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Since the majority of schools in urban communities are under performing, one model fix can’t fix all of them. Due to the lack of funding and resources that exist in urban schools, parents of the nonprofit "Parent U-Turn" in Los Angeles created seven different types of parent involvement for all parents in the twenty-first century. These seven keys help empower parents to make informed decisions on the education, safety, and health of their children. This is the first time that parents of urban students have written a document on engaging parents as equal partners in education with the goal of improving student achievement.
When recasting Joyce Epstein’s six principles, we used her model as a guide. We included principles, which we, as parents of color, believe all parents need in order to successfully move our children beyond high school and into college. These are the seven types required.
Parents need to have access to timely and accurate information regarding their child’s education in order to best support their children’s academic success. This includes:
In Joyce Epstein’s “Six Keys Steps” she doesn’t mention anything regarding data collection. We now live in a data driven society. Type 1 is aligned with the intention of the 2001 NCLB section 1118 and California School Report Card. Research shows that an informed parent is a powerful instrument for social change.
Parents provide leadership in schools by being at the table with teachers and administrators to:
1) Actively develop policies and be involved in the decisions along with school leadership teams.
2) Ensure that the school has adequate resources and allocates them appropriately to carry out its mission.
3) Provide training and evaluation of school structures, physical and academic
4) Incorporate input from families and the community
This might include:
· Develop a parent workshops team to integral input from families and community and establish benchmarks.
In recasting Type 2, Joyce Epstein addressed decision-making in her six keys. However, it was too general, and lacked content or suggestion on what it should look like in practice. It left too much open to interpretation. This left too much up to the school district to determine what it should look like.
Our Type 2 actually correlates to Joyce Epstein’s Type 5, “Decision Making: including families as participants in school decisions, governance, and advocacy through PTA/PTO, school councils, committees, and other parent organizations.”
Parents need to know how to navigate and negotiate the school system. We need to support the creation of an environment where parents have access to information and support systems to be effective advocates by monitoring and directing the education of our children. This includes:
The recasting of Type 3 content wasn’t addressed in the six keys that the State of California adopted. Parents need to know how to engage grades K-12 if they are going to be public participants in their children’s education. Only when parents know the rules of engagement, can they hold the system accountable.
Parents need opportunities to build leadership and advocacy skills to enhance student-parent-community partnerships. Schools will serve the family and community needs for health and social service and provide resources and information for accessing those services:
Joyce Epstein did discuss parent roles, but it was limited in content. There was a need to expand content beyond homework to address urban parents’ needs. Parents in urban schools need equal resources in the area of gang, drug, and criminal activities that go beyond basic parenting skills.
Our Type 4 correlates to Joyce Epstein’s Type 1 , “PARENTING: Assisting families with parenting and child-rearing skills, understanding child and adolescent development, and setting home conditions that support children as students at each age and grade level. Assisting schools in understanding families.”
We enhanced and expanded on Type 5 because a major stakeholder was left out of the two-way communication. This was the Parent Liaison role that is the key to fostering relationships with parents and open communication between schools and communities.
Our Type 5 correlates to Joyce Epstein’s Type –2, “COMMUNICATING: Communicate with families about school programs and student progress through effective school-to-home and home-to-school communications.”
Structures are provided to build parent capacity that is well-defined, meaningful participation where dialogue, empowerment and action are critical components of educational reform. This mid-level structure will be fully funded and led by parent councils that will:
Also, it very important that there be support at the District Level. We are looking at the district with a critical eye. We are hoping to see the District develop a forum that is led by parents, as we can’t continue with the status quo. There are many people in high places that are still limited in their perception of parent involvement. Parents at the district level need authentic roles that look similar to the ones described in appendix.
Schools will post welcome signs throughout the school in many languages including English. The staff of each school will provide mandatory customer service every year for the entire school. Parents will be asked to fill out a survey on services rendered.
A friendly school atmosphere was also left out of the six keys that were adopted by the State of California. The number one complaint in urban schools from parents is that the school staff is rude and unfriendly. This is the major reason parents stop participating or volunteering at local schools.
Please see the Appendix Section (separate PDF) to this article which includes recommendations for training and leadership, a sample Parent Report Card, accountability procedures, assessment measures, etc.
Posted on May 3, 2011 by Mary Johnson [Guest Article]
Mary is President of Parent U-Turn, a grass roots non-profit organization committed to improving schools and the rights of urban families in Los Angeles. She has worked as a research associate within UCLA’s Institute for Democracy and Access (IDEA) and served as chairperson of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Parent Collaborative.
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Tags: 2-way communication, *Diverse Families, *School-Family Partnership, Building trust & respect, Low-income/ At risk, Multiracial, Theory-Research
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