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Posted December 11, 2013

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Parent University Offers Help

"Wouldn’t it be nice if all parents had help guiding them along the way?" Read Superintendent Winston Brooks' column that ran in the Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

As anyone who has children knows, parenting isn’t easy. In fact, it’s probably the toughest job most of us will ever do. I’ve experienced both the joys and struggles of raising four kids of my own. Fortunately, I had a pretty good blueprint from my own parents. Wouldn’t it be nice if all parents had help guiding them along the way?

That’s the goal of our newly created Parent University, a pilot program at five of our elementary schools designed to give our parents and caretakers a little extra guidance when it comes to getting their kids successfully through the educational system.

The family approach to education has evolved over the years and that guidance is needed now more than ever. My parents were supportive, even encouraging. But they didn’t play the active role in my education that parents are expected to play today. I don’t remember them discussing my curriculum or reviewing my standardized test scores or mapping out my college and career plans. And they certainly didn’t check my grades online!

The Parent University is meant to help parents meet today’s expectations and demands by better understanding and navigating public education. Parent University “students” are attending monthly learning sessions that cover a wide variety of subjects ranging from graduation requirements to nutrition.

The focus of the sessions is twofold – parents learn about APS so they can better navigate the many support services we have to offer, and they also get personal tips to help them at home. So, for example, they’re learning about the Common Core State Standards and financial literacy. They’re attending sessions on healthy meal preparation and the APS budget. They’re getting tax and homework tips.

These monthly sessions are demanding, so we are thankful to the New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union for helping us offer mileage reimbursement, dinner and daycare to our Parent University students and their children.

As is true in every APS classroom there is homework and lofty expectations for Parent University students. Participants are expected to share what they’ve learned in each session with at least three other families in their school communities.

In addition, participants are responsible for designing and implementing a parent engagement project at their school. Thanks again to the New Mexico Educators, each site will have up to $500 to implement their projects this spring.  These projects have some specific guidelines and targets including buy-in from the principal and school community. One goal of the project is to engage parents who might not be currently involved at their school.  Each school team will share their projects at the end of the school year and assess how it went.

This is a pilot program with a lot of potential. We’ve seen the Parent University model thrive in cities like Boston, San Diego and Miami. We’re convinced this offering has real staying power because odds are when parent, teacher and school are all on the same team, students have a better chance at success.

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