Friday, July 15, 2016

Amid Changing Mandates, Colorado Schools Work to Get Parents Involved

Amid Changing Mandates, Colorado Schools Work to Get Parents Involved:

Amid Changing Mandates, Colorado Schools Work to Get Parents Involved

 Numerous studies have shown that low-income parents tend to participate less in their children’s educational experience than parents with higher incomes. For more than 50 years, the U.S. government has been trying to change that by offering funding to increase parent involvement in low-income schools. In Colorado, one school district began implementing programs to address the issue after learning it was not in compliance with federal requirements – programs that continue today even as federal legislation evolves.

Since 1965, with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA), Congress has tied parent involvement to federal education funding. This trend continued with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 and then the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. While states and counties grapple with changing federal requirements, outreach coordinators in Thompson School District in Loveland, Colo., are primarily focused on building strong, personal relationships with parents and giving them input and leadership opportunities in their local parent-engagement programs.
Low-income parents face demographic and psychological barriers to participating in their child’s education, as well as language and cultural barriers, according to the American Counseling Association.
However, these barriers are not insurmountable. A 2013 literature review by the research institute MDRC.orgconcludes: “Parents from diverse backgrounds, when given direction, can become more engaged with their children.” This review looked at learning activities at home, family involvement in schools, school outreach to engage families and supportive parenting activities.
In the Thompson School District, two schools in particular have used federal funding to engage parents in creative ways. At Truscott Elementary, Spanish-speaking parents started a “Café Con Leche” group to socialize and plan ways to help at school. At Winona Elementary, in the same district, “Padres en Acción” formed to provide training for parents, enabling them to tutor children at home and to serve as tutors inside the school.
Federal parent-involvement funds help to increase parent engagement. One direct way is by outreach staff that help parents support their children’s learning. In 2002, when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) bill, each school district receiving NCLB funds was required to use up to 1 percent of its federal funds for activities, materials and resources that improved parent involvement.
Under the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA), accountability for those dollars will change from federal hands to state and local hands. Opinions differ on the merits of this change, but the most important thing, according to Michelle Myers, the family outreach liaison at Truscott and Winona Elementary schools in Loveland, is that outreach must be positive and personal to strengthen parent partnerships.
Getting into Compliance
In the first years of NCLB, federal reviewers found that Colorado and other states’ schools were not complying with parent notification and participation requirements. The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) provided support and guidance to help local districts to comply. The first use of parent involvement funds in the early years of NCLB at Thompson School District was for part-time wages to family outreach liaisons who served as Spanish language interpreters at all the district’s Title I schools.
Many schools in the district offered a “menu” of ways for parents to help their children at home and at school. Still, principals found it difficult to recruit diverse and disadvantaged parents to serve on committees or to volunteer in school.
Myers helped the principals of Truscott and Winona Elementary schools to manage parent participation in school planning and decision-making as well as the use of federal parent-involvement funds.
Her teammates, Gloria Major and Claudeth Castellanos, did similar work in other schools within Thompson School District. Their Spanish language fluency and positive relations with parents help them make personal invitations to school events. When they can, they accompany Spanish-speaking parents and call to get feedback, Myers said.
“I spend time with every parent to discuss the school’s responsibility to involve them in the education of their children,” Myers said. “Special education staff and the English language acquisition teachers also look for Amid Changing Mandates, Colorado Schools Work to Get Parents Involved:

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