Cross-Cutting Guidance for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act - September 1996

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Theme 3. Partnerships Among Families, Communities, and Schools That Support Student Achievement to High Standards

Partnerships among families, schools, and communities help students reach high standards by addressing the range of barriers that can impede students' academic progress. Parent involvement in education sends a loud, clear message that education is important and provides critical support for students as they learn. Powerful connections among schools, communities, and businesses can help make schools better and safer learning environments and can effect smooth transitions from preschool to school and from school to work.

* Parental involvement. People know from their own experience, as well as from research, that kids do better when their parents and the school work together on their behalf, when schools welcome parents into the building, and when parents value learning in the home. (See Box--How Parents Can Support Children in School.) Many programs and provisions of the ESEA enlist parents' support in helping their children learn. For parents who need additional education themselves to become stronger partners in their children's learning, the ESEA includes opportunities for family literacy programs, in which parents and children work together to improve student achievement.

Miami Beach, FL: Parent Power Turning Around a School

Just five years ago, Fienberg/Fisher Elementary School in Miami Beach, Florida, was "in bad shape," according to principal Grace Nebb. But this Title I schoolwide program took aggressive steps to reform its curriculum, strengthen parent participation, and reorganize resources. Fienberg/Fisher adopted the model of school-community planning and high expectations for all children advocated by social scientist James Comer and received a foundation grant to support family involvement and one-stop social services on site. The results are remarkable growth in parent involvement and impressive gains in student achievement. Between 1993-94 and 95-96, the percentage of students in grades K-6 scoring above the 50th percentile on the Stanford Achievement Test increased from 22 to 41 percent in reading and from 36 to 59 percent in math.

The efforts to improve school-parent relations began with a new parent coordinator/social worker--hired with a Danforth Foundation grant--knocking on doors, holding coffees, and doing whatever outreach seemed necessary to connect with local parents, many of whom were recent immigrants who spoke little English and shied away from school contact. The social worker trained a core group of parents to become regional "rainmakers" who make home visits, train other parents to become involved in their children's learning, and operate a referral and information network to community resources. The schoolwide program now pays for additional parent aides and another social worker.

The parent-driven referral network has branched out into a consortium that meets regularly to discuss family-related concerns and includes representatives of numerous community agencies, from the mayor's office to the housing authority to family counseling services. "These parents who hardly spoke any English are now working with the Miami Beach Development Corporation to refer families to emergency services," said Nebb. The "rainmakers" have become incorporated and are now operating a child care center on school grounds. "This consortium has become my voice and my power," she explained. "A lot of things that we've managed to get for the school--give it to a group of parents and they will get it," including two portable classrooms for Head Start, a traffic light at a busy intersection, and a fence around the school.

Parents at Fienberg/Fisher also serve on school management and school improvement teams, help out in the classroom and a family resource center, patrol the halls and walkways, and participate in Saturday and after-school programs with their children. Together these changes are producing a positive school learning environment and a better community.

Alamo Navajo Reservation, NM: Parents as Educational Partners

The Title I schoolwide program at the Alamo Navajo Community School in New Mexico appreciates the role that community members and parents play as children's first teachers and transmitters of traditional Navajo values. The school, which also receives ESEA Indian Education formula funding and a Title VII grant, was originally established under the Indian Self-Determination Act and is overseen by a resident school board from the Alamo Reservation. The schoolwide program has made it possible to reduce student-teacher ratios, hire additional language arts staff, and introduce a Writing to Read program, an after-school tutorial program, and a range of parent activities.

Theme-based open houses bring families to school for such diverse activities as designing rockets, making their own books, and learning country line dancing. Parents and community members volunteer in classrooms, tell traditional stories, serve on a committee that advises on all federal programs, and participate in parent and teacher partnership days, where they discuss ways to extend learning at home. The school also houses an adult GED program, an adult vocational and employment training program, and a community-based radio station.

Canton, OH: Coordinating Family Literacy

Coordinating resources is the key to Canton's family literacy program, which helps parents with low literacy levels improve their academic skills and become better partners in their children's education. In the Canton (Ohio) City Schools, an initially modest Even Start grant helped unlock an impressive community chest of resources and in-kind contributions and triggered funding of other State and local grants. Families in this program walk to neighborhood schools, where Even Start coordinates services for each family member into an integrated family literacy program. Three- and four-year-olds join in school readiness activities funded by a Public Preschool State grant, while down the hall their parents participate in literacy classes supported by State adult education monies and parenting education funded by Even Start. A grant obtained by the school district's adult vocational education department provides career assessment and counseling, and a local hospital provides work-related experience to help Even Start parents become more economically self-sufficient. Vans (funded by a community initiative) transport children under age three to local preschools operated by nonprofit providers, where their care is funded by the Department of Human Services.

Canton used funds from the Barbara Bush Foundation to create a special family literacy class for young mothers and their babies. Even Start and a McKinney Homeless grant expanded family literacy services to public housing residents in a remote corner of the city. Five additional schools are integrating Even Start into schoolwide programs with Title I funding.

What are the outcomes of this uncommon degree of coordination? Nearly 90 percent of parents had met or were making significant progress toward their academic goals, according to a 1995 annual evaluation of Canton's program, including 19 percent who passed the GED during the year evaluated. Forty-three of 53 parents reported that they were more involved in helping children with school work, as a result of their own academic improvements. A majority of parents also reported talking more to their children about doing well and behaving well in school.

How Parents Can Support Children in School

Strong Families, Strong Schools provides the following suggestions for parents to support their children in school:

  • Read together.
  • Use TV wisely.
  • Establish a daily family routine.
  • Schedule daily homework times.
  • Monitor out-of-school activities.
  • Talk with children and teenagers.
  • Communicate positive values and character traits, such as respect, hard work, and responsibility.
  • Express high expectations and offer praise and encouragement.

To request a copy of this publication, contact the Department's Publications Hotline at 1-800-USA-LEARN.

* Early childhood education and preschool-to-school transition. In keeping with the truism that prevention is less expensive and more effective than remediation, ESEA programs include expanded opportunities for early childhood education services to children of preschool age and emphasize the all-important transition from preschool to school.

Carpentersville, IL: Continuity from Preschool to School

A Head Start/Public School Transition Demonstration project, funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, helped stimulate Community Unit School District #300 in Carpentersville, Illinois, to go beyond the initial project and develop a broader effort to improve learning connections between home and school and from grade to grade for district children.

Project TRANSFER, the transition demonstration, works closely with children and parents at school and in the home to improve attendance, increase achievement, and reduce family mobility. Beginning in the Head Start years and continuing through grade 3, the project involves collaboration among three school districts, a Head Start agency, and more than 65 community agencies and businesses. Children in the target prekindergarten and elementary schools (which are also Title I schools) receive developmentally appropriate instruction, and families receive home visits by family educators, parent training, and other social, health and education services. An external evaluation found that among other outcomes, participating children felt more comfortable at school than a control group, were more at ease with adults, and looked forward to working with family educators. (Achievement data for the first cohort of participants will be available in the coming months.) Family members improved their attendance at school activities as well as their parenting skills.

School District #300 has applied its experience from Project TRANSFER to create a new model of effective schooling and coordinated community services for children and families from birth through adult. Integrated funding from multiple federal and State programs is a key element. Teachers, family educators, and other key staff are paid with combined funding. Representatives from various State and federal programs--such as ESEA Title I, Drug-Free Schools, Bilingual Education, and Even Starts--meet weekly or biweekly to plan instruction and other services and activities. Prekindergarten and elementary school teachers, as well as Head Start personnel, consult regularly to enhance continuity of instruction.

* Secondary school and school-to-work transitions. Workplace demands have changed in response to international competition and high technology, and the U.S. educational system has not kept pace. Preparing workers for the 21st century requires excellent instruction in secondary schools and better systems of transition from school to work or higher learning. Effective transition systems will provide students with high-level knowledge and skills, integration of occupational and academic learning, and a solid base for lifelong learning.

Waipahu, HI: Reshaping a School with Workforce Learning

In the Leeward Oahu district of Hawaii, a high-poverty region, secondary school educators, community colleges, and various businesses are implementing a comprehensive reform effort based on applied academics and supported with funds from the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, the Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, Title I, Title IV, special education, private contributions, State special needs funds, and other local funding. At Nanakuli High and Intermediate Schools, teachers are developing a curriculum to teach students in grades 7-12 core academic subjects through work-based learning. Original funding for this curricular reform came from the Perkins Act "tech-prep" program. Currently Perkins Act dollars are financing development of career "academies" for secondary students. To prepare teachers to expand this applied learning model across three high schools and their 20-plus feeder schools, the partnership is using School-to-Work Transition funds for extensive professional development and worksite internships for teachers. A solid school improvement plan is an absolute necessity for integrating funds across several programs, according to deputy superintendent Alvin Nagasako.

San Diego, CA: A Title I Secondary Schoolwide Program

"Title I fits in beautifully," says principal Marie Thornton of the array of resources that facilitate instruction at Gompers Secondary School Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Technology. Located in a low-income neighborhood of San Diego, California, Gompers is a magnet school for grades 7 through 12, a Title I schoolwide program, a participant in the National Science Foundation's Urban Systemic Initiative, a recipient of multiple foundation grants--and a school that students want to attend despite the lack of an athletic program. Gompers students have achieved inspiring success. In the 1996 graduating class, more than 48 percent had a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, and 94 percent of the class went on to two- or four-year colleges and universities.

Title I schoolwide status has made it possible for Gompers to keep class sizes under 30 where possible, bring in teaching assistants from colleges and instructional assistants from the community, provide staff development, and strengthen parental involvement activities. In addition, the school provides an extended learning opportunity for incoming seventh graders--a six-week summer camp where students can develop skills in critical thinking, study habits, reading, writing, math, computer science, and scientific inquiry. During the regular school year, seventh graders, or Wildcat Cubs as they are called, participate in an integrated instructional program in science, math, English, computers, and social studies, taught by a team of eight teachers.

* Linking schools and communities. Growing numbers of children are affected by negative influences outside the classroom--poverty, poor health, crime and violence, substance abuse, and inadequate child care, for instance--which can put them at greater risk of school failure. Recognizing that access to basic social, health, and nutritional services can help make students ready to learn, the revised ESEA strengthens the links between school and community and supports coordinated community services for students and families. ESEA programs also engage community partners in creating safe and drug-free schools that value achievement and are conducive to teaching and learning.

Kentucky: Safe and Drug-Free Schools As a Component of Comprehensive Reform

With technical assistance and professional development opportunities provided by the State, Kentucky schools are deploying funds from Titles IV, I, VI, and Goals 2000 to make low-income schools safer. As with all other components of the State system, this effort is being planned and implemented by local stakeholders in accordance with the broader ambitions of the Kentucky Education Reform Act. Kentucky school districts may apply for multiple federal program funds through a single district transformation plan; schools, for their part, develop school transformation plans.

Some Kentucky schools with drug and violence problems are using ESEA funding to implement a professional development strategy called Project Bravo, whereby teachers, counselors, principals, and other school staff learn how to integrate conflict resolution and abuse prevention activities into math, social studies, and other academic areas. Other schools are extending their hours to allow extra instructional time for students with the greatest educational needs, who often are most susceptible to substance abuse and violence problems. To support prevention efforts, the Kentucky Department of Education is using Title IV and State dollars for training in Project Bravo, other kinds of professional development, school-community team planning, parent training, and other effective ways to improve school climate.


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[Theme 2. A Focus on Teaching and Learning] [Table of Contents] [Theme 4. Flexibility to Stimulate Local School-Based and District Initiative]