Parent and Community Involvement
It would be difficult to exaggerate the emphasis that the odds-beating schools -- whether elementary, middle, or high school - place on partnership with parents and community.
Reference to it can be found in every case study, and some describe specific activities.
Here are a few highlights. For example,
- Like Binghamton and White Plains, many of the districts and schools include parent involvement as part of the district philosophy, strategic plan, or as a priority goal. Some, like Honeoye Falls-Lima, seek parent input in developing and refining plans and goals. Others (e.g., Traphagen) specifically address the topic in reports to the board of education.
- Even more report involving parents on decision-making committees and teams. This includes serving on interview committees for teachers and administrators (New Rochelle, p.3) and participating in decisions about retention (Naples, p.9; Potsdam, p.10). At least one (Holland, p.8) gives parents the opportunity to nominate students for school awards.
- Websites, email, and automatic telephone dialing provide new ways to reach parents with general information about the school program, including the curriculum. Some schools post the entire curriculum map; others (Honeoye Falls-Lima) provide a "year-at-a-glance" version, as well.
- More frequent communications -- by letter, email, phone, and in person, including visits to home or work -- are made to/with parents of students considered at risk for some reason, in advance of or at the first signs of difficulty -- for example, a monthly calendar at Ulysses Byas or a warning letter in Warrensburg. Some schools ask parents and students to sign a contract (e.g., Queensbury’s after-school tutorial) or have devised vehicles for outlining school and family responsibilities (e.g., Vernon-Verona-Sherrill).
- But schools communicate the positive and progress, as well; guidance departments, in particular, involve parents and students in planning for the future, whether high school for college (e.g., Saunders, p.11), middle school for high school (e.g., Vernon-Verona-Sherrill, p.5), or parents of preschoolers for kindergarten (e.g., Mannsville Manor, pp.3-7).
- Most schools make special efforts to meet parent needs, adapting to their schedules and often providing breakfast or dinner: special sessions about state assessments, what to expect and how to help students prepare (e.g., Traphagen, p.7); English language classes; parenting classes; and information on substance abuse.
- Special events, including art exhibits and student drama and/or musical performances help forge school-community ties and bring parents in to school. Saunders hosts street fairs and other events to draw parents from across Yonkers to this school of choice. New Rochelle maintains a strong arts program that attracts parents to performances on site or in nearby New York City.