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AZ Schools Find New Ways to Involve Parents

August 11, 2011

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Parents with kids in school are moving beyond tasks like classroom volunteering and making photocopies. They are becoming more fully involved in their child's education, as Arizona schools develop new programs to help parents learn how to help their children learn.

In the Alhambra District of Phoenix and Glendale, half-day workshops teach parents the same learning strategies their kids use in the classroom. Superintendent Karen Williams says one is called "Buzz with Your Buddy."

"You give me information on what you think the main idea of this paragraph is, and then I, in turn, give you the opportunity to share with me what you believe the main idea is."

Williams says the school has a full house every time the sessions are offered. When parents are involved in their children's education, those students are successful "without exception," she adds.

At Cheatham Elementary School, Laveen, a number of parent involvement programs come under the umbrella of the Parent Academy. Parent involvement coordinator Nicole Scales says the academy builds relationships between teachers and the community.

"We have 'take your parents to school day,' when the parent goes to school with the child. We have coffee with the principal. We have math night, reading night - basically, what these programs are supposed to do is to equip our parents so that they can help our students at home."

Scales says pairing community dinners with the evening workshops creates the time that working parents need in order to get involved.

"If they come from work, pick their children up and we serve them dinner, then they have time to sit and learn how to help their children."

With the Parent Academy program now in its third year, Scales says from one-third to one-half of all the school's parents are involved.

Williams points out that the greatest impact on a child's success in school is his or her parents' expectations.

"Even though I may not be able to assist my children with their algebra homework, if I have the expectation that my children are going to be successful, then my children are most likely going to be successful because that's the expectation."

Alhambra District also has a new parent-orientation program, when Williams meets each month with parents who move into the district, instead of waiting until the start of a new school year.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ