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Posted January 25, 2011

Title I Schools Train to Become More “Family Friendly”

The suggestion has been made by newspaper columnists, candidates in the APS Board of Education election and experts around the country:  Student success begins with parent involvement. So, the question is, how do schools get parents engaged in their children’s education, and how are welcoming environments created?

Teachers, principals, parents and community members from 14 Title I schools participated in training last week sponsored by Family Friendly Schools. APS Schools and Community Partnerships brought in the Virginia-based organization to help school teams create plans for engaging activities that will draw parents into schools and take a more active role in their children’s achievement.

Schools and Community Partnerships director Michael Gaylor said the training was an opportunity for school teams to sit down, look at data gathered from community surveys and form an action plan to make education more of an experience for the whole family. He said the majority of team members are parents and their challenge will be to execute the action plans. He added that Family Friendly Schools will continue to coach the teams as they get started.

Team members said they were glad to be able to set aside time to focus on parent engagement because it’s not easy to put people in the same room at the same time to put together a comprehensive plan. The plans will be individualized to the unique needs of each school’s community.

“We want parents to have a direct connection with their children, their teachers and their classrooms,” said Ellen Griffiths, principal at Helen Cordero Primary School, which one of the participants.

Griffiths said they hold math nights, student performances and parent classes. Those bring parents to Helen Cordero, but they are observers rather than true participants in the education process. She said they are working on activities that will bring parents into their children’s classrooms during the day, when they can make it, and form relationships with teachers.

“We want to form community schools that are the center of their communities,” Gaylor said. “They will promote student success, family health and community vibrancy.”