Promoting educational partnerships with parents

WORTHINGTON -- Monday, March 5 will mark the beginning of rush week for parents in District 518. During a week of intense recruitment, local parents will be given an opportunity to become a "pledge" in perhaps the most important group they could ...

WORTHINGTON -- Monday, March 5 will mark the beginning of rush week for parents in District 518. During a week of intense recruitment, local parents will be given an opportunity to become a "pledge" in perhaps the most important group they could aspire to join -- Parents Advocating For Student Success (PASS). As you may have already guessed by now, PASS is not your typical sorority or fraternity that is seeking to find new freshmen members on a college campus. Rather, it is District 518's initiative to reach out to parents to provide them with the latest research and practical skills for how they can effectively promote their children's school success.

PASS has been modeled on a parent involvement program that was originally developed by the Parent Institute For Quality Education (PIQE) in San Diego in 1987. It has since been replicated in schools all across California and in several different states, including Texas and Arizona. Worthington is the first school district in Minnesota to offer this curriculum to its parents.

The primary component of the PASS program is a nine-week class that provides parents with a variety of information that relates to students' ages and their potential for academic success. The participants learn about their children's growth and development needs and about how they as parents can support their children's learning at home as well as in school. An important element in this approach is also encouraging parents to assist their children in setting future educational goals, including some type of post-secondary training.

Since last spring, trained facilitators have offered PASS classes for parents of elementary and middle school students. For families' convenience, these sessions have been scheduled for both day and evening times and they have also been presented in Spanish as well as English. A total of 247 parents have attended this course, with 137 of them fulfilling all of the course requirements necessary to have earned their completion certificate.

The next round of classes will be scheduled for this coming March. The offerings have been expanded to include a special curriculum for the parents of pre-school children. The course for elementary school parents will also be presented for the first time in Lao. Future plans, depending in part on the status of grant funding applications, include a class for the parents of high school students.


Because the district views the PASS program as a critical link in strengthening our educational partnership with families, we are committed to ensuring that, as much as possible, all parents have an opportunity to attend these classes in their native language and at a time that is convenient for them. In addition to this vital initiative, we have implemented a variety of other programming strategies to increase parents' involvement in the schools and in their children's education. Some of these activities include using special grant funds to hire bilingual parent liaisons who assist in communicating school information to immigrant families. The liaisons make personal phone calls and home visits to explain to parents how they can support their children's schooling despite their limited English. Family advocates, whose positions have also been supported by outside funds, have provided comparable services for English-speaking parents.

This past fall the entire teaching staff of both Prairie Elementary and the Middle School received seven hours of training on the most recent research on parent involvement best practices. As a result of this day-long workshop, each building adopted a set of goals, that once implemented, will facilitate parents assuming a more active role in the schools.

Through the district's Minnesota Youth Community Learning Initiative (MYCL) project, Learning Links, the Middle School, High School, and Area Learning Center students and staff have completed a nationally developed survey for improving school environments. Parent representatives are now being invited to assist in planning how best to improve the schools' learning climates.

In addition to these newest strategies, the district has continued using some of its more conventional approaches to support parental involvement, including parent-teacher conferences and building-level parent advisory committees.

One of the references we have used to guide our parental involvement initiatives is entitled "Educating Our Children Together," published by a special department of the U.S. Office of Education. This sourcebook has identified 12 fundamental principles that should be the underpinnings of a school district's goal to involve families. Included on this list are the following five statements of belief:

l Family members are equal partners in a child's education and know their child best;

l Schools need families to help them help our children;

l The home environment is the primary educational environment;


l Family involvement remains important through all the years of a child's education; and

l Families, schools, and communities are closely interconnected, and the responsibility for children's educational development is a shared one.

Jerry Fiola is Director of Community Education for District 518.

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