Report From Parent Teacher Home Visit Conference

Regular readers know that I’m an enthusiastic supporter of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project. Our school has been a big supporter, I’ve written about them in my book and in other articles, I’ve helped with some of their trainings and, of course, I’ve made plenty of home visits.

I’ve also posted The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits.

The Project recently held a national conference in Reno, Nevada, and Elaine Smith, a parent from our district — the Sacramento City Unified School District — agreed to write a guest post about it. Here is her report:

Personal stories from teachers and parents who turned their schools around deeply moved educators at a recent conference in Reno. The national gathering focused upon the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project (PTHVP), a program that is catching on as studies show its effectiveness in creating connection between schools and their communities. Principals and school board members from eleven states shared both data and anecdotes crediting home visits with improved attendance, discipline and academic achievement, including higher test scores.

“The discoveries that parents and families make when they connect on a home visit change their lives,” says Carrie Rose, Executive Director of the non-profit sponsor of the conference, the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project. “I know that sounds dramatic, but the research, and these stories, show how strongly it affects people.”

“My home visits did more than help me deal with behavior issues in the classroom more effectively,” says Denver special education teacher Janel Possiel, “What I was learning was the kind of growth you can’t get in a million meditation retreats. My assumptions about the parents decreased, and as they went down, my love and understanding just kept going up.”

“Home visits make me a better teacher. And because they break down barriers, make us a stronger community,” says Possiel, who was trained in the Parent/Teacher Home Visit model at a Denver workshop four years ago.

The PTHVP training helps teachers and families connect even when there may be linguistic and cultural differences. While, ultimately, academic issues are addressed, the discussion also covers the adults’ mutual hopes and dreams for the child, creating a common goal. The program emphasizes that visits are voluntary for both families and teachers, and that the school avoid stigmatizing “problem” students by visiting as many families as possible.

How-to sessions at the conference were seasoned with personal testimonies, which quickly became emotional even for classroom and administrative veterans. Tua Moua, a Principal in Roseville, CA, shed a few tears herself as she spoke of the impact of home visits on her own immigrant Hmong family.

“I was born in Ban Vinai refugee camp, in Thailand, and have 9 brothers and sisters. My father, grandfather, and uncles fought for America during the Vietnam War and were forced to flee to safety after the war. I started Kindergarten in America like so many of our children today. I’ve never sat a day in a preschool class prior to Kindergarten, nor did I speak any English.”

“But, it wasn’t until the 3rd grade that I felt a true connection with a teacher,” Ms. Moua continued. “She’d encourage me to do my best, despite the fact that I lived in Section 8 apartment housing in southeast Fresno where crime prevented my parents from ever allowing us to go outside….One special day, Mrs. Spolsdoff came inside my home. She entered and sat on our one couch, and graciously accepted the glass of water my mother gave her. She told my mother what a special daughter she had, and that it was a pleasure to have me in her class. And naturally, I translated that to my mother. In that moment, I KNEW I wanted to be a teacher.

That one home visit by Mrs. Spolsdoff changed my perception of school. After that day, she and I had a secret. She had come to my house! Mrs. Spolsdoff was in my house! You better believe I NEVER EVER wanted to disappoint her afterwards.”

Ms. Moua grew up to be a teacher and now serves as a school principal who uses home visits to connect her school with a diverse community.

“As the Principal of Earl Warren Elementary School, I encouraged my teachers to do home visits,”she said. “We built it into our pre-service days. Working in schools like Earl Warren, and like John Burroughs Elementary, the elementary school I grew up in Fresno, meant we COULD NOT GIVE UP on our kids. And not giving up starts with having a positive relationship with our children, and our families.”

Single father Paul Lumpkin, age 28, of Springfield, MA, eloquently explained the risks, and the rewards, of participating in home visits as a parent.

“My experiences with bureaucratic intuitions have not been pleasant to say the least especially with the foster care and education system,” said Mr. Lumpkin. “So when I was asked to be apart of The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project I was extremely reluctant. “

“I was thinking that something was wrong when I was picked for an actual home visit. I was nervous, thinking that these teachers are trying to get in my business because I am a single man raising a boy and a girl alone…I would soon find out I was wrong and my assumptions were creating unnecessary barriers that could potentially damage my children’s future level of sociability.”

The relationship forged with his daughter’s teacher, Marguerite Foster Franklin, has contributed to his growing role as an advocate for involved fathers, and his enrollment in college after completing his GED.

“After my visit with Mr. Lumpkin, we now have a special bond,” explained Ms. Franklin. “I continue to encourage him in all that he does for his children and his self. Parents need encouragement also, especially those who are single because there is not another adult around to discuss feelings with or support each other.”

“Participants emotional response to conference presentations makes sense,” says Ms. Rose, “because they feel the power of transformation. This isn’t just another school program. It is a fundamental change in the school’s relationship with families, and that makes fundamental progress in student and school performance.”

Mai Xi Lee, Burbank High School Assistant Principal and parents Terrence Gladney and Angel Whitfield do an exercise on stage.

“Parent Teacher Chat” On Twitter — Guest Post

For people who are not familiar with Twitter, there are many organized opportunities for discussion called “chats.” These are scheduled times when people with interest in a particular topic can communicate and share at the same time. One of these is called Parent Teacher Chat.

I’ve invited Joe Mazza, one of the chat’s organizers,  to write a short guest post describing it.  Joe Mazza is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, and Principal at Knapp Elementary School in suburban Philadelphia.  He is currently completing his dissertation working alongside international family engagement scholar Dr. Joyce Epstein studying social media’s impact on home-school partnerships. He writes a blog called eFACE Today where he shares electronic Family and Community Engagement strategies.  Follow him on Twitter @joe_mazza

You can read a longer post about this topic at his own blog.

On Wednesday night, 12/7 at 9EST, #ptchat (Parent-Teacher) returned to the schedule of much anticipated weekly education chats. Teachers, principals, parents, directors and others around the Twitterverse came together to discuss a popular topic here at the end of 2011: Which websites or mobile applications can help parents support classroom instruction. Questions were posed to teachers in elementary and secondary settings such as…If you had to bookmark 10 websites on your student’s home computer, which ten would you choose and why?

A great deal of resources were shared during the hour long chat, and I will be blogging about many of them in the coming days to lend a helping hand to parents looking to maximize online time for their children. Khan Academy, Study Island, Starfall and other sites were mentioned and described, but there were also some notable mobile/tablet apps recommended.

Aparna Vashisht (@Parentella) and I moderated the chat, and we plan to gauge the feedback of all who contributed during #ptchat with a poll to identify a topic for next week’s chat. Current ideas include what teachers would like their students to be focused on during winter break, as well as snow day activities and more targeted approaches for using sites like Khan Academy.

Opportunities to engage families and communities using technology (eFACE) are growing on a daily basis as educators around the world share what works for their respective settings. With more and more families gaining access to today’s technologies, the percentage of families in schools without access to technologies continues to decline. Using social media and other technologies are just another way schools are using to “differentiate for their families” in order to partner with as many as possible.

Just this evening, I used Twitter to share the archive of last night’s #ptchat as well as resources for Khan Academy and Kathy Schrock’s Bloom’s Taxonomy for iPad Apps.

Thanks, Joe!

A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On Parent Engagement

All My "Best..." Lists On Parent Engagement

Since I have published so many “The Best…” lists, I thought it might be helpful to readers if I posted a few year-end collections.

Here is A Collection Of “The Best…” Lists On Parent Engagement — 2011:

The Best Ideas On How Parents Can Help Their Kids Succeed Academically

“The Best Research Available On Parent Engagement”

The Best Reasons Why Parents Should Be Looked At As Allies & Not Targets Of Blame

The Best Overviews Of Parent Engagement

My Best Posts, Articles & Interviews On Parent Engagement

The Best Resources On Parent Engagement In Countries Other Than The U.S.

The Worst Parent Engagement Ideas

“The Best Examples Of Parent Engagement Through Community Organizing” — October, 2011

The Best Sources Of Parent Engagement Advice For Teachers

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

The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits

The Best Resources On Parent/Teacher Conferences

My Best Posts On Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2011 (So Far) — July, 2011

My Best Posts On Parent Engagement Over The Past Six Months — April, 2011

The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools

The Best Resources For Learning About Parent Fundraising & Equity Issues

My Best Posts On Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2012 (So Far)

My Best Posts On Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2012 (Part Two)

“First Year Highlights: Parent Engagement In Schools” brings together all my Ed Week columns on parent engagement.

The Best Posts & Articles On Parent Trigger Movie “Won’t Back Down”

The Best Videos On Parent Engagement

My Best Posts On Parent “Academies” & “Universities”

My Best Posts On Parent Engagement In 2013 — So Far

A Beginning List Of The Best Resources On Using Technology To Help Engage Parents

The Best Resources For Learning About Community Schools

The Best Multilingual Resources For Parents

The Best Resources On Pre-School Parent Engagement

Blog Is Now Four Years Old — Here Are Its Most Popular Posts During That Time

The Best Resources To Help Engage Parents Of Children With Special Needs – Help Me Find More

“Poll: Parents don’t support many education policy changes” (Plus, Links To Previous Polls)

The Best Education Blogs For Parents

The Best Infographics About Parent Involvement In Schools

The Best Resources For Talking To Parents About The Common Core Standards

The Best Posts On Parents “Opting-Out” Of Standardized Tests For Their Children

The Best Resources For Learning About The “Word Gap”

My Best Posts On Parent Engagement In 2013

The Best Resources — Specifically For Parents — On Bullying

The Best Articles Questioning The View That Single Parents Are A Problem

My Best Posts On The Harlem Children’s Zone & Other “Promise Zones”

The Best Posts On The inBloom Data Fiasco

The Best Student Projects That Need Family Engagement — Contribute Your Lessons!

My Best Posts On Parent Engagement Over The Past Three Months

The Best Commentaries On The “Broken Compass” Parent Involvement Book

The Best Posts On Involving Fathers In Schools

The Best Posts On The Migration Policy Institute Report On Engaging Immigrant Parents

My Best Posts On Parent Engagement In 2014 – So Far

My Best Posts On “Conditional Cash Transfers”

The Best Advice On Engaging Parents At The Beginning Of The School Year

My Best Posts On Parent Engagement In 2014 – Part Two

“What Are Parents Thinking?”

What Are Parents Thinking? is a new article in ASCD Educational Leadership by a “head of school” (I assume that’s another name for principal).

He talks about some of his school’s parent involvement/engagement efforts, particularly using online surveys. I’m not a big fan of surveys — in my community organizing career, we always felt that there only good use was as an excuse to initiate a face to face conversation. So, as long as you use them with that in mind, it can be somewhat useful.