Wednesday, November 24, 2010

magic wand #2: home/school connection

In Boston I sat in on numerous sessions presenting research on stress, childhood temperament, the effects of poverty on children's brain, and the importance of the home school connection.  Once again I couldn't help but think that we're on the right track at the think-tank.

I started to summarize some of the information on the impact of poverty on kids but it's too depressing. I'll save it for another time. Research continues to find exactly what we know- children raised in poverty have so many aspects of their lives working against them that they tend to show less achievement in schools. 
I know that in the education field we're not suppose to use this as an excuse, and I'm not arguing that we should- but I do think we need to realize what our kiddos are up against so we can help them fight it. Sure, some kids are resilient even in low socio-economic situations, but we want all kids to be resilient. We have the ability to help the non-resilient kids become more resilient.

One study out of Boston called City Connects brought a parent liaison into the schools- someone to be the connection between the teachers and the parents, encouraging the parents to come in, helping the teachers address the children's strengths and needs when talking to the parents, and supporting the parents with their school needs.

From what was presented to us (I haven't read the actual study) the results were astounding. Parents feel less stressed and feel supported in the school. This of course immediately carries over to the attitudes in the home- parents who are less stressed are more likely to take time to play with their children. SO, parents who feel more supported in school are more likely to show an increase in emotional support given to their children, and an increase in cognitive stimulation. (I'm taking this information from the slides presented at the conference and my notes. The studies cited in the slides is: Dearing, 2004, Dearing, 2008, Dunst, 2010)
The study also found that parents who spend time in high-quality schools pick up on good parenting techniques and begin parenting better. 
The study found that schools with a parent liaison had students with higher grades, higher test scores, better work habits and better behavior. 

We have something very similar at the think-tank. We have a staffed parent center where parents can come in, use the computers, get help filling out forms, have someone listen to their concerns, help them navigate the school system, and help them connect with teachers. We do programs (I've written about them before) directed at teaching parents about the best way to support their child's learning. This year we're tailoring a series of programs to specially meet the needs of kindergarten parents. 

To me, the parent center is one of the most important aspects of our school and it was great to see that a similar program, directly connected with research, is proving that it works. 

Beyond the parent center though there are so many ways to bring parents in. I highly recommend checking out the Responsive Classroom book on connecting with parents (I can't remember what it is called right now) as well as Ruby Payne's book on bringing parents into school. Both of these may not be considered research based, but now that we have research that shows connecting with parents works, we know why both these books work so well. 

1 comment:

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

I love this idea :) We have a pretty active PTA which does a lot of the home school connection help, but there are just certain parents who are not reached. It's mostly because of a language/culture barrier, I think.

Thanks so much for posting so much about the conference, I think I am going to go next summer :)

A think tank focused on creative solutions for future problem solvers -tree