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Engaging parents in_a_title_i_school


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A compilation of strategies to engage parents in Low Income schools. The ideas are suggested by Cheska Lorena, Steve Franklin, and Bridget Johnson.

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Engaging parents in_a_title_i_school

  1. 1. Table of Contents 1. Definition of a Title I School 2. Engaging parents at a Title I School 3. Key Issues ○ Economic Challenges. ○ Language Barriers. ○ Potential information filtering by kids. ○ Discomfort at Schools. 4. Strategies that work 5. Contributors 1
  2. 2. Engaging Parents in a Title I Schools Definition of a Title I School: According to Wikipedia, Title I ("Title One") of the Act is a set of programs set up by the United States Department of Education to distribute funding to schools and school districts with a high percentage of students from low-income families. To qualify as a Title I school, a school typically has around 40% or more of its students that come from families that qualify under the United States Census's definitions as low-income, according to the U.S. Department of Education.[2] Engaging Parents and specific challenges at a Title I School: 1. Key issues: a. Economic Challenges: At Title I schools, If there are two parents, they usually both work, and often, have 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. They have little or no time for education as they are focused primarily on survival. Schools planning an outreach program at a Title I school must keep this in mind and devise programs/ideas that can be done within the parents’ limited free time. b. Language Barriers: Parents at Title I schools are often not native English speakers. If you have ever tried to learn another language, you know that it is not easy. Speaking can be intimidating for fear of making a mistake. It can be hard for foreigners to understand what others say when the vocabulary is limited and/or people speak too fast to properly mentally process the words. Therefore, language barriers are a major issue at Title I schools and must not be overlooked. c. Potential information filtering by kids: Like all kids, it is not unusual to see information filtering by kids. This is not necessarily an issue just limited to a Title I school but is worth mentioning. d. Feeling uncomfortable approaching teachers: Teachers and schools in general intimidate parents. It brings back memories of our school days when we were kids and further compounds other issues, like language barriers. Imagine feeling intimidated by a teacher and not being able to understand what the teacher says. e. Feeling unwelcome at a school: Many parents at Title I schools feel unwelcome at a school. It has to do with economic challenges, feeling that they aren’t good enough, their English is terrible, or that they will be mocked. 2
  3. 3. Strategies that work: None of the above is insurmountable. We put together a panel of educators that work or have worked with Title I schools. They suggested some strategies that are very effective. We have compiled ideas by Cheska Lorena, Steve Franklin, and Bridget Johnson. Here are some ideas from them. Cheska Lorena: To build parent engagement in Title 1 schools, teachers and administration should focus on looking at ways that will connect and strengthen the relationships between parents, the children, and the school community. One way to do that is by involving parents in “hands- joined” classroom and school-wide projects that use elements of art, nature, and creative writing. With these programs, teachers and administration openly invite parents to help shape their child’s learning through the sharing of experiences, language, and culture. Examples include: ● Family Writing Project: One of my many mentors from student-teaching has created and organized the Family Writing Project, which is “a unique collaboration between parents, children, teachers and other faculty members working together to write and publish work that is important to them and relevant to their lives”. The families and schoolwork together to produce an annual bilingual anthology displaying the artwork and written words of the whole community. ● Family Artwork: Schools can also create a Family Mural program. An after-school program made up of students, parent volunteers, and teachers can lead and facilitate the program. In this program, families come together to paint wall murals, design tiles and write short descriptions of their artwork during Open House and Family Nights. ● Family Community Service: At the beginning and at various intervals of the year, families can come together at the school’s urban garden to help plant new flower beds, plan vegetable gardens, and create a small outdoor classroom area for observations, nature journaling, and interdisciplinary projects throughout the year. Urban school gardens can help reduce litter, vandalism, and create a more family- friendly atmosphere. Produce can be used by the school cafeteria and extra harvests can be given away at school “farmer markets” to local neighbors, soup kitchens, etc. Students, parent volunteers, and teachers can rotate schedules and responsibilities for maintaining the school gardens year-round. Steve Franklin: ● Bilingual Correspondence: Make sure correspondence with parents/guardians is bilingual if necessary, and keep in mind that may students in socioeconomically 3
  4. 4. disadvantaged school don’t live with their parents—this is why I keep mentioning “guardians” as well as parents. ● Student Incentives: Give students incentives to bring parents/guardians to back-to school and parent conference nights. I tell my students that a major part of their grade is effort, and by bringing parents/guardians to the events, it shows effort on their part. I assure my students that regardless of their grade and behavior, I will point out good qualities as well, and that I won’t only be critical, but will be honest. ● Parent Center: Utilize the parent center at your school if it has one. Many Title I schools have such places, and my experience is that it is a treasure. At schools where many parents don’t speak English, the parent center most likely offers translation services (they may even make phone calls for you!) that is needed to be able to effectively communicate with the parents. You will find that by befriending the staffers and parents who volunteer there, the parent center will be a very powerful tool. ● Call student’s homes: This is obvious. If I can’t do it myself because a translator is needed, one can be found. I might have my TAs make the call, or another adult at the school, or use the parent center. If the call home is to speak about a specific incident, I invite parents to visit the to class. I make sure to offer praise as well as critique. ● Home visits: For most teachers, a multitude of excuses can be made, some very valid, as to the impracticality of this tool. But make no mistake about it: this is a most powerful tool. I do it as needed. The surprise of my showing up at students’ doors is in and of itself draws parents in–obviously you must care a lot to make the effort and take the time to go to a child’s home. The discussion that follows strengthens it even more. A colleague of mine schedules visits with all of her students’ families once in the semester. She has a blank calendar she sends home and lets parents choose their top three days and times for a visit. She does weekends, too. From my experiences, I can say with confidence that you will be amazed what home visits can do for you. ● Engaging Assignments: Give assignments that make part of the project/assignment require parent/guardian participation. For example, I might have as part of a project an “interview an adult family member” section. In my history classes, if we are studying medieval Europe, there might be an assignment where students must ask parents/guardians their opinion about the topic. This tends to garner parent/guardian interest in what’s going on in your class. Bridget Johnson: ● Bilingual Book Club – 5 years ago we started a book club for Spanish speaking families. With grant money, we purchased children’s book in English and Spanish. The students who chose to participate in the club took home a Spanish copy and an English copy of the book of the month. The families were encouraged to read the book together (either Spanish or English). We then gathered once a month to discuss the text. Because the families were able to read the text in Spanish, they could help their children comprehend the story better. It also served as a teaching tool for many 4
  5. 5. families who wanted to learn English. The parents were reading it in Spanish and then re-reading it in English for practice. For our monthly meetings we completed engaging activities that were related to the text. Sometimes we met in the computer lab and other times we met in a classroom or at the library. I can’t speak Spanish so the students would translate for me. It was an awesome way to bring Spanish speaking families into the school building in a non-threatening way. Contributors Cheska Lorena is a twenty-something New Jersey native, a certified HS science teacher, and an ed-tech enthusiast. She student-taught in an urban Title 1 middle school in Las Vegas, Nevada, and considers it as one of her best life-changing experiences as a burgeoning educator. She now currently lives in upstate New York, where she is enjoying the seasons, connecting with other educators online, and searching for her dream school. Blog - Teaching Miss Cheska: Twitter - @MissCheska: Steve Franklin is a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He is an eleven year veteran and has won District and County Teacher of the Year awards. He was also a recipient of the prestigious Bank of America Community Hero award. Before teaching, he spent five years at Learning Forum, which runs summer camps designed to increase student academic potential. It is a world-wide program. Twitter: Bridget Johnson is an Assistant Principal and proud mom of two. She is passionate about teaching and learning. She loves to work with teachers. Twitter: Editor: Christi Grab is Director, Editorial at She is also the author of The Unexpected Circumnavigation: Unusual Boat, Unusual People Part 1 – San Diego to Australia. She is currently working on book two of the series. Twitter: 5