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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: parent engagement

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February 11, 2015 at 5:00 AM

On the agenda: GOP ed event, parent summit, teen sleep panel

School’s out for Presidents Day on Feb. 16, but education events pick up soon afterward, including these three:

  • Feb. 17: A Twitter and Facebook live conversation with ranking Republican members on education issues in the Washington State House of Representatives.
  • Feb. 21: Parent/family engagement summit at Seattle Public Schools with keynote from National PTA president Ortha Thornton.
  • Feb. 23: Seattle Town Hall, “Start School Later, Let Teens Sleep” panel discussion on teen sleep science.

Comments | More in News | Topics: on the agenda, parent engagement, PTA

December 1, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Texting parents with tips boosts pre-K language skills, study says

Children from low-income families typically have fewer opportunities to develop language skills than middle-class children, which creates learning gaps evident on the first day of kindergarten.

Research shows that parents can close that gap if they read regularly to their children and take advantage of everyday activities like grocery shopping and doing laundry to build literacy skills.

But educators have long struggled with how to get that message heard widely, without spending too much money.

Stanford researchers recently tested one promising solution — text-messaging — that provides parents with bite-size tips that they can use immediately with their kids.


Comments | More in News | Topics: early learning, parent engagement, technology

November 11, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Wanted: Perspectives on special education in Seattle schools

Seattle Public Schools is looking for volunteers to weigh in on how the district serves — or fails to serve —  its more than 7,000 students with special needs.

The district is looking for anyone — especially principals and special education teachers — to be on an advisory committee that will make suggestions to district staff on special education issues. Wyeth Jessee, the district’s interim director of special education, said he hopes the committee becomes a place where the district can hear from a variety of voices.

The district’s special ed department has been under scrutiny in recent years. This fall, the state withheld $3 million in federal funds — about a third of the department’s federal funding but only a fraction of its overall budget — until the district can fix compliance and management problems. The district is in its second year of an improvement plan that was supposed to have been completed June 30.


Comments | More in News | Topics: parent engagement, Seattle Public Schools, special education

September 25, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Guest: New graduation rules will help all parents get more involved


Maria Estrada

Parent engagement is key to helping students make good decisions about their future and successfully achieve their dreams, particularly during students’ high school experiences.

But for me, parent engagement isn’t just about what I can do for my daughter. It’s also about what I can do to benefit all children.

My daughter Paulina and I moved to Washington from Mexico a few years ago. The language barrier made it difficult for me to understand how the school system worked or what classes my daughter was enrolled in.

Parents need to be engaged, but they also need accessible information about their child’s education. From personal experience, I can tell you that remaining engaged in your child’s education isn’t possible when you’re struggling to understand complex, bureaucratic information in a foreign language.

As a result, while in high school, Paulina took Algebra 1 four times, despite earning good grades and passing the class each time she was enrolled. This fall, Paulina must enroll in remedial math classes at a community college to learn the math she didn’t learn in high school before she can apply to a four-year institution.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion, Your voices | Topics: graduation requirements, parent engagement

September 8, 2014 at 11:50 AM

In-school parent volunteers will aim far beyond bake sales

Logan Square parent mentor Mayra Guzman helps second-grade student Jeremiah Castro with reading at Avondale Elementary School in Chicago. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2013.

Logan Square parent mentor Mayra Guzman helps second-grade student Jeremiah Castro with reading at Avondale Elementary School in Chicago. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2013.

Two Seattle schools will get a boost this fall from a corps of parents inspired by a long-running Chicago program that has improved student outcomes  particularly around motivation.

In 2013, Education Lab spotlighted a parent mentor program in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago that has, in its 20-year history, recruited, trained and vaulted nearly 2,000 low-income parent volunteers into Chicago classrooms.

Many say the program has been life-changing  both for them and their children. Some have gone on to become certified teachers.

A Seattle group called Community & Parents for Public Schools, which has long admired the Logan Square effort, recently won two grants totaling $65,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Satterberg Foundations. The money will cover training and stipends of $500-$600 for an initial group of 20 volunteers, said Stephanie Alter Jones, executive director of the group, who hopes to stretch the money over two years.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Logan Square, parent engagement

July 30, 2014 at 5:00 AM

New group’s mission: when parents speak, schools listen

Probably no one in the state has worked harder to boost parent involvement at schools than Adie Simmons, who helped found the family engagement office at Seattle Public Schools, and was the first education ombudsman in the governor’s office.

Adie Simmons

Adie Simmons

Now she’s launched a new nonprofit one she hopes will help her use all she’s learned in the past 28 years to build the kind of parent-school relationships she’s always dreamed about. It’s called the Washington State Family and Community Engagement Trust.

Simmons envisions schools where working with parents is part of the day-to-day routine, not a perk offered in some places but not others. She also wants to build a bigger cadre of parents ready and willing to voice their views on education and child welfare in Olympia, as well as in their school districts and cities.

That’s similar to the goals of the Logan Square Parent-Mentor program in Chicago, which we wrote about earlier this year.

For years, Simmons said, she’s heard parents say “we are just parents, nobody listens to us.”

“We need to change that paradigm.”


Comments | More in News | Topics: Adie Simmons, parent engagement, parent involvement

July 1, 2014 at 11:38 AM

Guest: In pursuit of a stronger model for parent engagement


Ann Ishimaru

As a parent, it’s hard to know how best to support your child’s education. While Oprah shares tips for getting involved in the classroom on her website, a host of other commentators send competing messages to parents who want to ensure their child’s academic success.

Indeed, sociologists Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris recently have argued that parents can actually harm their child’s academic achievement by being involved in the wrong ways. Their arguments have prompted heated discussion about whether we’d be better off if parents stopped helping their children with their homework, attended fewer school events and so forth.

Unfortunately, this argument oversimplifies the story. It confuses causality with correlation and focuses on an outmoded approach to parent involvement. That’s not only poor social science, it can have negative consequences for children and families if policymakers reduce investments in parent engagement.

Robinson and Harris imply parent involvement causes academic achievement. We know shoe size and measures of intelligence are positively related to each other — but it makes no sense to argue that larger feet cause greater intelligence (hint: age has more to do with it!). In the context of parent engagement, jumping to causality would mean parent help with homework harms academic achievement. Some scholars suggest parents step up their homework involvement when children are struggling — so poor achievement might cause homework involvement.

Beyond methodological considerations, there is another way to view Robinson and Harris’ findings.


Comments | More in Guest opinion, Opinion | Topics: Ann Ishimaru, parent engagement, parent involvement

May 29, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Parents at school: Studies probe what helps and what doesn’t

Parent mentor Pedro Rodriguez works with a group of students in Jessica Dye's first-grade classroom at Avondale Elementary School in Chicago. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2013.

Parent mentor Pedro Rodriguez works with a group of students in Jessica Dye’s first-grade classroom at Avondale Elementary School in Chicago. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times 2013.

Two new studies of parent involvement dig deeper than many earlier ones into when  and how  parent involvement at school helps raise student achievement.

As we reported in an Education Lab story about a parent mentor program in Chicago, there is a lot of research backing the notion that parents can help their students academically. But many studies use different, and sometimes very broad, definitions of what parent involvement means, making it hard to determine exactly what works best.

These two studies tackled that question in different ways  and came to different conclusions.

The latest, released earlier this month, made headlines by concluding that most parent involvement doesn’t work  even helping with homework.

The two authors said their results, gleaned from decades of parent surveys, made them question whether schools should court parent involvement as a way to reduce the achievement gap.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Logan Square, parent engagement, parent involvement

April 17, 2014 at 2:45 AM

Local parent empowerment effort wins $500,000 grant

A new parent empowerment program, aimed at immigrants, will get underway in White Center and Federal Way with help from a $500,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The Kellogg Foundation on Thursday announced that the Washington state proposal was one of 30 selected for its new grant program aimed at helping parents become leaders in early childhood education.

More than 1,130 groups applied for $13.7 million in grants.  The 83-year-old Kellogg Foundation said that is the most applications it has ever received for a single funding opportunity.

In Washington, the money will be used for a pilot project led by OneAmerica, an immigrant rights group, along with the Road Map Project and the Seattle Jobs Initiative.

Those groups will select 30 immigrant parents who will receive leadership training and support in reaching their career goals.


Comments | More in News | Topics: OneAmerica, parent engagement, Road Map Project

April 8, 2014 at 4:38 PM

Power of parents: Education department issues new guidelines for family engagement

Parent involvement, family engagement — whatever you want to call it, the link between parents and education is getting a lot of attention these days.

On Tuesday, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced a new set of guidelines that schools and districts could use to form partnerships with families. Called the Dual Capacity Framework, the plan encourages states and school districts to train staff and parents on how they can work together.

“When parents are involved in the educational process of their children, students are more likely to attend school regularly, to take more rigorous courses, earn higher grades, graduate, and go on to both college and careers,” Duncan said in an introductory video.

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Arne Duncan, parent engagement

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