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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 involvement

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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

February 7, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Power of parents: Event hosted by Education Lab and Road Map fosters ideas on engagement

Joanna Brown (left) and Tami Love of the Logan Square parent mentor program address the audience. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

Joanna Brown (left) and Tami Love of the Logan Square parent mentor program address the audience. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times.

About 150 parent leaders, educators and school administrators gathered Thursday evening at Foster High School in Tukwila for a community event hosted by Education Lab and the Road Map Project.

The event focused on the topic of parent engagement and featured a panel of five speakers: Joanna Brown and Tami Love from the Logan Square parent mentor program in Chicago; Jenn Ramirez Robson, director of strategic partnerships at Southwest Youth and Family Services in Seattle; Emijah Smith, a member of Seattle Public Schools’ School Family Partnership Advisory Committee to the Superintendent; and Edward Lee Vargas, superintendent in the Kent School District.

The Logan Square program was featured in a Dec. 8 front-page story by reporter Linda Shaw, who facilitated the panel discussion. The presentation was followed by a 45-minute Q&A session.

Much of the conversation centered on what educators and parents alike need to do to help more families feel welcome and part of the school community. Ramirez Robson, who is also involved with the Highline Public Schools Parent Advisory Committee, emphasized building a partnership takes time and sustained effort.

“Parent engagement doesn’t just happen in a meeting or two,” she said. “It takes time … and it has to be both sides.”


Comments | More in News | Topics: events, parent engagement, parent involvement

January 31, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Many parents feel they have little say in school decisions, poll finds

A new telephone poll of parents in seven school districts suggests that most feel welcome at their schools and have the knowledge they need to support their children’s learning.

But when it comes to influencing school and district decisions, fewer than half believe they have those opportunities.

The pollsters questioned a representative sample of 2,051 parents in Seattle Public Schools and six districts in South King County about their relationships with their schools. The poll was sponsored by the Road Map Project, an effort to significantly increase the number of students who go to college.

The districts and community groups involved in the project want to work more closely with parents to help them reach that goal.


Comments | More in News | Topics: parent engagement, parent involvement, parent participation

January 16, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Parent class grads will tackle academics, bullying, cultural awareness

As one way to increase parent participation, Seattle Public Schools offers classes aimed at nurturing parents’ leadership skills.

The classes were among a number of Puget Sound parent programs highlighted in a recent Education Lab story that focused on an exemplary program in Chicago.

Last week, 24 parents successfully completed the most recent session, a joint effort of the school district and the Seattle Council PTSA. In a ceremony at South Shore K-8 in southeast Seattle, the parents presented ideas they will now carry out in their schools.


Comments | More in News | Topics: Family University, parent engagement, parent involvement

December 26, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Your voices: Readers share local examples of parents and schools working together

Earlier this month, we asked readers to share their examples of parents and teachers working together in the Puget Sound region. The request was tied to our Dec. 8 story about a renowned parent mentor program in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. We tried something a little different with this Question of the Week, using the  More

Comments | More in Question of the Week, Your voices | Topics: Logan Square, parent involvement

December 10, 2013 at 5:00 PM

Rewind: View a replay of Tuesday’s chat on parent engagement

Monica Espinoza. Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times Did you miss our live chat on family engagement and the Logan Square parent mentor program? Scroll through below to see a recap. [do action=”scribblelive” chatid=”316374″ width=”630″ height=”500″/] Our participants: Joanna Brown, lead education organizer for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association Monica Espinoza, former parent mentor and current mentor…


Comments | More in Your voices | Topics: Chicago, Joanna Brown, live chat

December 7, 2013 at 4:35 PM

How have you seen parents and schools working together?

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We’re trying out something new with this Question of the Week.

Education Lab has partnered with the Public Insight Network (PIN), a division of American Public Media, in an effort to better engage our readers. PIN’s industry-leading online platform enables journalists to connect directly with potential sources in an effort to produce more meaningful coverage.


Comments | More in Question of the Week | Topics: parent involvement, question of the week

December 6, 2013 at 4:25 PM

Video: Chicago mentor program benefits parents and students alike

A community group in northwest Chicago has turned hundreds of hesitant parents into capable classroom helpers, role models and leaders by tapping into strengths many don’t realize they have. Check out the video below to see the Logan Square parent mentor program in action. On Sunday, pick up a copy of The Seattle Times or More

Comments | More in Video | Topics: Logan Square, parent involvement, video

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