Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Increasing Parent Involvement in Schools By Leah Davies, M.ED.


Schools Need More Parent Involvement to Improve Achievement (Ella Smith)

 Since parent involvement relates positively to student achievement, parents are encouraged to participate in their children's education in a variety of ways both at home and in school. At home they are asked to read with their child, provide a quiet place for homework, supervise assignments, monitor television and internet use, and promote school attendance. Schools request that parents attend teacher conferences, "open houses" as well as academic, art, drama, and athletic events. Parents are invited to volunteer in classrooms, serve on advisory committees, and support fund raising for special projects. Yet, many parents do not participate.
Educators should not assume that if parents or guardians are uninvolved, they are disinterested. There are many reasons why parents do not become active in school life:
  • Too little time/work schedule/single-parenthood
  • Lack of resources/transportation/child care
  • Language barrier/cultural isolation
  • Social isolation/low educational level
  • Not knowing how to contribute
  • Feeling overwhelmed, intimidated or unwelcome
    These barriers need to be considered and overcome if schools are to promote parent participation. What are some of the actions school officials can take to increase parent involvement?
  • Staff Training
    Training on being positive during conferences, home visits, phone calls and other parent interaction fosters participation. When educators are considerate and sensitive to a parent's ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, communication and cooperation can occur. Parents need to hear that their involvement will increase their child's academic performance and that there are no educational requirements for participation. Listening to parent's concerns about their child and/or their thoughts and ideas on ways the school could improve demonstrates concern and interest. If parents feel welcome, useful, and respected, they will respond.
  • Information
    Provide a parent handbook of clear, practical information including rules, procedures, and specific ways parents can be involved in the school. If many parents speak a language other than English, have the handbook printed in both languages. Notes and newsletters are an important way to keep parents informed; however, phone calls, one-to-one meetings and home visits will enhance support.
  • Time and Location
    The area served by the school needs to be taken into consideration when planning parent involvement. Being flexible with the time of day and location of meetings and activities will allow all parents to take part at least occasionally. Consider meeting in community centers, apartment buildings or other facilities located near where families live. Try to schedule special events that will not conflict with other school or community activities.
  • Parent Conferences
    When parent conferences are scheduled, offer an interpreter if needed, or if appropriate, have their child act as an interpreter. Make sure you begin with a positive, encouraging comment about the child (see Guidelines for Educator-Parent Conferences Concerning Angry Children). At the conclusion of the conference, ask each parent to complete a survey form that includes questions about his or her occupation, hobbies, talents, interests, and work schedule that will assist in future scheduling. Provide space where parents can write concerns and/or their specific needs. If completion of the form appears to be difficult for the parents, an interview may be necessary. Collect the forms, and if possible, address their concerns before they leave.        
  • Child Care and Transportation
    Whenever possible provide childcare and transportation so that the majority of parents can be included in various conferences, meetings, and activities.
  • Volunteers
    Invite parents to provide classroom enrichment activities such as discussing their occupation, hobby, or talent. They may also provide art, music, or a cultural awareness program. Ask them to assist as a helper or tutor, accompany field trips, or perform a variety of routine administrative duties such as answering the phone, helping in the library, or keeping other parents informed.
  • Parent Room or Resource Center
    Establish a comfortable place in each school where parents feel welcome to come with their young children to learn or work on school projects with other parents. These are often staffed by a parent advocate or family resource coordinator who links families with schools and community services such as medical treatment, child care, job training, mental health facilities, shelters, food stamps, parenting classes, literacy programs, libraries, English language classes, emergency assistance, clothing, or school supplies.
  • Accessibility
    Share school facilities with other agencies such as Parks and Recreation to offer children's after-school programs, as well as adult computer, language and other training classes. Family recreation opportunities could be offered in the evening or on weekends.
  • Parent Training
    Sponsor workshops to improve parenting skills. Provide childcare, food or other incentives. Stress the importance of modeling positive behaviors and ways to help children learn at home. In addition, recruit parent leaders who are representative of the student population to attend conferences and training. Promote parent involvement in advisory councils or committees that plan together and make decisions regarding school policies.

Parents differ greatly regarding their preferences, capabilities and time available; therefore, schools must offer a variety of ways parents can become involved. Helping parents feel they are valuable partners in their children's education takes time and effort, but the results will be better home-school cooperation and increased student success.
(Also see "Inviting Parent Involvement through Survey Forms" and "Ten Ways to Involve Fathers in Their Children's Education" under Teacher Ideas at www.kellybear.com.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Questioned Answered By Ella Smith for School Board

What experience do you bring to the job and what is your motivation to serve as a school board member?

With 34 years of experience as a special education, biology, and health and physical education teacher, I possess a vast amount of knowledge regarding the inner workings of our schools. I have a B.S. in Health and PE, a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and an Ed.S. in Educational Administration.
 As an advocate for change in the DeKalb County School System, I have been actively involved for over 16 years as a parent, teacher and stakeholder.  My year of experience as an educator and an advocate, coupled with my deep love for DeKalb, motivates me to make the DeKalb County School System the top school system in Georgia.

If elected, what would be your three (3) top policy priorities and how would you work to achieve results?

My top priority is to provide each child in DeKalb County with the opportunity for a 21st century education.  Better enforced discipline policies, quality teachers, and learning community opportunities are essential.

My second priority is to work with other school board members to assure full dual accreditation of our school system.

My third priority is to improve communication with all stakeholder groups in DeKalb County.  I would encourage the school superintendent, principals, and staff to communicate and demonstrate to all stakeholder groups that the success of the public school system is a shared responsibility and that input from parents, students, teachers, and business leaders is necessary for success.

In your opinion, what is the single biggest weakness in your school system and what will you do while in office to address it?

The single biggest weakness I see involves the financial responsibility of the DeKalb County School System.  There is too much money spent on administration and busing our children all over the county.  As a school board member, I will advocate the need to restructure the county office, stop spending millions of dollars busing our children, and make sure money is put back into our classrooms to provide every child in DeKalb County with an optimal learning environment.
If elected, which of the 17 pathways being developed by the Department of Education would you support putting in your district school and why?
The Georgia Department of Education (DOE) has developed 56+ Career Pathways in areas of Career and Technical Education in preparation for a seamless transition from high school to post secondary training at a college or technical school. As a school board member I will encourage strengthening our technical schools in the north and south sides of the county in order to offer each strand that is currently not offered in the high schools. I would encourage the school superintendent to work closely with the DeKalb Technical College to enable our high school students to take strands of classes through programs like joint enrolment and “Move on When Ready.” I would encourage the school superintendent to have strong Science, Math, Technology, and Work-Based Programs in every high school in DeKalb County.
Which educational reform idea do you believe has the most promise for your school system?

 Taxpayers have invested considerable resources in the DeKalb County Schools.  Ever-increasing funding of Education has not led to improved student performance.  Federal, state, and school board policymakers should implement educational reform designed to improve resource allocation to the classroom, instead of simply increasing funding for public education. Teacher involvement will improve this resource allocation and in turn boost students’ performance.

What is the appropriate relationship between the state and local communities regarding their contribution to school funding?
It is important that the relationship between the state and local communities continue to stay positive.  However, in DeKalb County there is dissatisfaction with the current series of formulas established by the 1986 Quality Basic Education Act.  Now is the opportunity for the state policymakers to re-evaluate the state’s approach to funding and reform its financial system so that it gives all school systems the funding they need, and to provide positive incentives for districts and schools to spend smarter and gain better achievement outcomes.