[UPDATE, November 13 – NOVEMBER 15 IS PARENT INVOLVEMENT DAY! ANOTHER DAY JUST FOR US!]
Here’s what the National Education Association’s web site says about Parents Day:
For Parents Day, schools across the nation invite parents into the classroom to experience firsthand what a school day is like for their child. The initiative is designed to spotlight the importance of parental involvement.
Ongoing research shows that parental involvement in schools improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism, and restores parents’ confidence in their children’s education.
So Parents Day is when all parents are invited into their child’s school to hang out for a day! Cool! I always wanted to do that when my children were in school, but was never invited. I know some folks that beg to observe their child’s classroom, but their principal or other education official refuse to allow them.
But now, we have Parents Day! What is your school doing for Parents Day? Have you gotten your invitation yet?
I’ve been searching for information about which schools are participating, but haven’t yet found any notices. Please send me an e-mail (asc(at)alabamaschoolconnection.org) if your school is participating. These schools deserve recognition for participating and recognizing the importance of families and parents in our school community.
We parents and families don’t have a whole lot of days that we get celebrated in our schools. So it’s nice to find we have a day just for us.
Alabama’s Statewide Parent Visitation Month
And last month, for the whole month of October, we had Alabama’s Statewide Parent Visitation Month, sponsored by the ALSDE (Alabama State Department of Education, remember? Gotta get good with the acronyms.) If anyone can guide me to a school that went all out for Statewide Parent Visitation Month, I would really like to talk with them and share how they connected with the families of children in their school.
I know that Birmingham City Schools have been going all out in an effort to engage families, and soon will unveil Parent University which will give parents meaningful opportunities in a variety of ways to engage in their child’s educational experience. I feel certain there are other schools and systems out there, but these events just don’t garner enough media attention, and school systems seldom have the personnel to promote them widely (at least widely enough where I can find them).
I recall a few years back, in my school system, school leaders believed that holding Parent-Teacher Conferences in mid-October was all that was needed to commemorate and participate in Statewide Parent Visitation Month. Needless to say, I was disappointed. I tried and tried to encourage them to participate in the manner in which the ALSDE suggests, to no avail. That was only my personal experience, certainly, but I’ve been following Statewide Parent Visitation Month for a long time, and I have yet to see it really take off on a statewide basis.
The ALSDE heavily promotes Statewide Parent Visitation Month to our school districts, starting with a memo from state Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice to local superintendents on September 11 of this year and again in their October 2012 Alabama Education News. To its credit, the State Board of Education adopted a resolution in April of 2003 recognizing the important of parental involvement. However, they have stopped short of requiring schools to use best practices toward improving parental involvement, rather suggesting those practices as a good thing to do.
[It is true that Parental Involvement is required in Title I schools, but the requirements pretty much amount to checking a box that says: We wrote a Parent-School Compact (check). We held one meeting this year and invited all of our Title I parents to come (check). The biggest weakness of that approach under Title I is the lack of meaningful outcome measures that could tell us whether the school did it just cause it had to or whether they truly worked to bring parents to the table. Some schools work very hard to bring Title I parents and families to the table, and they should be commended for their efforts. And we parents really need to step up when we actually do get an invitation to the table. Encourage parents that you know to go to these meetings and lend their voice to the development of the compact and the plans.]
School systems have been asked to provide feedback to the ALSDE about their participation not later than November 19, and I hope to revisit this topic some time in December or January once that information is compiled. I contacted state officials prior to publishing this, but they do not yet have complete information on which systems participated and how.
What Exactly Does the ALSDE Suggest to Schools?
Here is the guidance the ALSDE gave to school systems:
- Form a planning committee. Include everyone—faculty, support staff, parents, students, public information officers, parent involvement coordinators, community members, etc. Partner with PTAs, PTOs, businesses, civic groups, higher education, etc.
- Assess the needs of your parents by asking students and parents for their input. Survey parents on programs they would like to see and other needs they may have. Are they concerned about violence in schools? Do they need transportation or childcare? Would they be willing to serve on the planning committee?
- Design format(s) and convenient time(s) that fit the needs of your parents. Decide what works best for parents in your community. Vary activities, formats, and schedules. You may choose to have a general session that leads into concurrent sessions, or you may want to give parents a choice of ongoing activities. You might decide to invite parents to stop by for school visits on their way home from work. Activities could revolve around a sack lunch or supper. Some schools have had successful results with morning and late afternoon sessions that last two hours each.
- Send “Save the Date” announcements EARLY.
- Call on community members. Ask for speaker suggestions, volunteers, refreshments, and door prizes.
- Give parents a reason to attend–add an element of fun. Distribute door prizes. Involve children in the activities. Combine Alabama’s Statewide Parent Visitation Month events with previously scheduled activities, such as fall festivals, homecoming, Red Ribbon Week, or Open House.
- If planning parent-teacher conferences, keep them positive.
- Provide transportation and childcare. Work with your system’s transportation and community education coordinators or contact community organizations.
- Provide services for non-English speaking parents and those with disabilities. Federal Programs and Special Education staff can assist you.
- Showcase student art and school work with displays, exhibits, and performances.
- Distribute Parent Month Evaluation Forms. Have a central collection point. Compile forms and use them to design next year’s format.
- Keep the media informed before, during, and after the events.
- Publicize school events at local malls, supermarkets, restaurants, doctors’ offices, etc.
A Google search turned up these:
- Plainview High School in DeKalb County had an event that included parent-teacher conferences, free lunches for parents to eat with their children, and a parent meeting that evening to discuss test scores, school calendars, and technology demonstrations.
- Hewitt- Trussville Middle School held Parent PACK Day, where parents were invited to enjoy an interactive activity from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.
- Hewitt-Trussville High School held an event for parents to interact informally with teachers and administrators.
- Southern Choctaw Elementary School held an event from 11:00 a.m. till 6:00 p.m., as shared on their facebook page. They held “Pastries with Parents” a couple of weeks earlier, sponsored by their Parental Involvement committee.
- Lawrence County High School held an Open House, including a dinner, for parents.
- Burns Middle School in Mobile County held a Report Card Pickup Day in conjunction with a Technology presentation.
I can find evidence of news briefs that were posted on other school district web sites, but those have since been removed and therefore I can’t link to them. The Associated Press ran a story, picked up by a Mobile television station, that was very brief, simply directing parents to contact their child’s school for information about activities.
Better Luck Next Year? Start Planning Now!
If you are reading this and wondering what your child’s school is doing for Parents Day or what it did to engage parents and families during Statewide Parent Visitation Month, it may be because they didn’t do anything, or it may be that it just wasn’t heavily promoted. Armed with this knowledge, you can now lead the effort to start planning for next year! If your school has a PTO or PTA, ask them to help get these events going in your school (and be sure to offer your personal assistance!). If your school does not have an organized parent group, step up and offer your help to your principal.
If your school, teachers, parent groups, or principal seem to be resistant to participate, and you just can’t convince them, take a moment to pen a concern to your district’s board of education or even your state board of education member. Express that these events are supported by the ALSDE and the AEA, and you can’t imagine why your school officials wouldn’t be interested in participating. School officials that I have talked with about their hesitancy to participate say they don’t believe parents will come to events even if they host them. So we need to prove those doubters wrong.
Our education officials and teachers’ organizations recognize the importance of parent and family engagement by providing the platform for Parents Day and Statewide Parent Visitation Month. Let’s show some interest! Help get it organized! Our schools need our interest and our participation in school events (…not just fundraising). Our children need to see that we are interested in their learning and care about their schools.
Our Alabama school community needs all of its partners—students, teachers, principals, parents, families, higher ed, caregivers, businesses, churches, civic groups, nonprofits, government agencies—at the education table to continue improving Alabama’s schools.
Let’s us parents and families do our part, too, ok?
Please share your thoughts here or on our facebook page. Please share the good stories of schools that have participated in statewide visitation month or have plans for Parents Day. I’m happy to help get the good word out!