Ten Countries Come Together to Share Practical Help for Teachers to Engage Parents
Community schools are not confined to the United States. In fact, there are thousands of institutions adopting and adapting this approach across the globe. The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) and its National Center for Community Schools have contributed to the growth of the international movement since 1994; for example, professionals and policy makers from 76 countries have visited CAS community schools since the first one opened in 1992.
The International Centre of Excellence for Community Schools (ICECS) was founded in England in 2009, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; CAS has been an active partner from its inception. Chris Jones, the center’s director, often contributes to ‘Partnership Press,’ this month she writes a brief parent engagement update.
Involving parents in schools raises academic attainment, right? Not necessarily. A literature review carried out in the United Kingdom revealed that whilst most agree that involving parents is a good idea, only certain types of engagement result in raised academic attainment. The review listed a range of activities in which parents are engaged; here are some typical examples –parents involved in governance, parents raising funds for extra-curricular activity, parents volunteering to support schools activities such as sports, and other. All are valuable –because they ensure that the school has a mandate for issues such as discipline systems, the curriculum, social inclusion approaches, enrichment and other key matters. However, they seem to have little direct impact on children’s attainment. According to the review, the most effective strategy appears to be parents supporting their children’s learning at home.
Many of us would like to think that supporting our children’s learning comes naturally. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Parents who grew up in less supportive homes may not have the skills to pass on to their children. Many families are burdened by poverty, illness, stress or discord and for these it is difficult. Therefore schools should have simple and easy- to-follow ideas parents can use as part of their normal, day-to-day activity – for instance the way they talk to their child at the supermarket (How many bottles will we buy today? How much will that cost? Why is there a picture of a farm on this box?), or while helping make dinner and dividing the portions. Parents must find ways to engage children in conversation, to enrich their vocabulary and learn to identify teachable opportunities.
The International Quality Partnership Team will be meeting in Croatia later this month and together will produce materials that teachers can use to help parents acquire the skills and ideas to help their children learn at home. In the team are directors from nine non-governmental organizations, each with a national responsibility to support community schools. Participants come from Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Czech Republic, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina and, of course, the International Centre of Excellence for Community Schools will also be represented.
Five top practitioners, teacher trainers, a leader of a national parent association and several experts from different countries will join the team, to ensure that the results will be practical. A learning mentor at a multi-racial state school in the UK will share her experience of helping children of immigrant families to read and write in such a way that the parents also learn alongside them. It is very important that in the creation of such materials we take into account cultural differences and the level of literacy of the parents. Another expert who represents a national parent association will ensure that anything we produce will use language that parents understand but that does not patronize — a common complaint from many parents!
Later in the year, the document will be available in English and Russian and can be found on our website www.icecsweb.org. So watch this space!
Written by Chris Jones