A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
A Compact for Reading - February 1999
The goal of the last step in the Compact process is for your Core and Invention Teams to strengthen your Compact by building on successes documented during Step 4 (Evaluation) and improving in areas documented as needing improvement.
During this step, you will develop solutions to challenges, determine action steps, and revise your Compact as needed. You can use Activity Sheet 5A to develop an improvement plan.
This last step is extremely important because it allows partners to step back and praise themselves for what is going well in your school community to help children improve their reading skills and achievement. It is also a time to look at what has not been going well and to seek new solutions. These new solutions will provide information for revising your Compact for Reading, if necessary. Ask yourself: Are the right partners making the right commitments? Do new commitments need to be made? Are there enough people with the right training and expertise to make this work? Are there sufficient funds to support the commitments in the Compact? Fine-tuning your Compact is essential if everyone is to know what needs to be done, and do the best job.
Every school community faces challenges. Compact Teams can use the following approaches to generate solutions for these challenges:
- Brainstorm at your school Compact meetings. The collective wisdom of a team is far greater than that of each member. Use your team to look around your school for opportunities to operate better and more efficiently. You might start by asking a series of questions: Are there some strategies that seem to be working for certain students, families, and teachers that could be applied throughout the school? Are there better ways to allocate resources? Are staff schedules arranged to support learning and home-school communications? What types of training are helpful to staff and families in teaching or reinforcing reading? Are some school staff and parents particularly effective at overcoming difficulties? Answers to these questions can help guide school improvement throughout the school.
Review the reading research. The recently published National Academy of Sciences' report, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children, is an outstanding summary of an enormous body of reading research on "what works" in reading. The U.S. Department of Education is supporting nontechnical summaries of this report that can guide you through the findings.
Look for solid reading models. Some of the best ideas for teaching reading have been packaged into model programs. Some of the better-known models with a clear emphasis on reading are the New American Schools Corporation Models, Success for All, Early Literacy Learning Initiative, Family Literacy, and Books and Beyond. There are others that have similar emphases. Before deciding on one model, ask its creators for their research evidence of effectiveness. Consider models that have a strong parent involvement component.
Visit successful schools. Find the time and resources for school staff and parents to visit neighboring schools. Seeing how other schools successfully tackle the same problems you have provides solid training and reinforces continuous improvement.
Obtain outside advice. Experts in the field can cut through the jargon and help you understand the different reading approaches and strategies for assisting families and involving communities. Your school district, state education agency, and local colleges and universities are good places to start for advice on effective practices. At the national level, the U.S. Department of Education supports Comprehensive Assistance Centers and ERIC Clearinghouses that can be of help ( see Appendix D, Key Resources).
Look on the Web. The World Wide Web is a new resource that is available at any day and any time (see Appendix D, Key Resources for sites that can be helpful).
Challenge #1: My school has a sound Compact but it is not used.
Give your Compact Core Team clear responsibility for setting guidelines and monitoring use.
- Put the Compact on the agenda of every major school meeting relating to improvement.
- Consider including School-Home Links as one part of student report cards.
- Provide resources that are targeted specifically to implementing Compact responsibilities.
- Hold staff accountable for implementing their Compact responsibilities as part of their annual performance assessment.
- Publicize the Compact through signs, posters, and newsletters, and at parent meetings--it is said that it takes many reminders before people remember something new.
- Recognize Compact successes through newsletters, end-of-year parent achievement awards, and thank-you notes.
- Use the school calendar as a reminder about Compact events and obligations.
Challenge #2: School staff want to do more to fulfill the compact, but they simply do not have the time.
Assign to each school staff member--including the principal, other school administrators, and teacher specialists--a group of families with whom they are to keep in regular contact. Sharing communication responsibilities among all the school staff, not just the homeroom teacher, reduces the requirements on any one teacher.
- Give staff access to the telephone, preferably a telephone in the classroom, to facilitate family communication. In this age of modern electronic communications, schools remain one of the last places where a professional does not typically have easy access to the telephone.
- Use Title I resources to help pay for a parent coordinator to contact families. In districts receiving $500,000 or more, Title I reserves at least one percent for parental involvement activities.
- Ask parent volunteers to help get parents involved.
- Use paraprofessionals or student teachers to relieve teachers of noninstructional duties, such as lunch room, study hall, and recess, allowing them to spend greater time on supporting core activities in your Compact.
- Provide a recorded message informing parents of classroom and school activities. Allow parents to leave messages detailing their reactions and concerns.
Challenge #3: Although a few parents have been very supportive of the Compact, many others are uninvolved.
- Conduct a survey or focus group to find out why certain parents are having difficulty in fulfilling their Compact responsibilities and how the school can help.
- Send home information translated into the family's home language and adapted to the needs of parents with disabilities. Non-English-speaking families may want to use School-Home Links as a way to improve their own English, once they understand its purpose.
- Have frequent teacher-family calls to improve home-school relationships.
- Provide transportation for evening meetings.
- Hold Compact meetings in nonschool settings, such as local community centers or churches, where parents may feel more comfortable.
- Conduct home visits to demonstrate the willingness of school staff to go more than halfway to involve all parents in their children's education.
- Provide a welcoming and friendly atmosphere by offering food at school meetings, sending home letters, and making a call to each parent introducing yourself at the start of the year.
- Reinforce the importance of family involvement by posting meeting dates for special family events in local restaurants, churches, and other meeting places.
Challenge #4: Our children are making reading progress during the school year, but many lose those gains during the summer.
- Participate in America Reads Challenge: Read*Write*Now! school and community reading programs that team students with reading partners and require students to read at least 30 minutes a day.
- Offer extended summer school programs, like those in Chicago and Washington D.C., to rigorously reinforce reading.
- Work with voluntary organizations, such as AmeriCorps or college and high school students, to obtain summer volunteer tutors.
Challenge #5: The School-Home Links examples are very helpful, but my school would like to add additional activities to the Kit.
- The School-Home Links provided in the Compact for Reading are only examples of activities that can be developed to reinforce classroom learning. Your reading coordinator or teachers can supplement these examples with others.
- Match the School-Home Links against your state or local reading standards and identify topics that need additional activities.
- Survey parents to determine if the School-Home Links are working particularly well or are too difficult or not worth doing.
- Ask the publisher of your school's reading materials whether they have already developed parent activities to supplement your School-Home Links.
- Go to the U.S. Department of Education Web site for more School-Home Links (http://www.ed.gov/).
Challenge #6: My school needs more reading resources to provide the effective instructional program envisioned in our Compact for Reading.
- Ask for Federal Work-Study Program volunteers from your local college or university to help with tutoring, because they can obtain federal student aid assistance to help in your school.
- Contact your local Corporation for National Service representative who can tell you more about coordination and tutoring help from AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve, VISTA, Foster Grandparents, and other corporation-funded programs.
- Ask employers to support your school's reading program by providing books and other reading resources to support the Compact. Encourage employers to provide flexitime or leavetime so employees can volunteer in the school, or distribute information throughout the community on the need for resources. Integrate their assistance into your school's systematic improvement.
- Review all state and federal programs--such as Title I, Even Start, Reading is Fundamental, special education, or bilingual education--for possible reading support.
- Extend reading time and assistance through your school's after-school programs, including those receiving 21st Century school grants.
- Use your school's computers to reinforce reading.
[Activity Sheet 4B] [Activity Sheet 5A]