Friday, May 19, 2006

Forging Stronger Links between Home and School

As readers of the blog may have gathered by now, we believe stronger links between home and school can improve educational outcomes for our children. To help educators develop more active and comprehensive partnerships with parents and communities, the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS) at Johns Hopkins University has come up with a typology of 6 kinds of parent-school partnerships:

1) Parenting: Assist 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. Assist schools in understanding families.

2) Communicating: Communicate with families about school programs and student progress through effective school-to-home and home-to-school communications.

3) Volunteering: Improve recruitment, training, work, and schedules to involve families as volunteers and audiences at the school or in other locations to support students and school programs.

4) Learning at home: Involve families with their children in learning activities at home, including homework and other curriculum-linked activities and decisions.

5) Decision making: Include families as participants in school decisions, governance, and advocacy through PTA/PTO, school councils, committees, and other parent organizations.

6) Collaborating with the community: Coordinate resources and services for families, students, and the school with businesses, agencies, and other groups, and provide services to the community.

There are specific challenges and principles associated with each type of partnership. For example, number 5 or parental involvement in decision making entails the following challenges and principles.

  • Include parent leaders from all racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other groups in the school.
  • Offer training to enable parent leaders to develop skills to serve as representatives of other families.
  • Include student representatives along with parents in decision-making groups.
  • "Decision making" means a process of partnership, of shared views and actions toward shared goals, not just a power struggle between conflicting ideas.
  • Parent "leader" means a representative who shares information with and obtains ideas from other families and community members, not just a parent who attends school meetings.

How does this typology relate to your experiences at JIS? Do you think some types of involvement are more developed or more frequent than others? In an ideal world, what types of parent-school partnerships would you like to see?


At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm all in favour of establishing stronger links than presently exist at this school.

With regard to Parenting, it would be wonderful to see a return to the talks that used to be given to the parent community by, for example, experts brought in to work with staff on professional development. There are also members of the JIS staff who are excellent speakers but who have largely focussed on in-service training. These people have a lot to share and, in a community such as this with relatively few opportunities to update our parenting/child rearing skills, it would be good to hear from them.

The topic of Communicating is a 'biggie'. At parent/council forums last year, parents virtually unanimously called for improved communication with the school. One small example is the tendency of certain departments in both middle and high school to retain tests written by the students. As a result, these tests are never seen by parents. A recent attempt to simply better understand the practice in different departments of the high school was stunningly unsuccessful when only one of five department heads contacted provided the requested information.

Involving families in Decision-making would be another positive step. We parents may not be educators (although some of us are)but we have a keen interest in our childrens' education and many of us bring a common sense perspective which deserves consideration by the decision-makers.

If JIS has any ambitions to be a 'great' school, it should adopt a more inclusive rather than exclusive attitude towards the parent community.

At 10:55 PM, Blogger Catherine Quoyeser said...

Thanks, anonymous.

About the 2nd type of partnership ("communicating"), a few postings on the blog have commented on the fact that very little graded work seems to make its way home in elementary, middle, and high school.

As a reality check, I wrote my sister, who teaches 4th grade in Mill Valley, California. She said she and other staff at her school send home several examples of graded work produced in class (not to be confused with homework) in student folders EVERY WEEK. She also confirmed that her school makes the entire curriculum available online.

Science departments at the secondary level don't use textbooks in part because they want to stay current with trends in the field. But the same exams are given year after year. Is there a contradiction?

Another thought -- the blog has discussed educational research showing that formative assessment (i.e., using tests, deskwork, and other student "products" to inform and strengthen instruction) has a powerful impact on students' learning achievments. Given that a) so little school work makes its way home and b) the same exams are given year after year, one wonders how much formative assessment is practiced.

At 4:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And is it a useful exercise if a student reviews a test in class after it's been marked, makes notes in the margin, and then passes the test back to the teacher, never to be seen again?

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At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have any doubt about the accuracy of the earlier remark about retained tests, please check with the MS and HS principals.

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