I’m a big supporter of teachers making home visits (see The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits). Though I couldn’t make last month’s national home visit conference in Denver, several other staff and parents from our school did attend.
Carrie Rose, Executive Director of the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project, agreed to write this report on the conference:
I believe the paradigm needs to be shifted in public schools, specifically schools serving the poor.
Less energy needs to be spent on complaining, or at best brainstorming, how
we teachers can get parents to step foot through our school doors. Instead, I challenge the
shift to start with first asking if we would step foot through the parents’ front door.
The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project makes such a shift possible for teachers.
Stephanie Smith, Oakridge Elementary School, Sacramento
When school districts are under fiscal and accountability pressures, family and community engagement is usually the first thing to go. Given dramatic reductions in funding for public education and given the upcoming election cycle where so much is at stake, these are challenging times for our colleagues across the country. In the midst of this, we had planned for our Sixth National Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project annual gathering in Denver Colorado. We wondered if we should scale back our plans or trust our instincts that we needed to gather now, more than ever!
We trusted our instincts as did our supporters – CS Mott Foundation National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and PICO National Network- and our many partners schools across thirteen states! Thanks to a coordinated effort where we leveraged and shared resources, we were able to gather together 260 parents, caregivers, community members, educators and administrators for the sixth national parent teacher home visit project.
Conference participants heard directly from teachers and parents who lead this effort in their local communities. Melissa Bryant , a veteran teacher, and Katrina Branch, a parent and former student, from Stanton Elementary School in Washington DC spoke about their transformative experiences moving a school that was a “hot mess” to a place where students experienced dramatic increases in test scores. Yvette Juarez, a middle school student from Denver CO, talked about what it means to her to have a teacher visit her home and how that informed her success in school. Whether it was teachers who had been on the verge of quitting, families on the verge of giving up on their local schools, or the community members tired of seeing their children dropout and miss out on opportunities – the testimony of home visiting experiences demonstrated that relational home visits are a key foundation step leading to increased family engagement, better teaching and learning, and increased student academic and social success.
The testimony helps us understand the power of the numbers. Here’s what we tallied in our time together. In just the past year, network partners under the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project trained 2577 teachers. We expanded to 209 participating school sites in 13 states. Together, we conducted 13,391 relational home visits! Given preliminary counts for this coming year, I expect our totals to go even higher next year- even with the challenges before us.
We created the opportunity and space to deepen our work. Network partners from around the country paired up and led breakout sessions where we shared data and data collection systems, adaptations of home visiting (in rural communities, for those whom English is a second language, and in secondary schools) and new learning that covered topics as diverse as the impact of trauma on school communities and teaching and learning, the introduction of Academic Parent Teaching Team conferencing in home visit schools and ways to build home visiting into the language of district contracts and policies. We also explored resources and reviewed current national policy and trends regarding family engagement and education reform.
We solidified our relationships with each other. We built our personal capacity to better sever students. We strengthened our local projects by sharing and learning. We formally expanded our national network. Mostly, we were inspired by each other and renewed in our commitment to this important work.
We know that family and community engagement is an essential component for school and student success. We know that even in the face of difficult times, we must invest in this area for the sake of our students. If you are a school considering home visits as a foundational step in your family and staff engagement and capacity building efforts, please consider joining us next year for our seventh national gathering in California in October of 2013.
Better yet, call us now at 916-448-5290 or visit us at our website to see what might be possible. We all began somewhere and a community is waiting for you!