parent academy

Parent Engagement

Parent Engagement

Building bonds

New York

Quinn says city schools need collaboration, not competition

New York

City aims second set of parent involvement plans at academics

Chancellor Dennis Walcott today updated parent coordinators and parent leaders about new plans to engage families in helping children make academic progress. A year after announcing new efforts to cultivate parents as "partners" in supporting students' academic progress, Chancellor Dennis Walcott fleshed out some of the details in a speech today. Speaking to parent coordinators and other parent leaders at Manhattan's High School of Fashion Industries, Walcott announced that the city would open its Parent Academy next month with a training session in Brooklyn about how to make the most of parent-teacher conferences. As we reported last week, work behind the scenes on the Parent Academy, modeled after a similar program in Charlotte, N.C., picked up this summer and fall. The city contracted Long Island University to run the academy and in August placed job ads for a “Parent Academy Project Director.” It also quietly launched a website inviting schools to be part of the “inaugural class,” and Walcott said today that 100 schools had already responded. A preliminary version of a website for the program has also gone live, though not at the URL advertised on the invitation. Over the course of the year, Walcott said, the academy will include as many as 2,000 parents in 15 borough-wide workshops and also train smaller groups of parents on "partnership standards" that he said last year would be created. He also reiterated a promise to improve the process by which district parent council members are elected. The councils have few statutory powers but are seen as one of few ways that parents can influence Department of Education policy decisions. Last year, elections to fill the councils went so badly that they had to be redone. Walcott said the department would make the process more transparent by putting information about eligibility and elections on a single website set to launch next week. Last year, "with the lack of information, people weren't even aware that voting was open," Juan Rosales, the department official in charge of engaging the councils, said after the speech. But for the second year in a row, Walcott made clear that his conception of family engagement stays close to the classroom.
New York

As city makes plans for parent academy, union opens its own

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew addresses parents at the first meeting of the parent academy. Three years after city officials first considered forming an "academy" to teach parents about the school system, the teachers union has found a group of parents who are tired of waiting. Plans for a parent training center have been in the works since 2009, when state legislators told the city to create one. But requisite funding never materialized and the project lay fallow until last fall, when Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced plans to open a parent academy for the 2012-2013 school year. The city's parent academy would give parents study tools, and inform them about the high school and college process, Walcott said at the time. The city is now seeking proposals from community organizations that could be involved in creating the training program, which is scheduled to begin this fall. The workshop series, planned by the teachers union and longtime parent organizer Mona Davids under the name "Parent Leadership Academy," will touch on those issues. But with workshop titles such as "Parent as Leader," and "Parent as Lobbyist," the academy's main purpose is to motivate parents to advocate on behalf of their children and schools, and demand education policy changes. About fifty parents—ten from each borough—packed a third-floor conference room at union headquarters for the new academy's inaugural meeting on Saturday morning. The parents were invited to participate by borough liaisons to the union, according to Anthony Harmon, a union official who conducts parent outreach. Several veteran city activists, including Juan Pagan and Laurie Frey mingled with self-described lobbying naifs, who took turns practices short introductory speeches in the style of a public testimony. Davids herself has championed the causes of both charter and district school advocates first as a parents association president for the Bronx's P.S. 160 in 2008, and now as the leader of the New York City Parents Union. The morning's activities were designed to prompt parents to think about and articulate positive qualities of their schools, as well as issues to complain about, from teacher turnover to confusing test policies.
New York

Walcott outlines new initiatives to involve parents in schools

Outside, an organizer lobbies security to let protesting parents inside; In the auditorium, the audience was far more subdued than last night. The Department of Education will replicate other cities' parent training programs and start measuring how well schools engage families, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced tonight. In his first-ever policy address last month, Walcott unveiled an initiative to help the city's long-struggling middle schools. Tonight, he turned his attention to another weak spot in the department's record: keeping parents involved. Addressing parent leaders at an RSVP-only event where he was joined by Jesse Mojica, head of the department's oft-renamed family engagement office, Walcott outlined a plan that he said would boost parent involvement in city schools. He said the department would hire outside groups to run training workshops for parents who want to get involved, ask more from parent coordinators, and put more information for parents online, at a new portion of the DOE website for families. Walcott also said the city had developed standards for family involvement that a small number of schools would test before they are rolled out citywide. Ultimately, he said, the city plans to measure schools on how well they communicate with parents and make them feel welcome. The speech comes after years of complaints that DOE decision-making has shut parents out — and months after elections for district parent councils went so badly that they had to be redone. Walcott acknowledged problems with the elections and promised that the next time they happen, in 2013, the process would go more smoothly. But he did not open the door to giving parents a larger role in setting city education policy.