NAEP Decides To Reach-Out To Parents

The organization sponsoring the influential National Assessment of Educational Progress assessments has just announced an effort to reach-out and:

increase awareness among parents about the urgency to improve overall student achievement and reduce achievement gaps by race, ethnicity, and income.

I hope they include helping parents see the limitations of NAEP test results, too.

You can read more about NAEP here.

“Research-based practices forge strong family and community partnerships”

Research-based practices forge strong family and community partnerships is a new report from the organization Leaning Forward.

It’s in their newsletter, Tools For Learning Schools.

I wouldn’t say there’s anything particularly new in it to people with family engagement, but it does provide some good summaries, particularly on Joyce Epstein’s work.

This Week’s Parent Teacher Chat On Twitter

Guest Post by Joe Mazza

Upcoming #PTchat: Parents & Teachers Discuss Ways to Combat Summer Learning Loss


Wed., 5/30 9PM EDT


As another school year comes to a close, we begin another summer. This week’s Parent-Teacher Chat (#PTchat) on Twitter takes a look at all the way we can keep the learning going through the summer.

Last year, The Rand Corporation released “Making Summer Count,” a comprehensive look at summer learning loss in children, grades 1-8.  The report states that children, on average, lose one month of knowledge and skills between the end of the school year and the end of summer. Within the average, however, are distinct and disturbing differences.

Other takeaways from the Rand Report:


  • Summer learning loss disproportionately affects low-income students, particularly in reading.
  • While their higher-income peers, on average, post gains in reading, low-income students show losses at the end of the summer.
  • Summer learning loss is cumulative and that, over time, these periods of differential learning rates between low-income and higher-income students contribute substantially to the achievement gap.


Join us Wednesday, May 30th at 9PM EDT as parents and educators discuss ways we can keep the learning going over the summer. This is a great week to invite parents and teachers from your school and community. The research shows us that every child is affected in some way.


A great resource to check out is Eric Sheninger’s Combatting the Summer Slide over on Connected Principals Past #PTchats have been archived on Joe Mazza’s eFACE Today blog.

“Teaching Cases on Family Engagement: Early Learning (Ages 0–8)”

Teaching Cases on Family Engagement: Early Learning (Ages 0–8) is from The Harvard Family Research Project.

It seems like a strange name for a report, but it’s basically a list of links to a number of case histories the Project has done over the past several years. Here is how they describe it:

Teaching cases can be valuable tools in preparing early childhood educators to engage effectively with families. Because the case method presents a story in practice, it offers education students and educators an active learning opportunity. The teaching cases highlighted in this handout involve real-world situations and consider the perspectives of various stakeholders, including early childhood program and elementary school staff, parents, children, and community members. Through case-based discussion, educators can enhance their critical thinking and problem-solving skills and consider multiple perspectives.

This handout provides a detailed list of HFRP’s teaching cases on family involvement, focusing on the earlier years of a child’s learning and development. The teaching cases are sorted by topic, gender, ethnicity, and age-group of the students discussed; however, the lessons in all of these cases will likely apply to a wide variety of contexts.

Harvard Family Research Project’s (HFRP) research-based case studies reflect critical dilemmas in family–school–community relations, especially among low-income and culturally diverse families. As such, the case method is a useful strategy for helping educators learn to communicate and build relationships with families whose backgrounds may differ from their own.

“Parents Describe Why and How They are Engaged in Their Children’s Learning”

Steve Constantino, who is a “must-follow” on Twitter for anyone interested in parent engagement, sent a tweet today about a Karen Mapp-written study titled Having Their Say: Parents Describe Why and How They are Engaged in Their Children’s Learning.

Here’s an excerpt:

According to the parents, when school personnel initiate and engage in practices that welcome parents to the school, honor their contributions, and connect them to the school community through an emphasis on the children, these practices then cultivate and sustain respectful, caring, and meaningful relationships between parents and school staff. While many schools place the emphasis on the programming portion of their family involvement initiative, the data from this case study reveals that when parents have caring and trustful relationships with school staff, these relationships enhance their desire to be involved and influence how they participate in their children’s educational development.

As I posted yesterday, Karen will be co-leading an upcoming Webinar on parent engagement.

“Upcoming EdWeek Webinar: Parent Engagement”

This is from Education Week:

“On June 21st, at 2 p.m., Eastern time, Education Week is hosting a webinar designed to help school officials, parents, and others learn more about the challenges that come with parent engagement, and about strategies that can help schools overcome those barriers. You can register here. Karen L. Mapp, of Harvard University, and Steven Sheldon, the director of research at the National Network of Partnership Schools, at Johns Hopkins University, will offer their thoughts—and then answer questions from our online audience.”

I don’t know anything about Steven Sheldon, but you know it’s going to be good if Karen Mapp is in it.

Does Arne Duncan Support The Parent Trigger?

I’ve often published posts here and guest columns elsewhere criticizing the parent trigger.

However, I hadn’t heard until today that Education Secretary Arne Duncan supposedly supports it.

Alexander Russo tweeted out a Reuters article saying:

“The Obama administration backs parent trigger.”

Since that was new to me, I searched online to see if there were actual quotations documenting that support, but I wasn’t able to find any.

A pro-trigger group in Florida says:

“US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has spoken several times in favor of the Parent Trigger movement across the United States.”

However, they didn’t provide any documentation to that claim.

Based on the other policies Secretary Duncan has pushed, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he supported it. But I am surprised that I hadn’t heard of it, and that I can’t seem to find any reliable documentation of it.

Does anyone know if those claims accurate? Does he indeed support the parent trigger?

This Week’s Parent Teacher Chat On Twitter

Guest Post by Joe Mazza

Upcoming #PTchat: J.Michael Hall Joins #PTchat to Share Ideas on How to Engage Dads in Education

Wed., 5/23 9PM EDT

What Father Can Do at Home, School & In the Community

Fathers can initiate or participate in activities that help their children succeed academically. Helping children learn can increase success in school. The nature and frequency with which parents interact in positive ways with their children reflect the parents’ investment in their children’s education (NCES, 2000). Some steps that fathers can take at home, at school and in the community that make a positive difference for their children’s education have been compiled on the Department of Education’s Fathers in Education Resource Page.

It’s important to remember up front that both sensitivity and self-confidence are greater than any specific skills in paternal behavior and influence. Sensitivity is critical to both involvement and closeness. The closeness of the father-child relationship is the crucial determinant of the dad’s impact on a child’s development and adjustment. Developing sensitivity enables a dad to evaluate his child’s signals or needs, and respond to them appropriately. (Abramovitch in Lamb, 1997).

 J. Michael Hall will join us as our chat’s expert this week. Mr. Hall is the father of two sons and the husband to a middle school teacher. Mr. Hall has been a special education teacher, a teacher of the gifted and talented, and an intermediate and middle school principal. After realizing that he was spending more time raising other people children than his own he left the principalship and soon became an advocate for stronger parent and father involvement in public education. As an educator, speaker and founder of Strong Fathers-Strong Families, he has worked with more than 110,000 fathers and parents at local schools, Head Starts, and regional and national conferences.


Join us on Wednesday, May 23rd at 9PM EDT as parents and educators share their best ideas on how to best engage Dads in schools. Before you finalize your calendars, make sure you’ve purposefully differentiated for all members of your students’ families.

Mayor Bloomberg Insults Parents — Again

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in the news for once again insulting parents (you can read about his multiple previous efforts at New York City Mayor Insults Parents — Again).

I learned about Boomberg’s newest comments from blogger Walt Gardner, with whom I usually agree. Not this time, though. Gardner supports the Mayor’s critique of some parents “who don’t care.”

Unfortunately, though, I think Gardner misses the main point. Of course some parents don’t care — in the same way there are some really bad teachers out there, too. But just as Bloomberg focuses most of his attention on blaming those few bad teachers instead of figuring out constructive ways to support most whom want to get better, he repeats the same pattern with parents.

I wish those school reformers who focus so much time, energy and money on blame put some of it on more constructive efforts for support. As a parent leader said in response to Bloomberg’s latest snafu:

“There the mayor goes again, blaming parents,” said parent leader Zakiyah Ansari. “It’s always everyone’s fault but his.”

“He should be talking about ensuring that there are more guidance counselors, social workers and smaller classrooms so schools can keep better track of students and the reasons why they aren’t going,” Ansari said, “instead of blaming parents and families that have challenges he clearly doesn’t understand.”

“Changing the Approach to Parent Involvement”

Changing the Approach to Parent Involvement is a useful article appearing in Fox Latina.

It’s a good reminder of the importance of looking at parents through the lens of “assets” and not “deficits” (which is something I recommend for ELL students,too).

Here’s an excerpt:

The same concept can be applied to a school by looking at Hispanic parents as assets of that community. Rather than focusing on stereotypes with statements such as, “They don’t attend parent-teacher conferences,” or “They’re uneducated” or worse yet, “They aren’t interested in their children’s education,” school administrators and teachers should focus on answering the question, “What do Latino parents bring to the table?”

PTA Wisdom Shines Through Cloud Of Privatization At Congressional Hearing Today

Today, the Congressional Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing on “Exploring State Success in Expanding Parent and Student Options.” In the midst of parent trigger and voucher advocates, Dr. Maria Fletcher, president of the New York State PTA, provided some important wisdom. Here’s an excerpt from her testimony:

Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question – instead of asking how to empower parents by providing alternatives to their neighborhood school, why aren’t we empowering parents by engaging all stakeholders to ensure that every neighborhood school lives up to the quality promise we’ve made to educate all students? All public schools – traditional, charter, magnet – must have the capacity to build and capitalize on effective school-family partnerships to increase student achievement.

We should empower parents by preparing our teachers and leaders in research-based and culturally competent family engagement practices that have demonstrated positive impact on student achievement and school climate. We should empower parents with real, tangible tools to supplement student learning at home coupled with accessible, understandable, and actionable student and school data that serves to inform and support instruction and learning. “Your school is broken – send your child here instead” isn’t tantamount to effectively engaging parents in education.

You can read the less wise testimony today from others here….

This Week’s Parent Teacher Chat On Twitter

Guest Post by Joe Mazza

This Week’s #PTchat Preview

It’s getting closer to June, which means summer vacation for many students will be here before we know it. Some schools require summer reading lists to be completed and others do not. Elementary schools and secondary schools oftentimes look very different in terms of the expectations for summer reading.

Does your school provide a summer list for students? Is it differentiated based upon reading level or grade? As parents, do you encourage your children to read over the summer? What are the pros and cons of such a program? What is best for kids?

To discuss these questions and more, join us this Wednesday, May 16th at 9PM EST / 6PM PST as we cover school summer reading programs. Join us parents & educators!

“Parent Handbooks” For Content Areas Are Nice, But What About “Parent Engagement Handbooks” For Teachers?

I was looking through the California Department of Education website to see their parent engagement resources, and found that they had “Parent Handbooks” for each class content area. Each one is full of ideas about how parents can help their children learn more in those specific content areas (Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Math).

It got me thinking — wouldn’t it be nice if there were “Teacher Handbooks For Parent Engagement” for those same content areas that listed ideas on how teachers could involve parents in classroom lessons? I shared a few ideas in my parent engagement book, and have mentioned some in this blog, but not in any kind of systematic way.

So, I’ve got two requests:

1. If you know of any guides that share those kinds of ideas, please let me know.

2. Please leave a comment with any lessons that you’ve done that has included a parent engagement component. I’ll put them all in a list and post them later this summer.

A Homework Policy Petition To The PTA

Alfie Kohn and others are asking people to sign a petition:

asking the National PTA to adopt recommendations on homework – guidelines that will help educators innovate and improve their approaches to designing and assigning homework in our classrooms.

In June, the National PTA will meet at their annual convention. Join us today in urging the National PTA today—for the first time—to adopt homework guidelines that encourage schools nationwide to reexamine and reimagine homework practices to better support student engagement, health and learning.

“the most effective way of helping children from low-income households to achieve their ambitions is engaging parents in their children’s learning”

Source: via Larry on Pinterest    

The above quote comes from a new “meta-analysis” of scores of studies that found that parent involvement in student learning was the most effective intervention in enhancing attitudes such as:

the aspirations to do well at school and to aim for advanced education, the sense that one’s own actions can change one’s life, and the giving of value to schooling and school results, referred to as aspirations, locus of control and valuing school.

You can read another summary of the research at “Education and Ambition” over at the Freakonomics blog.

I’ve posted some specific ideas on what we can do with parents to help them reinforce those kind of “aspirations” at The Best Ideas On How Parents Can Help Their Kids Succeed Academically.

New York Teachers Union Doesn’t Wait For District To Promote Parent Engagement

The New York City school district has had a very troubled recent history of not encouraging parent engagement.

One example of those troubles is their talking for three years about starting a parent academy.

The teachers union decided to take things in their own hands, though, and have just begun their own parent academy. Here’s an excerpt from an article today describing its first session:

…. with workshop titles such as “Parent as Leader,” and “Parent as Lobbyist,” the academy’s main purpose is to motivate parents to advocate on behalf of their children and schools, and demand education policy changes.

About fifty parents—ten from each borough—packed a third-floor conference room at union headquarters for the new academy’s inaugural meeting on Saturday morning….

The morning’s activities were designed to prompt parents to think about and articulate positive qualities of their schools, as well as issues to complain about, from teacher turnover to confusing test policies.

Some of the parents said they signed up for the five week long workshop series because they wanted to fell more included in school- and district-level policy discussions that currently feel out of reach. Others said they also wanted knowledge of how to empower their children to do the same.