“Home Libraries Provide Huge Educational Advantage”

A new international study has come-out once again documenting the huge benefits to children of having books at home. Here’s an excerpt:

“Growing up in a home with 500 books would propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average, than would growing up in a similar home with few or no books…. In the U.S., the figure is 2.4 years — which is still highly significant when you consider it’s the difference between two years of college and a full four-year degree.

We focus a lot on the importance of a home library in our Family Literacy Project. In addition to providing computers and home internet service, we’ve gotten thousands of great books from the Friends of the Davis (CA) Library to stock home libraries.

This is a major issue with low-income and immigrant families. In my book, Building Parent Engagement In Schools, I share the results of various studies that show the average Hispanic family with limited English-proficient children has about 26 books in their home, which is about one-fifth of the U.S. average.

Providing high quality books to parents and students that they could call their own — and that they could help pick — could be a pretty darn effective parent engagement effort.

“You go to the school, you sign up to do a job, they tell you what to do”

Parents at a Texas School District have been fighting to create a PTA in local schools, but the the District has been resisting. It sounds like a very weird situation.

As one parent put it:

“You go to the school, you sign up to do a job, they tell you what to do,” parent Jaim Kaysonphat said. “You have no say, you have no voice.”

You can read about it in two places, and both have television video reports on the controversy:

Del Valle parents keep up fight to form PTA

Del Valle parents protest for PTA

There seems to be something very wrong with this picture….

“Hybrid” Teachers & Engaging Parents

Part Three Of The MetLife Survey Of The American Teacher has just been released.  I’ve written about the first two parts  in my other blog.

The third part of this extensive survey of teachers and students is titled Teaching As A Career and “examines collaboration in the context of teacher professional growth, experience level and career path.”

I was struck by its section on what the survey called “hybrid teachers”:

Hybrid approaches to teaching roles are common. More than
half of teachers (56%) and half of principals (49%) agree that
some teachers in their school combine part-time classroom
teaching with other roles or responsibilities in their school or
district. Teachers from a range of school types, including
school level and proportion of low income or minority
students, report similar experiences with this hybrid approach.
However, secondary school principals are more likely than
elementary school principals to say that there are teachers in
their school who have hybrid teaching positions (60% vs. 43%).

The hybrid role is appealing to many teachers for themselves.
Nearly four in ten teachers (37%) agree they would like to
teach in the classroom part-time combined with other roles or
responsibilities in their school or district, including 46% of new
teachers (five years or less experience).

This passage reminded me of a few lines I was asked to write by the Teachers Leaders Network about my vision for a “hybrid” teacher who was partially released from the classroom to spend more time engaging parents.

Here is what I wrote:

Teachers would spend time not just talking with parents about their children, but also try to learn from parents the hopes and dreams they have for themselves — in addition to the challenges they face and what they worry about at night. Through the conversations they have with parents, and the trust that they start with and can build upon, they can help parents connect with other parents who have those same hopes, dreams, worries, and challenges and help them, in turn, to connect to other community institutions so they can launch effective public and collective action to accomplish those dreams and confront those challenges. Through this kind of “agitational” role, teachers can help confront the many issues that have their basis outside the school house walls (unemployment, safety, health care, etc) but that have a huge effect on what goes on in the classroom.

Teachers would need to develop the capacity to recognize that they don’t have all the answers — that, in terms of organizing, their most important tool is their ears and not their mouths. They need to recognize that as they build the trusting and reciprocal relationships needed to move this kind of effort forward, they not only have to listen to people’s stories; they have to open up and share their own.

It would be nice, and an effective strategy for student achievement, if schools would encourage this kind of a “hybrid.”

For another take on this part of the study, you might want to read Heather Wolpert-Gawron’s blog post.

“To Close Achievement Gap, US Must Address Major Health Risks for Urban Minority Youth, Study Finds”

To Close Achievement Gap, US Must Address Major Health Risks for Urban Minority Youth, Study Finds is the title of an article from Science Daily.

It reports on research from over 300 sources highlighting the impact health issues have on student learning.

As I describe in the book, it’s unlikely political will can be generated to effectively confront these issues (and get our public officials to confront them) without schools connecting with parents and other community institutions.

As Richard Rothstein says, without making these kinds of changes on issues outside the schoolhouse doors (like health), schools might be able to narrow the achievement gap, but not bridge it.

Nice Radio Interview On Parent Involvement/Engagement

The local NPR affiliate in Kansas City has just run a ten minute segment (that’s available online) titled “Parental Involvement in Urban School Districts.”

It’s an interview with Valerie Blackwell, an assistant teaching professor at the UMKC School of Education. I think she does a very good job at distinguishing the concept of engagement from involvement, though she doesn’t actually use those terms.

More On “Community Schools”

I’ve written before about Community Schools, and how they can help engage families.

Typically, community schools are ones that host multiple social services, as well as regular school classes.

Two articles about them have recently come-out.

One is titled Community Schools: Reform’s Lesser-Known Frontier and appeared in Education Week.

The other is A Community School Makes the Grade: Principal Eileen Santiago Tells Us How, and is from one of my favorite blogs, Public School Insights.

Both are worth reading.

Parents & Algebra

This month’s issue of “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.

My Best Posts & Articles About Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2009

I’ve been doing a lot of work this year on building parent engagement in schools, including having a book published (Building Parent Engagement In Schools) and starting a new blog called Engaging Parents In School. Plus, I continuing to do the usual work at our school of actually engaging parents, too!

I thought readers of both of my blogs might find it useful for me to develop a “The Best…” list of resources on this topic.

Here are my choices for My Best Posts About Building Parent Engagement In Schools — 2009 (not in any order of preference):

Parent Involvement or Parent Engagement? is a piece I wrote for Public School Insights, and gives a nice preview of our book.

Family Literacy, English Language Learners, and Parent Engagement is an article I wrote for Library Media Connection.

Press Conference On Parent Engagement shares a video of a press conference called by our district’s Superintendent that includes both Elisa Gonzalez, our school’s staffperson for parent engagement, and me speaking about our home computer project and our parent university.

Parents, Students & College includes links to what we’re doing at our school to promote college discussion and planning with parents, and a new book highlighting research around that issue.

What Americans Believe Is “The Number One Factor In Keeping Schools Moving On The Right Track” — Read it and find-out!

What Might Aesop’s Fables Say About Glitzy Media Parent Involvement Campaigns? is the title of a critical post I recently wrote.

More On Parent’s Unemployment Effect On Children and “The Critical Connection Between Student Health and Academic Achievement”
both share major studies highlighting the affect that poverty has on students. The results emphasize the importance of schools engaging parents to combat these problems.

Education World published a short article by me titled A Parent Engagement Model That Works.

Info From Anne Henderson includes a link that this well-known research into the parent connection with schools gave to Congress.

Engaging With Your Child’s School: Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo is an interview I did with “Smart Bean,” a parent portal on the Internet.

Parents & Schools In Los Angeles is my “take” on what the District there might be doing with parents and charter schools.

Some Of These “Parent Academies” Just Don’t Get It…. shares my perspective on the recent media infatuation with “parent academies.”

In September, Joyce Epstein and I were guests at Education Week’s “edchat” on engaging parents. If you’re interested, you can read the chat transcript.

I was interviewed on the Parents as Partners webcast a few weeks ago, and you can read about about the conversation at Irritate or agitate – what’s your parent engagement like? You can also listen to the webcast at the EdTechTalk site.

Conditional Cash Transfers, Parents, And Schools offers my critical perspective on a growing way on how schools and cities are trying to connect with parents.

Home Computer Project Expansion & Assessment Results provides an update to our internationally-recognized Family Literacy Project.

Teacher Magazine published an article I wroteabout teachers making home visits to parents. You have to register (for free) to read the entire article, but it’s a quick process.

“Harlem Program Singled Out as Model” is a post I wrote about Harlem Children’s Zone, including some questions I have about it.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists — there are over 350 of them!

Engaging ELL Parents

Engaging ELL Parents is the focus of the most recent newsletter from Colorin Colorado, a bilingual site for parents and educators.  It includes a short review of our book.

Colorín Colorado is an educational initiative of WETA, the flagship public television and radio station in the nation’s capital. Major funding comes from the American Federation of Teachers, with additional support from the National Institute for Literacy and the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

Their site has lots of useful resources, and I often write about them on my other blog.

Press Conference On Parent Engagement

Last week, the new Superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District, Jonathan Raymond, led a press conference highlighting examples of parent engagement in our district.

He was kind enough to invite me and mention my book, and also to highlight the home computer project we do at our school, as well as our highly regarded Parent University.

You can see the press conference online. If you go to the 26 minute mark, you’ll be able to watch Elisa Gonzalez from our school describe the Parent University, which I believe is a national model. I speak shortly afterward about both the Parent University and our home computer project.

I’m going to place two links to the press conference here because I’m not sure which will work best.

You can go to the District website where you’ll see the link to the press conference. It’s under “News and Messages.”

Here’s the direct link, too:

Superintendent Raymond recognized principals and teachers who have successfully engaged parents at their schools, November 19, 2009

“In Philadelphia, Reaching Kids by Teaching Parents”

In Philadelphia, Reaching Kids by Teaching Parents is the title of an article in this week’s Education Week. It highlights efforts Philadelphia schools are making to connect with parents.

It particularly talks about their “Parent University.” It’s unclear, though, how much parents participating in developing its content. One of the main things, I think, that makes the “Parent University” at our school more “engagement” than “involvement” is that Elisa Gonzalez, its coordinator, made sure that parents determined what they wanted to learn, and then our school and the University of California at Davis worked with them to help deliver the content.

Getting Our Students & Their Families Thinking About College

(Cross-posted at Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites Of The Day)

I recognize that going to college is not necessarily the best choice for everybody. However, I also think it’s important for students — both our English Language Learners and those in the “mainstream” to be knowledgeable about college options so they can make a decision with all the needed information.

In the majority of our home visits to parents, we’ve found that parents might theoretically be interested in having their children attend college, but are very uncertain about many of the “how’s” — tests that need to be taken, ways to make it financially feasible, etc. Many also have concerns about their kids going to a school far way, and the idea of them doing it for four or five years “when we need money now.” Finally, since many ELL’s don’t pass the English portion of the California High School Exit Exam, they don’t end-up with a high-school diploma, and don’t necessarily believe that college is still an option (it is, especially with our local Community College).  All these issues are understandable, given that college is outside the experience of so many of our families.

Given these issues, I’ve begun meeting with Leticia Gallardo, an exceptional counselor at our school, to develop a plan to get our students and their families considering these questions now — when they’re in the ninth-grade — and not wait til later in their school career. It’s a simple one, and I’d be interested in getting feedback and other suggestions from readers about their own experiences with this issue.

I wanted to do something that could be easily integrated in our classes, be done over the course of the school year, and not take up too much time — a handful of class periods. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

In the next week or two, have students develop questions they have about college. In addition, part of the assignment will be to have them get questions from their parents, too.

Next, have them begin to research the answers to those questions. One good source will be The Best Sites For Encouraging ELL’s To Attend College. They would write up those answers, share them with their parents, and also write about their parents’ response.

Thirdly, students would write about the types of careers they might want to consider going into and ask their parents to share their own thoughts about what they might want their kids to do. In home visits, often parents seem surprised at this question and appear to have never thought about it before.

After that, students will research the different careers and the kind of formal education that would be required in order to enter them. The Best Websites For Students Exploring Jobs & Careers is a good source for this kind of information. Again, they would write up what they learned, share it with their parents, and get a response from them.

We’d end-up with a visit to a local four-year university, which would include separate orientations for students and parents.

What do you think? What might be missing? How could we make it better — without increasing the time commitment by much more?

October Is “Parent Involvement Month”

Much to my surprise, I’ve learned that October has been proclaimed “Parent Involvement Month” by Governors of a number of states to recognize the importance of the school/family connection. This can obviously mean a lot of different things to a lot of people, but it might be one more good “excuse” to initiate a conversation about parent involvement/engagement in schools.

Here are links to information about the proclamations in different states. Whether or not you live in those states, it might still worth visiting the links. Most lead to parent/school organizations in those areas with websites filled with good information, including research on parents and schools:

October is Parent Involvement Month in Pennsylvania

Minnesota Parent Involvement Month in October (this site also has some good materials translated into various languages, including Hmong).

Parent Involvement Month In Georgia

Parent Involvement Month In Ohio

Parent Involvement in Education Month! (New Hampshire)

Parent Involvement Month In New Jersey

Parent Involvement Month In Kansas

Parent Involvement Month in West Virginia

Let me know if your state isn’t listed and you’re doing something for Parent Involvement Month.

“Building Partnerships With Immigrant Parents”

“Building Partnerships With Immigrant Parents” is an excellent article that appeared in ASCD’s Educational Leadership two years ago. It’s a neat story of how one Washington, D.C. school reached-out to parents.

For more information, you can can contact one of the authors of the article, and initiators of the project, Eileen Kugler, at EKugler@EmbraceDiverseSchools.com.

More Info On Sept. 15th Ed Week Chat

I’ll be a guest on Ed Week’s September 15th “Chat” on parent engagement at 2:00 PM Eastern time.

You can get more information at their site (scroll down to “Upcoming Chats”). This is how they describe it:

Engaging Schools, Engaging Parents: The School-Community Partnership

About This Chat:

At President Barack Obama’s urging, and in response to research showing a connection between parental involvement and student achievement, districts nationwide have launched initiatives to increase community engagement with schools. Yet many schools find it difficult to sustain parent involvement beyond the parent-teacher conference. Join two experts, Joyce L. Epstein and Larry Ferlazzo, for an in-depth discussion on the subject. Ms. Epstein is the main author of “School, Family, and Community Partnerships.” Mr. Ferlazzo co-authored the forthcoming book “Building Parent Engagement In Schools.”

Joyce L. Epstein, director, Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University
Larry Ferlazzo, English and social studies teacher, Luther Burbank High School, Sacramento, Calif.
Mary-Ellen Deily, editorial director, Education Week Press