Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 1 Summary of Promising Practices - 1995

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

Parent7 And Community Involvement

Research is clear and consistent regarding the importance of parent involvement in children's education. Almost from the inception of Title I, parent involvement has been part of the program, and refers to partnerships between home and school that bolster parents' capacity to improve their children's learning. Recent research on youth development argues that the pressures faced by American families mean that families often need help in supporting children's education; this research focuses attention on a "developmental triangle" of support involving schools, families, and communities (Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1992).

Collaboration between schools, parents, and communities widens the pool of resources, expertise, and activities available to any program, giving disadvantaged students greater options. Parents and other community members can play an active role in researching and designing extended learning opportunities. For example, parents and community members became champions of the year-round/intersession schedule in Texas' Socorro School District after the schools involved both groups in researching and developing the programs. These community-linked management teams also select teachers for intersessions and tailor intersession activities to address the particular academic weaknesses of students in each school.

The school district in Florence County, South Carolina, hired two parent coordinators for the extended-day kindergarten program. These coordinators enlist other parents in the program's activities. The district has a parent center where parents can check out books and games to use with children at home and pick up written materials on parenting. The parent coordinators teach parent education classes at the center, focusing on activities parents can carry out at home with their children--such as "Family Math for Preschoolers"--and on effective parenting skills.

Building Student Success through Parent Outreach

Parent outreach efforts can range from inviting parents to attend classes or sessions to hiring parents as coordinators. Programs that target kindergarten and elementary school students may provide parents with home-based learning activities. For example:

Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement targets middle and high school students but also involves parents actively. This program sponsors four bilingual meetings every school year to teach parents strategies for planning their children's educational future. At the meetings, program leaders suggest that parents analyze their children's course selection and question selections or placements that are not consistent with a college-preparatory education. Another strategy for involving parents is to seek their feedback about the program's efficacy. The Educational Program for Homeless Children and Youth conducts an annual survey to learn parents' views on program improvement and performance. The Socorro School District year-round program also elicits feedback from parents.

However, other extended-time programs do not formally include parents, beyond recruiting them to visit the program or to accompany field trips. Parents living in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods may resist involvement in the schools for many reasons; they may not feel comfortable interacting with staff, based on their own school experiences or because they cannot read, write, or speak English well. Recommendations of the Independent Review Panel of the National Assessment of Title I included strategies that may help school programs cultivate involvement by the parents of disadvantaged children:

Developing Partnerships to Meet Program and Community Needs

Extended-time programs can benefit from partnerships between community agencies or organizations and schools. Whenever community involvement occurs, both students and local communities usually benefit. Programs stretch their abilities to extend learning--and at the same time may provide students with meaningful interaction with adults, a sense of belonging, and self-confidence. Communities benefit from educating and supporting their citizens, as well as from the services the students provide. For example, the Teen Outreach and TAP Summer Youth Employment programs employ students at local hospitals to gain experience and learn about careers. ASPIRA after-school clubs emphasize a commitment to building self-esteem and improving the local community. One club adopted an orphanage, where students provided tutoring and recreational activities throughout the year. Other clubs have held food drives or conferences on understanding the political process.

Whether or not formal partnerships exist, many programs include strong community outreach efforts. They solicit professionals, retirees, and college students from the community to serve as tutors, role models, or guest speakers. In some cases, restaurants and other businesses provide rewards or prizes to students in reading contests or other academic competitions. At the Title I Summer Program for Private School Children, for example, students receive coupons redeemable for books at a local bookstore each time their parents verify that the student has read five books.

7 Many children do not live in traditional households. While we often refer to parents as those who should become actively involved in their children's education, guardians or other caring adults in a child's family may provide the partnership between home and school.
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