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Quality Teacher & Education Act Impact & Innovation Awards 2013

INNOVATIVE PRACTICE
Rationale / Priority (250 words) The Parents as Partners project is designed to benefit all families and students, particularly students who are falling behind in academics and whose families seem the most remote from school life – the “hardest to reach.” At Revere, as at other urban schools, these are often students of color, and especially our African American students. While African American student achievement at Revere steadily improved as part of overall school gains in the past three years, the rate of growth for African American students was slower than for the larger population and other subgroups. At the same time, anecdotal evidence, survey results and direct testimony showed that African American parents did not feel as connected to the school or even welcome in some cases, due to individual experiences, cultural differences and general mistrust of institutions. Parents as Partners is a school-wide initiative that involves a cross-section of staff and community – from the principal to the family liaison to parents and students. At its heart, the project builds positive relationships between individual teachers and families, using various tools to support student success at school. It aims to redefine and thereby increase parent engagement by shifting the paradigm for parent participation to one that is more parent-driven and less based on school expectations and definitions, one that makes parents authentic partners in their children’s education. Besides the obvious challenges of achieving a fundamental culture shift, this initiative has required creative problem solving and collaboration to overcome obstacles such as time constraints and language barriers.

Strategies that were Implemented (250 words)

In 2012-13 a printed Parent Guide was created for all families. This 26-page booklet in Spanish and English opens with Four Family Engagement Beliefs: We believe All parents have dreams for their children and want the best for them. Partnerships with families are essential to academic achievement. All parents can support their children’s learning. The responsibility for building partnerships between school and home rests primarily on the school staff, especially school leaders.

Parents as Partners week was launched that September. Teachers invited parents to mini-conferences to discuss their hopes and dreams for their children without the pressure of report cards or formal agendas. Teachers received a tool to help them emphasize each student’s assets and focus on listening to parents’ priorities. Akin to home visits within school walls, these meetings allowed parents to set the agenda and speak from their hearts. Teachers worked to bring in the families of struggling students, often meeting them after working hours (pay for extra hours was available) or off campus. Bilingual staff helped with translation and calendars were adjusted to free up time and space.
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Quality Teacher & Education Act Impact & Innovation Awards 2013 The meetings spawned a pilot project for African American families -- through the newly created African American Parent Advisory Group -- who initiated individual Action Plans for their children. In this follow-up activity to the initial conferences, the teacher, parent and student together developed SMART goals and described the role that each would play in achieving student success, using a tool resembling a written contract. Implementation factors: # people: # hours: Cost estimate: Other(s): About 30, Average 5 hours per teacher About $7,500 consultant 1st year program guided including 25 during one week, with some work; plus $500 in extra by outside consultant teachers, meetings scheduled around hours; $1,500 printing. working closely with administrative Action Plans for African Community School and other American students. Teachers Coordinator to provide staff also received about 2 hours professional supporting professional development development and scheduling, and debriefing. Consultant community support, logistics, and provided about 15 hours on under a gradual release translation. program development, and model. The project can outreach. continue without outside support. The project targeted all families and focused on struggling students and African Americans. Nineteen teachers (of 25 K-8) responded to a survey and reported a turnout of between 5 percent and 95 percent of families for Parents as Partners Week. Ten said more than half their families participated. Sixteen reported that 25 percent or more of at-risk students’ families participated. One teacher said: I now know who prefers texts, emails, phone calls or notes. I know who wants me to speak in Spanish at all times in front of their kid, I know who has anxiety about creative play, who wants their child to learn to be expressive, who only cares about academics, who cares about English reading and writing, who wants to hear only good news, who wants to hear only the bad news. I made a checklist for each student of something I need to do for them every week and I use it weekly to remind myself. Fifteen African American families completed Action Plans, of 18 who initiated them, several having little or no previous contact with school. The parent of one sixth-grade African American boy, for example, agreed to monitor homework on School Loop, to sign off on progress reports and provide distraction-free homework space to boost her son’s math facts scores by 5 points each week. The student agreed to finish homework on time and take quizzes during lunch. The teacher pledged to provide extra classroom support, lunchtime tutoring and weekly updates. This process created common language and shared models of student achievement for parents and teachers, where there had been little connection before. Parents as Partners was part of an explicit focus on equity in all areas of school life and on closing the opportunity gap for African American students, in particular. While African American student achievement declined on average district-wide in 2012-13, at Revere African American proficiency in
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Demonstrated Application & Measurable Outcomes (400 words)

Quality Teacher & Education Act Impact & Innovation Awards 2013 math jumped to 52.2 percent from 30.4 percent, and in ELA to 40 percent from 31.1 percent. Participation in organizations like PTA, ELAC, School Site Council and the African American Parent Advisory Group grew more robust and diverse. A Parent Leadership Summit was held to encourage cross-pollination among these groups, which led to ELAC adopting the Action Plan tool. The growing sense of community empowerment emerged at year’s end, when parents from various backgrounds joined a community-based interview committee that helped choose the new principal.

Sharing Best Practice (250 words)

Parents as Partners is expanding, building on strategies tested last year and with little new investment. It includes pre- and post-parent surveys that drill down to subgroups and practices. The SAP team also has adopted the Action Plan and is launching it earlier. The next Parent Leadership Summit is scheduled for October. The new handbook includes tips for supporting your child at home. Any single component – the handbook, the mini-conferences, the Action Plan, the Leadership Summit – or all of them combined could be shared as a best practice with other schools. With administrative support at the Superintendent’s Zone or district level, mini-conferences early in the school year could become part of the school calendar, as they are at Revere. Additional resources could provide food, childcare and materials. Revere staff, families and partners can share expertise and experiences in the form of written guidelines, tools and artifacts or through site demonstrations or meetings with educators to provide information, feedback and testimonials. Among the practices that emerged and could be shared: Some parents formulated their hopes and dreams in letters to their children. Teachers posted elements of the conversations on classroom walls to remind students of the school-home connection. The conferences are now spread over two weeks to provide more time, based on teacher feedback. Intervention specialists join when appropriate. For deeper professional development around partnering with families in such a project, schools may contract with an organization like High Expectations Parental Service, which has worked with Revere to build parent engagement.

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