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A Promising Parent Engagement Model

November 27, 2012

Edutopia, the George Lucas Foundation’s education enterprise that supports the use of technology to ensure that students graduate with 21st Century skills, featured an article by Anne O’Brian in its November 26 on-line newsletter entitled “The Power of Academic Parent Teacher Teams. These teams take two forms:  a classroom team, which consists of all the parents and the classroom teacher; and the parent teacher team which consist of the parent(s), the teacher, and the student. The classroom team convenes three meetings per year and the content of those meetings focusses on ways the parents can support the school’s efforts at home. The parent-teacher team convenes once each year. Here’s a brief description of how those meetings work:

At these meetings, they review performance data, create an action plan for continuous improvement, discuss how to support student learning at home, and develop stronger relationships. Additional individual conferences are scheduled as needed.

According to According to Maria Paredes, the administrator who developed and copyrighted this process:

…one of the greatest challenges implementing this (or any model of family engagement) is some educators’ mindset about families. As she says, “We often doubt families’ capacity to help their children, and we often have mistaken perceptions of their ability to commit to higher expectations and standards for learning,” particularly for the families of disadvantaged and minority children.

Having worked in schools and led districts where many parents are disengaged, it is easy to forget that there are many parents who want  to be engaged in improving their child’s educational opportunities but don’t know how to do so. For many teachers, most of whom were raised in families where education was valued and good parenting came naturally, it is difficult to appreciate that parenting is a learned behavior.  When they encounter discipline problems– especially in middle and high schools, in most cases they find themselves dealing with parents are not engaged. It is not too hard for these teachers to conclude that the majority of parents are equally disengaged, creating the vicious cycle that Paredes describes.

The key: intervene early and follow through. When schools fail to do any outreach, the parents quickly conclude that “the teachers have given up on our kids”… whereas if intervention occurs for the parents of ALL students it can be infectious and lead to the opposite message.

Finally, any steps taken toward personalization will necessarily include this kind of outreach to parents: teachers and counselors will need parental support for whatever plan an individual student develops and parent engagement at all levels will help schools find external learning opportunities.

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