"...parents see the program as an opportunity to give a stable educational experience to their child in one of these subject areas and they want to get involved...and they do."
"I think the payoff will be in the later grades because these children will have developed a positive attitude about education."
An initial needs assessment was conducted prior to the development of the Parent/Child Basic Learning Program. The assessment indicated that parents were interested in supporting their children in school. By adopting a family partnership program that directly linked parents/families to student's learning, district officials felt that the direct outcomes would be academic success and a better-educated workforce in the future.
Teachers and paraprofessionals work as a team in each school that participates in the program. Paraprofessionals are responsible for recruiting families. Teachers develop learning activities for the sessions. They use strategies which differ drastically from traditional teaching methods. Staff believe activities should be fun, engaging, and offer children an opportunity to learn important concepts they may not grasp in their regular classroom. Monthly staff meetings typically involve sharing ideas for new learning activities. Activities are developed based on student needs, upcoming testing, teacher input, and parent homework help requests. Based on the success of Family Math, Family Reading and Family Science were added as components of the Parent/Child Basic Learning Program. A Parent Academy was designed to help parents learn the basic academic content which their child is expected to know for each grade, to help parents find out if their child is learning this content, to give assistance in asking the right questions at school/family conferences, and to give assistance in providing a quality educational experience for their children within the district. The largest portion of funding for this program comes from state adult education monies. The district is reimbursed, based on adult attendance, for providing adult learning situations. This nontraditional funding source has allowed the Parent/Child Basic Learning Program to continue and grow in a district faced with severe budget cuts.
The use of the state adult education funds have provided the bulk of the funding for the Parent/Child Basic Learning Program.
The developers of the Parent/Child Basic Learning Program continued to use the same successful structure of the Family Math program to develop Family Reading and Family Science. Megaskills and a Parent Academy were added to the program to support the family partnership initiative.
We consistently observed an excitement for the activity-based learning used in the Parent/Child Learning Program. This attitude was reflected in all the workings of the program and most importantly in the interactions with families.
Although the Parent/Child Basic Learning Program had not been implemented in the upper middle grades, administrators expressed a belief that the program would need to be designed and implemented with different strategies and activities to be successful with older children and their families.
Informal evaluation information from the Parent/Child Basic Learning Program indicated that students who participated in the program improved their letter grades, as judged by classroom teachers, and norm-referenced test scores. However, the structure of learning opportunities must be responsive to the developmental stages of the both the student and the parents/families as they work together.