True Partnerships: Parent Partners Leading the Way to Success

“Are you sure the principal will allow a parent to make that decision?” “Will the teachers want me to ask them for that information?” “What will the other parents think of me?” Five years ago when Ritchie County Schools, West Virginia, began our Parent Partner Program, parents asked those questions.  One goal of the partnership is in the district and each school in Ritchie County, students and parents will significantly increase engagement in the schooling process in school attendance, school completion (graduation rate), and healthy behaviors. For parents, we wanted to increase involvement in school-parent roles and parent education opportunities.  We needed to change our traditional approach.  

In 2002, we formed a county school improvement team.  The team consists of the elementary principals, classroom teachers (one primary and one intermediate), Title I staff, at least one specialist teacher from the four elementary schools, business partners from these schools, and three parents from these schools.  The team met and found that Dr. Epstein’s Framework of Six Types of Involvement fit our improvement plan best.  Our West Virginia State Department of Education supports this framework and finds it is based upon scientific-based research.  We decided to reform our parent involvements because research states with improved involvement students show greater success.  The more traditional approach has focused on what parents should do, not what schools should do to make parent involvement successful. Epstein said that the old way of thinking about parental involvement was all about parents.  The new way is about cooperation for student success.  

Our team decided to start in small steps.  We focused on volunteering first because this was already a strength in our school system.  According to Epstein, today volunteering not only means those who come during the school day, but also those who support school goals and children’s learning any way, any time.  Our team brainstormed and came up with some possible “non-traditional” volunteers.  A volunteer is anyone who supports school goals and children’s learning or development in any way, at any place, and at any time – not just during the school day and at the school building  

Next, we provided a small stipend for our Parent Partner at the four elementary schools.  This person coordinates the volunteer efforts at the schools.  The Parent Partner is a leader in the school and an integral part of the decision making process.   Our Parent Partners have major responsibilities at the school and the district.  They have become parent leaders at their retrospective schools.  

Once we implemented the first target, volunteering, the rest of the Epstein Model came together.  Our team focused on parenting, communicating, learning at home, decision-making, and collaborating with community. We sent out a survey and based on the results, we have two countywide parent training workshops.  One very successful workshop informed the parents on Internet safety and the cautions they should take with home computer use.  Another successful training occurred after we adopted new textbooks, textbook representatives conducted workshops for parents.  

We believe we are building true partnerships.  Because of our efforts, many parents are fully engaged and contribute to the success and the effectiveness of their school and the entire district.

Name of School, Organization, or Location of Program/Event:
Ritchie County Schools
Ritchie County, West Virginia 26362

Submitted by: , Director of Federal Programs and School Improvement

Links to Additional Information/Resources:


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