May 28 — 11:00 pm, 2003

Enhancing parent involvement: many strategies available

As the first year of the state takeover and private management of schools nears an end, representatives at the education management organizations (EMOs) and the District point to efforts at the schools they manage that show a reinvigorated awareness of involving parents at those schools — even if implementation has been inconsistent.

Most of the strategies have been implemented before in schools across the District, including strengthening Home and School Associations and offering programs that give parents information about how to support the schools’ curriculum at home. New or not, some parents are just happy for the change.

"It’s been a positive change," commented Sara Whitfield, Home and School president at Tilden Middle School, an Edison-managed school. "[Edison] always tr[ies] to reach out to the parents. I was allowed to sit on a board with teachers over the summer to select the principal.. They are including parents in the decision-making."

But implementation of parent involvement strategies has been patchy, even within schools managed by the same EMO.

Rhonda Thompson describes a nearly opposite experience with Edison. Thompson is Home and School Vice President at Stetson Middle School, also managed by Edison. "To me, they were invisible management," remarked Thompson. "They weren’t reaching out to the degree of their promises. I was expecting better communication. I had to go through a third party to find out regulations."

The School District has developed a districtwide approach for parent involvement. These strategies, described in a document circulated this spring, include:

  • Setting a goal of having a parent committee in every school in two years;

  • Developing methods to clearly communicate with parents, including: simplified report cards, regular updates on students’ grades, quick return of state test results, and setting up email and voicemail systems for every teacher;

  • Creating the Office of School and Community Relations to attend parent and community meetings, liaison with Home and School Council, and hold monthly meetings with parent leaders;

  • Maintaining a Parent Support Hotline and Parent Support Center to assist individual parents with a variety of concerns;

  • Sponsoring citywide training events including parent leadership institutes.

In recent interviews, the private managers and Office of Restructured Schools identified their strategies for involving parents at the schools they run. The Notebook has not assessed whether these strategies, outlined below, are consistently being implemented.

Edison Schools Inc.

  • Communicating to principals the importance of engaging parents in meaningful ways

  • Holding programs to teach parenting skills and how parents can support curriculum at home

  • Surveying parents to monitor parent satisfaction

  • Holding citywide meetings for parents from all Edison schools to network and learn about the Edison program

  • Empowering and giving guidance to Home and School Associations

Foundations Inc.

  • Hiring a "community builder" to engage schools, parents, and community

  • Creating a parent advisory council that meets monthly to serve as a sounding board

  • Holding bi-monthly "parents as partners" meetings to provide parents with information about curriculum and other initiatives

  • Sending a newsletter to parents with contact information, parent concern form, and "talk back" section for parent feedback

  • Resurrecting Home and School Associations

Universal Companies

  • Creating parent offices in two schools and eventually at all schools

  • Bolstering Home and School Associations and other parent groups

  • Holding regular meetings with parents about issues including curricular design and student behavior

  • Encouraging parents to reach out to other parents

  • Office of Restructured Schools

  • Creating a parent advisory board with monthly meetings that focus on needs identified by parents

  • Surveying principals to assess status of parental involvement at each school

  • Making a commitment to establish Home and School Associations and local school councils at every school

Temple University

  • Creating an advisory council by the end of the school year that will include parents, community leaders, and school and Temple staff

  • Working with principals to hold all-family meetings to listen to parents and define plans based on their feedback

University of Pennsylvania

  • Hiring a "parent liaison" to advocate for and support parents

  • Facilitating workshops to inform parents about curriculum

  • Involving parents in budget and governance issues, including selection of principals

  • Supporting parent scholar program during budgeting

  • Making Penn psychologist available to parents, as needed

Victory Schools Inc.

  • Including contact information for schools and the company on publications sent to parents, encouraging communication

  • Mobilizing Home and School Associations and local school councils

  • Holding evening meetings to introduce parents to components of Victory-managed schools and the curriculum

  • Communicating importance of parent involvement to principals

 

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