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District 518

Column: Community ed supports District 518 parent involvement efforts

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opinion Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Most of us know that parents have a major influence on their children's achievement in school and throughout life. Research confirms this and shows that when schools and families work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer and like school more.

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Worthington District 518 seeks to involve parents and family members in a variety of ways both at "Back to School" time and throughout the year. These efforts are intended to build partnerships that help all children learn and achieve their greatest academic potential. Some parent involvement efforts are district-wide like maintaining the district website; giving parents access to their child's educational information like attendance and grades through the campus parent portal; and employing interpreters/translators to assist parents who are learning English.

Other efforts may be building-level strategies like sending newsletter or holding parent meetings. In preparation for the school year, Worthington Middle School hosted an open house for their students' families on Aug. 9. According to WMS Principal Jeff Luke, 87 percent of students/families participated in the Back to School Open House. Prairie Elementary Principal Josh Noble reported that 96 percent of families attended their "Back to School" parent-teacher conferences. I commend the faculty and staff in those buildings for attaining a high level of participation. I also commend our local parents for making the commitment to be present and actively engaged in getting their children prepared for the school year.

Community Education supports the school district's efforts to engage parents and family members in the education process in a variety of ways.

First, the Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) department offers education and support to parents and their infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Brain research confirms that the first three years are an extremely critical period in a child's development. This is especially true in the areas of language, social skills and cognitive development. ECFE recognizes that parents are their child's first and most significant teacher, so programs are designed to help parents understand child development and promote healthy growth and development in the early years.

ECFE sets the stage for parent involvement and children's success in K-12 education. Children whose parents are involved in their early education are more likely to be successful in school. Parents involved in ECFE continue to be actively involved in their child's education. All parents need support in raising their children, so we invite parents of young children to come and give ECFE a try.

ECFE also partners with our Adult Basic Education department and Head Start to offer the Even Start Family Literacy program. In this program, parents and their preschool-aged children attend 10½ hours of educational programming a week together to develop literacy and language skills.

Also, Community Education has three bilingual/bicultural parent liaisons who work to assist families with effectively navigating the school system and with helping their children experience academic growth and success. Over the summer, Parent Liaisons, with financial support from our 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, offered transition classes for refugee and immigrant parents whose children would be entering kindergarten or who would be transitioning from Prairie to Worthington Middle School. We hope to help make the transition to new learning environments go smoothly so that children experience success.

Community Education coordinates the Parents Advocating for Student Success (PASS) classes each year. The PASS program is designed to help parents understand the school system and ways to help their children experience academic success. In addition to six lessons, the PASS program features a dialogue between participants and the school principal.

PASS classes begin in September. During the course of the school year, classes will be offered for parents of pre-K through high school students. They will also be offered in English, Karen, Spanish and Tigrnya this year. Partial funding for the PASS program is provided by Nobles County Integration Collaborative (NCIC).

NCIC also offers a variety of learning opportunities for parents including college and career preparation events. NCIC will be hosting its college and career preparation event in English and Spanish from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the West Learning Center.

Finally, the Enrichment Program department offers classes from time to time that address parent involvement. This fall, Parents Forever classes will be offered to meet the needs of single or divorced parents.

At Community Education we are pleased to partner with District 518 to offer innovative parent involvement strategies, based on best-practices that promote student success. Residents may contact Community Education at 376-6105 for more information about our educational opportunities.

Sharon Johnson is District 518's community education director.

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