the video (you can find the transcript here):

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Home Visits for Relationships, Relevance, and Results is a thoughtful article in ASCD Educational Leadership. It’s by Julia Zigarelli , Rebecca Nilsen , Trise Moore , and Margery Ginsberg.

Teachers find home visits help in the classroom is a good article from the Associated Press.

Here’s an excerpt:

“We’ve figured out a way for people to sit down outside the regular school and have the most important conversation that needs to happen,” said Carrie Rose, executive director of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project in the California capital.

The K-12 program began in 1999 as a faith-based community effort but quickly found support not only in the Sacramento school district but also with local teachers unions. The National Education Association has also endorsed teacher home visits, citing a “critical mass of research evidence” connecting high student achievement with involved parents.

No longer do parents only hear from teachers when there’s a problem, or during brief school conferences that leave little time to go beyond the surface.

Students won’t learn? Go visit their parents. is the terrible headline of a decent article in The Washington Post about teachers visiting families.

As the article points out, the purpose of the visits is to build positive relationships with families, not to punish students.

Teachers make house calls to improve performance is a nice article in Cabinet Report that give an overview of making home visits (plus, it describes what’s happening at our school!).

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“Parents Are Our Allies”

‘Education is about preparing young people to make the world better than it is’ is by Pedro Noguera. Here’s what he wrote about parent engagement:

Parents are our allies

But that means that educators need to see themselves as part of the community as well. The educators have to have a vision for how knowledge can be used to address some of those problems. And that means the educators need to know that community.

They need to see their parents as allies; not as their clients, or as a bother. I would say that that’s hard for a lot of the educators because they don’t know those communities, they don’t know how to communicate with those parents. They’re-they’re actually more afraid of the parents than they are of the kids, cause the parents are bigger. And many of the parents come to school with attitude with suspicion, with hostility, because their experiences in school were not good.

And so how do we build trusting relationships with parents? It has to be premised on the understanding that we want the same thing. That we all want to see the kids do well. Good principals– like Christina Fuentes [at Brooklyn's PS 24] –have been showing us this for years: that your parents can be your best allies. The parents can be a resource for you, if you know how to build a partnership with them that’s premised on respect. That’s premised on a recognition that both parties have a role to play. The parents need to be able to reinforce at home what’s important in school.

But the school needs to treat those children with dignity, and respect, as if they were their own children. And when parents believe that, when the parents know that, you have an ally. When it works well, when you get in trouble in school, you go home, you know what happens? You get in more trouble. That’s the old way, but it’s the right way. In fact that’s the only way.

When school and home are at odds, the kids suffer. The kids suffer because the adults are fighting, there’s no reinforcement, there’s no “social closure,” as James Coleman calls it. Social closure is when we see kids, thriving and developing.