New Issue Of Harvard’s Parent Involvement Newsletter

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

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

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

In this issue we:

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

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

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

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

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


Crossposted at my other blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how it begins:

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

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

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

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

Here’s an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parent Involvement Changes In Scotland

I regularly share news about what’s going on in countries other than the United States around parent involvement issues, and you can find highlights at The Best Resources On Parent Engagement In Countries Other Than The U.S.

Scotland seems to be importing some ideas from the United States, and you can read about it in an article headlined Radical shake-up of parental involvement in schools.

Speaking of Scotland, you might also be interested in Guest Post: Parent Engagement In Scotland.

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Detroit School Tells Parents To Come To Meeting On State Testing Or Their Child Will Be Suspended

Detroit Parents Missed a School Meeting But Their 3rd Grader Is the One Who Might Be Punished For It is the headline of this news article (and video).

Here’s how it begins:

Parents of third graders at Coleman A. Young Elementary School in Michigan were recently asked to attend a mandatory parent meeting — during the workday — which addressed the importance of state testing.

Twenty-four parents were able to attend, but the children of parents who didn’t were threatened with suspension if their parents did not show up at a make-up meeting scheduled the following week.

This incident is the newest addition to The Worst Parent Engagement Ideas.

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“To build better relationships, Bentley School teachers visit their students at home”

To build better relationships, Bentley School teachers visit their students at home is a nice article in a local newspaper that I believe, but am not sure, in Massachusetts.

Here’s how it begins:

A key piece of turnaround efforts at the Bentley School is a yearly home visit to parents or guardians by a student’s teachers. The initiative isn’t just aimed at struggling pupils or troublemakers — the goal is to build strong, positive relationships with each of the school’s families.

You might also be interested in The Best Resources For Learning About Teacher Home Visits.

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District Superintendent Visits Parents During Their Break From Work In Fields

Sunnyside school officials engaging parents of local students in the fields is an article about a rural Washington Superintendent visiting parents during their break from working in the fields:

In what observers called a historic moment, Sunnyside Schools Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole visited with a group of parents at their north Outlook work site Thursday morning.

#Cole’s meeting with the parents during a mid-morning break from pruning apple trees is the first in a series of outreach efforts to increase parental involvement.

As long as it, indeed, was not just a one-time photo op, then this seems like an excellent parent involvement strategy.

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“Some parents across the country are revolting against standardized testing”

The Washington Post has published an article headlined Some parents across the country are revolting against standardized testing.

Here’s how it begins:

A growing number of parents are refusing to let their children take standardized tests this year, arguing that civil disobedience is the best way to change what they say is a destructive overemphasis on tests in the nation’s public schools.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Parents “Opting-Out” Of Standardized Tests For Their Children.

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“Bridges To High School” Is A Family-Focused Program That May Have Potential

Bridges To High School is a family-focused program designed to support middle-school students who are experiencing challenges in school.

You can read more about it here and here.

It seems like it might have some potential, and the federal government is seems to be looking at it for potential nationwide expansion.

Anyone have experience with it that they’d like to share?

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“Parents’ belief that a child will attend college plays big role in early academic success”

Parents’ belief that a child will attend college plays big role in early academic success is the title of a Science Daily article about a new study. It’s not going to be surprising to anyone, but is interesting nonetheless.

Here’s how it begins:

Numerous studies have shown that socioeconomic factors play a major role in students’ success in kindergarten. Children whose parents are more educated and have better jobs and higher incomes tend to have stronger math and reading skills than their peers.

Now, a study by researchers from UCLA and the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that the factors influencing children’s readiness for kindergarten include not only whether they attend preschool, but also their families’ behaviors, attitudes and values — and that parents’ expectations go a long way toward predicting children’s success throughout their schooling.

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“Teacher: Why expanding ‘parental rights’ in public education sounds good — but isn’t”

Teacher: Why expanding ‘parental rights’ in public education sounds good — but isn’t appeared in The Washington Post, and offers an interesting take on the opt-out movement.

I think the piece exaggerates some of the dangers, and I still support the opt-out movement, but we do need to be careful of our rhetoric.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

If we rally mainstream America around parental rights as a cause, and advocate boycotts of the PARCC tests, I fear we are legitimizing the efforts of special interest groups who want to cherry-pick their way through the public education system. Will parents next be able to select which parts of science, or history, their children are allowed to learn? And will they then be able to opt out of sections of college entrance exams such as the SAT or ACT?

As we follow this slippery slope, some may try to opt out of having their children in class with gay students or teachers because of religious beliefs.

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“As Common Core Testing Is Ushered In, Parents and Students Opt Out”

As Common Core Testing Is Ushered In, Parents and Students Opt Out
is an article in The New York Times.

Here’s an excerpt:

A new wave of standardized exams, designed to assess whether students are learning in step with the Common Core standards, is sweeping the country, arriving in classrooms and entering the cross hairs of various political movements. In New Jersey and elsewhere, the arrival has been marked with well-organized opposition, a spate of television attack ads and a cascade of parental anxiety.

Almost every state has an “opt out” movement. While its true size is hard to gauge, the protests on Facebook, at school board meetings and in more creative venues — including screenings of anti-testing documentaries — have caught the attention of education officials.

I’m adding it to The Best Posts On Parents “Opting-Out” Of Standardized Tests For Their Children.

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