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

Studies of Education Reform: Parent and Community Involvement in Education - 1995

Jefferson County Public Schools
Louisville, Kentucky

Case Summary

Historically, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) has been committed to restructuring. JCPS struggles to understand change and implement policy mandates. The most striking feature of JCPS is a belief system at whose core is the recognition that families, community members and businesses can and do make a difference in education. We found that parents and the community are an integral part of school reform, and that JCPS finds unique ways to translate their beliefs about parent/family and community involvement into action.


"What all this means is that there is probably a continuum -- that we need to reattach adults back into the schools...That extends all the way from parents...to the elderly...to our business community. It's powerful. We've got to sustain that somehow."

-Superintendent

In 1990 the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) became law. KERA was significant because it set into place, through legislation, statewide reform. Provisions were made for reform in three areas: curriculum, governance, and finance. The area of curriculum reform established a direct link to family and community involvement through school-based decision making and Youth Services Centers.

JCPS supports parent, family and community involvement initiatives through policies at the district level. Programs to involve families and the community are designed both at the district level and at individual school sites.

Participatory Management Teams, the Middle Grades Assessment Program, district-mandated school/family conferences, and participation in major national middle school reform efforts sponsored by granting agencies are carefully planned initiatives that the district undertakes to involve parents and families. The 15th District Parent-Teacher Association, with 77,000 members and 140 chapters, supports parent involvement efforts and provides training, both for family members and for district staff related to statewide reform. A second group of initiatives represents partnerships created between JCPS and local businesses that benefit either all schools in the district, or business/school partnerships with middle schools. Partnerships have been created with Humana, Inc., a national health service provider; Louisville Third Century, a group of over400 businesses; Louisville Education and Employment Partnership; the Kentuckiana Education & Workforce Institute; a unique relationship with a local foundation that has established the district's Professional Development Academy; the Boy Scouts of America; and The Mathematics/Science/Technology Network Partnership through a grant from the United States Department of Education. Each middle school is partnered with a local business that provides services beyond the traditional model of Adopt-A-School.

Schools actively involve parents, families, and community members in the design and implementation of programs. Youth Services Centers, funded through grants provided by the state legislature, serve middle grade students and their families. The Centers provide linkages to local service providers. A regional service center, the Neighborhood Place, operates in one middle school and provides the services of 19 agencies in a "one stop shopping" atmosphere to neighborhood families. A wide variety of strategies and activities are used by schools to involve parents and families, including Parent Centers, creating a welcoming environment, voice mail systems, homework hotlines, newsletters, parenting workshops, and summer programs. Teachers often spoke of meeting student's basic and academic needs through home visits, providing food and clothing to families, organizing instructional activities that involved parents, and communication.

Lessons

  1. Clear goals and policies, coupled with direct funding, provide a framework for successful parent/family and community involvement initiatives.

    Both state mandates and clearly articulated district goals, when supported by direct funding at the state and district levels, are a key to this successful program.

  2. State mandates can be used to local advantage.

    JCPS has taken advantage of the reform mandates of KERA to provide comprehensive programs that include multiple opportunities for families and the community to be involved in their children's education.

  3. Coordination and involvement of the community is a key to successful restructuring.

    Efforts to involve parents and the community are carefully coordinated at the district and school level to reduce duplication of services and provide maximum impact for the restructuring initiatives.

  4. Communication with the larger community is a key to success.

    The district communicates its goals to families and the community at large on a frequent, on-going basis. This pattern of communication insures support for restructuring efforts.


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