Parents As Teachers
by Cornerstone Staff
Got a deadline due on a Cornerstone Parent Grant? Struggling to reach a level three or four on the Parent Involvement Grid? Read no further. We have the information at your fingertips. By addressing this dilemma in a four-part format based on a preview of our new Cornerstone model for Continuous Professional Development, travel with us through a written form of this new model:
- what is it,
- how does it feel as an adult learner,
- what does it look like, and
- what now- to become the expert on parent involvement that your school community deserves?
So what is this parent involvement piece that is so important that Cornerstone is willing to invest a grant of five thousand dollars each year and why is this so significant in our schools? Research points out that the most immediate positive impact on student academic performance is a home school contact. The National Education Goals panel states: “Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children” (U. S. Department of Education, 1994). This goal as stated should have been met in the year 2000 in America’s public schools.
In a review of 66 studies of how students succeed in school, Henderson and Berla (2001) synthesized the research by stating when parents become involved in children’s education at school and in the community powerful changes take place with the results including one or more of the following:
- higher grades and test scores
- better attendance and regularly completed homework
- fewer placements in special education or remedial classes
- more positive attitudes and behavior in school
- higher graduation rates
- greater enrollment in post-secondary education
Knowing the above information, there should be a mad rush to the bookstores in American school neighborhoods with demands for current literature on building home school connections. In all likelihood, the mad rush is to the shelves that house the latest practice booklets on standardized achievement tests! Why do we continually ignore the least expensive, most effective, and relevant means for helping our children achieve to the very highest academic standards and ace the local and national achievement tests? There is no simple answer to this question. In fact, many Cornerstone schools have Asset Map goals about meaningful interaction between parents, teachers and students and are in the midst of writing Parent/Community Engagement grants to attract parents to well planned events. Sara Schwabacher has provided Cornerstone schools with the best technical assistance and support that is available. Still many of us ponder the ‘how to do it’ aspect of this work.
Moving beyond literacy activities for parents and making home/school connections a rich, integrated aspect of classroom instruction is a goal we all want to achieve. However, the vision is not clear for some of us. To get a feel for how this looks, read further.
Recently, we witnessed a miracle of sorts in a classroom of first and second-grade children in Conway, South Carolina. What we experienced was much more than a home school connection. We actually saw parents teaching children by answering the children’s interview questions. Yes, that would be at least a level three on the Cornerstone Parent Involvement grid!
So how does it feel as an adult learner to experience true parent involvement in a classroom? It is a remarkable experience not soon to be forgotten when viewing extraordinary teachers weave their magic to include parents and community members as social studies teachers. Take a mind journey to South Conway Elementary and feel for yourself as you listen to the words of two extraordinary Cornerstone coaches, Donna Traylor and Susan Wiseman:
“It was the beginning of school and excitement filled the air! We were building a brand new community of learners. A warm, inviting environment had been established physically with lamps, rugs, pillows, rocking chairs, plants, pictures, etc. When entering our door we wanted children to feel that this was a safe, inviting place in which to learn. Rituals and routines were established as well as expectations.
Our typical day starts off with morning meeting in which we really get to know each other and exhibit lifeskills like caring, cooperation, etc. Children have the opportunity to share and others get to propose questions or interject comments about what they have heard. We are not only building community but learning how to participate in a large group discussion and valuing contributions of others. This is an excellent opportunity for children to convey their ideas and express their feelings. Most importantly, we do this because of the significance of developing oral language and listening skills.
During this morning meeting we were learning about each other and wanted to share our families with the class. This came about when several children would mention what their parents did for a living. Upon exploring this notion further and expanding upon the development of oral language and listening skills, we decided to bring in parents and interview them. The kids were so excited!
As educators, we were aware of the research on the power of interviews. We began this endeavor by asking kids what they wanted to know. We devised some interview questions from this brainstorming session and thus our interview was born. These interview questions were sent home in hopes that volunteers would enlist. We wanted the parents to see up front what we would be asking them.
Our goal was to showcase our parents to the class by introducing them through their vocation. We have 30 kids in our multiage classroom and we knew that over the course of the two weeks we could accommodate everyone if need be. Our response to our in-home interview and invitation was overwhelming! We were flexible in scheduling our parents around their time requests.
The kids practiced interviewing at home first. Once the parent arrived both the student and their parent sat up front in rocking chairs. The other children followed our routines of coming to our living room for a group discussion. With clipboard in hand, the student conducted the interview in a non-threatening manner. The parent simply followed the lead of the child.
The interview questions were designed to talk about the different careers and the education that was needed. The parents were able to explain in child terms. The student doing the interview became empowered in this role. We were continuing to build community and see commonalties among our community of learners. Upon conclusion of the interview, we opened it up to the students for additional questions, time permitting. The interviews were open windows to various professions. Some examples of careers represented were the following: hairdresser, dog groomer, water treatment analyst, judge, lawyer, certified public accountant, military, coach, kidney specialist, victims advocate, jailer, nurse, principal, insurance claims clerk, heavy equipment operator, and several more.
Mr. Cox, the kidney specialist, demonstrated with a Skittle and a Pixie Stix straw how a kidney stone tries to pass through. It was through props like these that parents made their profession come alive for the students. The kids were spellbound. Through the power of an interview we were well on our way to establishing a powerful home school connection. What a wonderful way to start the year!”
One particular parent, Mrs. Lisa Smith, a hairdresser, brought in wigs she designed for cancer patients. This really opened up a dialogue with the students about her profession. She had several students model them for the class.
Over ten years ago, Paul Barton with the Educational Testing Service estimated that about 90 percent of the differences in students’ academic performance “could be explained by five factors in the home life of students”: number of days absent from school, number of hours spent watching television, number of pages read for homework, quantity and quality of reading material in the home, and whether one or two parents are present in the home. Out of the five factors, schools can impact four either directly or indirectly. By joining with our parents to build a curriculum that is so enticing, we can provide leaning opportunities that will make absenteeism dwindle. By the way, who has time to watch TV when you have the best book in the world to read…. sent home by a loving Cornerstone teacher?
With evidence such as this, dare we continue to ignore the research and this fundamental premise of our Cornerstone goals? The opportunity is ours for the taking. The resources abound and many are offered as a part of this article. It is up to us to decide where we go from here and what next. Why not curl up during the holidays with one of the articles or books offered in the resource section as a great beginning for the New Year?
After observing in this classroom, one would think that Donna and Susan are using the video and book by Paula Rogovin, Classroom interviews A world of learning. However, they share that they were aware of research supporting this work, but not this particular resource. They point out to us that most of the best home school connections are common sense strategies that are cost free yet priceless in value and certainly insure that all our children will be able “to read, to write, to think critically, to reason, to analyze and evaluate information, to communicate effectively in a variety of forms, and to inquire systematically into any important matter."
Resources: Parents in the Schools
Recent articles from Reading Teacher: (Taken directly from the International Reading Teachers’ Website. All sources are available online for members: http://www.reading.org/)
Nistler, R. & Maiers, A. (2000). Stopping the silence: Hearing parents’ voices in an urban first-grade family literacy program. Reading Teacher, 53, 8.
Trying a parental involvement program like the article suggests will insure that your children’s literacy development will increase.
Spielman, J. (2001). The Family Photography Project: "We will just read what the pictures tell us". Reading Teacher, 54, 8.
As a part of this literacy education program, families and teachers involved in this project became more aware of home experiences.
Barillas, M. R. Literacy at home: Honoring parent voices through writing. Reading Teacher, 54, 3.
The voices of parents were heard through parent-student interactions in written homework assignments, The assignments affirmed, respected, and acknowledged the experiences, culture, and language of students and their families.
Smith, C. M. & Elish-Piper, L. (2002). Primary-grade educators and adult literacy: Some strategies for assisting low-literate parents. Reading Teacher, 56, 2.
Suggestions that are helpful for the roles of primary teachers in adult literacy are presented in this article. Using these suggestions to guides teachers in this role.
Karther, D. (2002). Fathers with low literacy and their young children. Reading Teacher, 56, 2.
Fathers in this study valued literacy learning and monitored their children's progress and participated in book reading despite low direct program involvement.
Edwards, P. A., Pleasants, H. M, Franklin, S. (2000). A path to follow: Learning to listen to parents. Porstmouth, NH: Heinmann.
Edwards, P. A. (2003). Children's Literacy Development: Making It Happen Through School, Family, and Community Involvement. Pearson Education Company
Epstein, G. C. (1991). Home, school, and community relations; A guide to working with parents.2nd Ed. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers.
Fuller, M. L. & Olsen, G. (1998). Home school relations: Working successfully with parents and families. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Kroth, R. (1996). Communicating with Parents of exceptional children, 3rd ed. Denver, CO: Love Publishing Company.
Rogovin, P. (1998). Classroom interviews: A world of learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. (Book and video) Highly recommended!
Rogovin P. (2001). The research workshop: Bringing the world into your classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Winston, L. & Taylor, D. (1997). Keepsakes: Using family stories in elementary classrooms. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Comer, James, (1986). Parent participation in schools. Phi Delta Kappan, 67 (2), 442-446.
Dodd, A. W. Involving parents: Avoiding gridlock. Educational Leadership, 53 (7), 44-49.
Epstein, J. L. (1987). Parent involvement. Education and Urban Society, 19 (2), 119-136.
Henderson, A. T. & Mapp, K.L. (2001). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools, Southwest Educational Development
Rutherford, B. Anderson, B., Billing, B. & RMC Research Corporation. (1997). Parent and community involvement in education, U. S. Department of Education.
Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Bassler, O. C., Brissie, J. S. (1987). Parent involvement: Contributions of teacher efficacy, school SES, and other school characteristics. American Educational Research Journal, 24(3), 417-435.
Edwards, P. A. http://ott.educ.msu.edu/ciera/faculty/PatE.htm
Henderson, A. T. & Berla, N. (1994). A new generation of evidence: The family is critical to student achievement. Columbia, MD: National Committee for Citizens Education.
Nicolau, S. & Ramos, C. L. (1990). Together is better: Building strong partnerships between schools and Hispanic parents. Washington, DC: Hispanic Policy Development Project.
U. S. Department of Education (1994). Goals 2000: Educate America. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Education.
Latino Parents as Partners in Education-Films for Humanities & Science, 800-257-5126
Parent Involvement- Films for Humanities & Science, 800-257-5126
Partnership with Parents-Insight Media, 212-721-6316
Shared Decision Making- Insight Media, 212-721-6316
Rogovin, P. (1998). Classroom interviews: A world of learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. (Book and video) Highly recommended!