I believe the paradigm needs to be shifted in public schools, specifically schools serving the poor. Less energy needs to be spent on complaining, or at best brainstorming, how we teachers can get parents to step foot through our school doors. Instead, I challenge the shift to start with first asking if we would step foot through the parents’ front door. The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project makes such a shift possible for teachers.
Stephanie Smith, Oakridge Elementary School, Sacramento.
When school districts are under fiscal and accountability pressures, family and community engagement is usually the first thing to go. Given dramatic reductions in funding for public education these are challenging times for our colleagues across the country. In the midst of this, we went ahead and planned for our Sixth National Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project annual gathering in Denver, Colorado. We wondered if we should scale back our plans or trust our instincts that we needed to gather now, more than ever. We trusted our instincts as did our supporters - CS Mott Foundation National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and PICO National Network- and our many partners schools across thirteen states!
Thanks to a coordinated effort we were able to gather together 260 parents, caregivers, community members, educators and administrators for the Sixth National Parent Teacher Home Visit Project. Conference participants are directly involved in the experience of conducting or receiving home visits as well as leading the effort in their local communities. Whether it was Melissa Bryant , a veteran teacher, or Katrina Branch, a parent and former student, both from Stanton Elementary School in Washington DC who experienced a school that was a “hot mess” move into a place where students experienced dramatic increases in student test scores. Or Yvette Juarez, a middle school student in Denver CO, who talked about what it meant to her to have a teacher come to her home and talk about her success in school. Or the teachers who were on the verge of quitting or families on the verge of giving up on their local schools or the community members tired of seeing their children drop out and lose opportunity, the home visiting testimony and experiences demonstrated that relational home visits are a key foundation step leading to increased family engagement, better teaching and learning, and increased student academic and social success. The testimony helps us understand the power of the numbers.
Here’s what we tallied in our time together:
In just the past year, network partners under the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project trained 2577 teachers. We expanded to 209 participating school sites in 13 states. Together, we conducted 13,391 relational home visits! Given preliminary counts for this coming year, I expect our totals to go even higher next year- even with the challenges before us. At the conference we created the opportunity and space to deepen our work. Network partners from around the country paired up and led breakout sessions where we shared data and data collection systems, adaptations of home visiting (in rural communities, for those whom English is a second language, and in secondary schools) and new learning that covered topics as diverse as the impact of trauma on school communities and teaching and learning, as well as, the introduction of Academic Parent Teaching Team conferencing in home visit schools. We also explored resources and reviewed current national policy and trends regarding family engagement and education reform. We built our personal capacity to better sever students. We strengthened our local projects by sharing and learning. Mostly, we were inspired by each other and renewed in our commitment to this important work. We know that family and community engagement is an essential component for school and student success and we know that even in the face of difficult times, we must invest in this area for the sake of our students.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your conitnued support of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project. Without your generous donations this project would not be possible.
From all the PTHVP staff we wish you a safe and happy holiday!