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RL-B to participate in Extension pilot program

BREWSTER -- The Round Lake-Brewster school district will participate in a University of Minnesota Extension pilot program that aims to boost student achievement through parent-school cooperation.

Seven parents with children in varied grade levels and six district faculty and staff members will attend a "Partnering for School Success" (PSS) training session Monday in Brewster, where they will learn about the latest research on ways families and schools can work together to support K-12 education.

Lori Vetsch, the district's Title I lead teacher and family advocate, hopes the training will help educators improve the school climate for student success while offering strategies to help parents get involved in their children's education.

"I'm hoping as a team we can come up with an action plan that will really make a difference," she said, adding that parents often want to be involved, but just don't know how. And sometimes even heavily involved parents have something to learn.

"They come in and report that 'I didn't know this.' They've given us good feedback," she said.

The training will be based on the latest research by University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development faculty member Sandra Christenson, who has found six factors in parental involvement that help students: expectations, structure, learning, support, relationships and modeling.

Extension Family Relation Educators Colleen Gengler and Kathleen Olson will lead the training, which will address sticking points of parent-school relations.

"We'll be talking about things like making the most out of parent-teacher conferences. One thing that comes up a lot is IEP meetings (Individualized Education Plans for special education students)," explained Olson. "That brings a lot of discussion; many times the parent doesn't fully understand what's going to happen (to their child). They only hear about the negatives."

The training will also focus on practical solutions for parents and dealing with different types of diversity in the classroom.

"We're going to talk a lot about relationships and how to reach uninvolved parents and how to get them engaged," Olson continued. "We have four 'A's: approach, attitude, atmosphere and action."

After the training, the Extension will provide follow-up support to the district and reevaluate how successful implementation of PSS techniques has been. The district will report back to both Round-Lake Brewster educators and the Extension.

"We'll have regional trainings around the state after we test these out," said Olson.

RL-B is one of five districts or schools around the state that will participate in the pilot program. The others are Proctor and Columbia Heights districts, the high school in Marshall and two elementary schools in Zimmerman.

Vetsch applied to take part in the program in December, listing other steps the district had taken to involve parents, including using the PASS (Parents Advocating for Student Success) program, an initiative of the Nobles County Integration Collaborative.

Parental involvement is a topic that is near to her heart.

"I guess it's a passion of mine to involve parents," Vetsch said. "Because research shows the more parents are involved the student's chance for success goes up."