Tag: parent engagement

Why Engaging Parents Matters: Maloney High School

May 17, 2017 by

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center Hub on March 22, 2017.

RESEARCH SUGGESTS THAT WHEN SCHOOLS PARTNER WITH AND ENGAGE PARENTS TO UNDERSTAND AND STAY INVOLVED IN THEIR CHILD’S LEARNING EXPERIENCES, THE PARENTS ARE MORE LIKELY TO SUPPORT DISTRICT INNOVATION, AND STUDENTS TEND TO HAVE BETTER ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL OUTCOMES.[1]

Francis T. Maloney High School in Meriden, Connecticut, held its first “Parent Walk” earlier this year, inviting parents and guardians to experience student-centered learning in action. Maloney had been hosting successful quarterly instructional and community learning walks, during which community members such as Meriden’s mayor got first-hand views of classrooms and students fully engaged in lessons. These walks helped to demystify the ideas behind student-centered learning by showcasing the academic and social benefits of student-centered approaches. Witnessing the impact and benefits of these instructional tours, leadership and staff at Maloney introduced the Walk to parents to ensure that families of students at the school can experience and fully support a learning environment that may not look like the one they experienced when they were in high school.

Lynette Valentine, a parent of Kaitlyn, a 9th grader, provides an example of the power of Parent Walks. She participated in the recent walk at Maloney, and was moved to write a letter of appreciation about her experience. The following is an excerpt from her letter to the principal of Maloney, Mrs. Straub, and one of the teachers, Mrs. Showerda.

“The first thing I noticed was the bright atmosphere–students were moving and alert–the classrooms were not lined up with seating, front to back in alphabetical order, like traditional classrooms. I could clearly see that Maloney’s learning structure involved both social and academic supports. Classes were engaging–students were able to work in groups and lean on each other, instead of having the teacher as the main resource. To me, this is perfect for socialization and helps students to be ready to enter the workforce­–figuring things out with a team is important! … When Maloney’s B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Device) initiative first came out, I was at first skeptical but it is obvious that it truly works. What a way to engage students to learn! I witnessed teachers helping students interested in pursuing a direction they felt strongly about (e.g., an entrepreneurial experience for a business student). I wish I had the same opportunities when I was a student.”

Read Lynette Valentine’s full letter

(more…)

Red Bank Elementary: The Parent Perspective

February 9, 2016 by

2015-11-16 08.57.29This post is part of the series Competency Education Takes Root in South Carolina. This is the fifth in the series on Red Bank Elementary in Lexington School District. Begin with the first on five big takeaways and follow along with: #2 teaching students instead of standards, #3 teacher perspectives, #4 student perspectives, and #5 parent perspectives.

The employees at Red Bank Elementary outside of Columbia, South Carolina have a choice about where to send their children to school. I had the chance to meet with five employees with seven children – all of whom were at Red Bank or had been until they had to move on to middle school. Here are their insights about personalized, competency-based schools.

What has been the impact of having your child in a school that is personalized and competency-based?

Behavior and Discipline

“My fifth grader was visiting the principal’s office once a week in the previous school. He hasn’t received even one referral since we enrolled him at Red Bank. He’s a typical “ADHD” boy who only sees his way and can only sit down for five minutes at a time. Here, he gets to feel in control by being able to make choices.”

Social Emotional Learning and Academics

“My daughter is above average in reading and struggles in math. But she has never been low enough in math to get an official intervention. She gets frustrated easily in math and needs a lot of support. Her teachers here know she can shut down – they see the shutters coming down. They meet her where she is at and have her work on other things if she has turned off. They also create repeated opportunities for her to keep working on math, giving her more time. Her pace is different than the teacher’s and she knows that she will have enough time to learn. The pressure is off and she is building her self-confidence. I worry about next year – when she finds out she only has one shot at it, she is going to probably start shutting down again.”

“My daughter struggled with reading before she got here. It was a big problem. Here the teachers work with her and she isn’t having problems anymore.”

“My son is an active learner. If he is interested in something, he goes and looks it up. He struggles if he is expected to sit and get it. He struggles if there is homework assigned that isn’t engaging him. In his class, he has a choice about how he learns things so he can choose the ways that are the most engaging to him.”

“My second grader is very serious about her education. She thinks about what she is learning. She was telling me about symbiotic relationships the other day.” (more…)

What I Learned From My Daughter’s First “C”

September 22, 2015 by

CThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on September 15, 2015.

It’s no secret that I’m an advocate for competency-based learning models. I’ve gone on the record lots of times as just that. I shared my thoughts on Montessori education as one of the original competency-based models and until very recently, I had two daughters who were learning in competency-based, Montessori learning environments.

This year our third grade daughter transitioned from the only formal learning environment she’s ever known–a no-grades, no-desks, pick-your-own-work Montessori classroom–to a gifted, STEM magnet in a large traditional urban school district.

We really sweated the transition, but it’s been mostly a breeze for us and our daughter. She bounces off to school every day, even though she has to get up more than a full hour earlier. She dutifully and cheerfully does her nightly (much more challenging) homework. She tells stories about how funny her teachers are and every day she mentions a new friend. She’s learning new things in new ways and even described her new school as “more like a Learning Camp” than a classroom.

In other words, all signs point to “happy, thriving, learning child.” So, why on earth did I let one grade, her first “C,” totally shift my perception of how she was doing in her new school? (more…)

3 Ways Parents Can Spot Student-Centered Learning

March 26, 2015 by

Kids ComputerThis post originally appeared at Getting Smart on February 26, 2015.

Recently I had the opportunity to learn alongside my seven-year old daughter, as we used the occasion of yet another snowed-in February day to scratch the itch of one of her many curiosities. Driven partly by me and largely by a friend at school, she’s been talking a lot lately about computers and how they work so we sat down together to try the Hour of Code. It was fun for the two of us to share a learning experience that we were both coming to completely new.

So many of our experiences alongside our children often involve us teaching them things that we ourselves have already experienced or mastered. It didn’t take long, however, before I realized the greatest lessons for me in that hour wouldn’t be about coding. What I gained that snowy afternoon was a set of new insights into how my daughter learns, what motivates her, what frustrates her and how my interactions either supported or discouraged her learning. I was floored by how much she was able to learn in just one hour–the same hour that could’ve instead been spent watching half a movie or playing another spirited round of tag with her sister through the house.

So what was it about that learning experience that made it so powerful? (more…)

Changing our Bumper-Sticker Message: My Student is More Proficient Than Your Student!

August 7, 2012 by

On a recent walk, I was stopped by my neighbor who had a complaint about her son’s end-of-year report card.  “See this,” she said, pointing to the bumper sticker on her car that proudly declared her son an honor roll student at Olympia Middle School.  “It’s a lie; it doesn’t match the information from his teachers about what he knows and can do.  I don’t understand.  What should I do?”  Her voice sounded pleading and I could sense a rising frustration with the public school system, a beloved institution that I had participated in and protected for over thirty-six years.

We have no chance at making strategic and systemic changes in our education system if we don’t bring parents along on the change journey.  And, the changes that occur when districts embrace proficiency-based practices (competency-based/standards-based) go against the traditional picture of education that parents experienced and daily use as their frame of reference.  Our parents were batch educated, moving through a textbook from cover to cover with classmates who shared birthdays that put them all at the same grade level.  (See Sir Kenneth Robinson)  Their students, on the other hand, are allowed to progress without any barriers traditionally affixed to the calendar, the clock, or the curriculum.  This means that a fourth grader might be working at a second-grade reading level and, at the same time, be working on fifth or sixth grade math standards.  Or, a high school student may earn credit for learning experiences that occur outside of the traditional school year.  Parents chased points to reach artificial levels of excellence; their students are evaluated against descriptions of proficiency or higher, knowing exactly what they need to know and do in order to be successful.  It’s no wonder that parents have such a hard time accepting some of the new changes that proficiency-based teaching and learning bring. (more…)

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