The learning continued at more breakout sessions that I attended at the state education convention.
Moving from Traditional Parent Involvement to Effective Family Engagement
The title of this session intrigued me because I know firsthand through PTO involvement that there are ALWAYS opportunities for parents to get involved. We are fortunate in the Falls because we have a lot of active family involvement already happening. I experienced the great turnout at a recent open house at Riverside this past week.
How does parent involvement help students? Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (in this Center for Public Education article) found that, “Programs and interventions that engage families in supporting their children’s learning at home are linked to higher student achievement.”
Several school districts from the Fox Cities and southeastern Wisconsin shared their work on engaging with families by implementing the Academic Parent Teacher Team, or APTT program. Throughout the year, families come together by grade level for three team meetings and one individual session (eg. teacher conferences). Each session runs as follows:
- Welcome and team building icebreaker
- Math or reading skills
- Share achievement data as a group
- Model and practice strategies (kids and families)
- Goal setting
There is breakout time for kids to have a fun activity, while families learn about the skills and data. Some schools have provided a meal and childcare to make the event more accessible to all families.
The Academic Parent Teacher Team program has helped build community among parents, helped families understand the curriculum, and created a two-way dialogues between teachers and families. Many parents felt more comfortable interacting with teachers after these team sessions. Most importantly, the learning outcomes are improving.
Parents are their child’s first teacher, so it’s vital for a parent to stay involved with their child’s learning, share their high expectations, monitor progress, and support learning at home.
Special Education and Pupil Services Update
Representatives from pupil services and special education shared updated in state and federal legislation focusing specifically on mental health, special education, and public subsidies for private education. This session covered a lot, including the different types of funding for special education: local, state, grants (IDEA – individuals with disabilities equity act), and Medicaid. Sometimes funding is competitive and for specific projects.
Policymaking as a Tool to Meet Your Strategic Plan
Being on the policy committee, I enjoyed hearing how the Eau Claire school board approaches policy. Their board president discussed the importance of writing policy with a specific strategic goal in mind. For more complicated policies, he recommended involving key stakeholders, such as school staff and community members.
Our school district has many excellent programs and opportunities already in place. We have high student achievement and strong parent involvement and a continuous improvement model, so we keep getting better.
While we’re in a good position, it’s important to attend conferences and see what’s working in other districts, so we can continue to bring new ideas on how to make our schools even better for each and every student we serve.