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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Wyoming Teacher Policy Institute
Jean Davies, Goins Elementary School, Cheyenne, WY

PARENTS AS PARTNERS IN THE CLASSROOM

Problem 
I am a fifth grade teacher in a Title I School with 60% of our students participating in the free and reduced price lunch/breakfast program, 40% of the students are minority with 31% being of Hispanic origin. I have noticed that the majority of parents had not been actively engaged in the education of their children in my classroom. For this project, I wanted to motivate parents to participate in academically oriented classroom activities to create an environment in which they felt more comfortable to be involved in their children’s education.
Research Questions 
1. In what ways could teachers partner with parents to better support student learning, particularly in math?
2. Does increased parent involvement result in higher academic achievement for their child?
Methods

Field Notes:
§ Notes from phone conversations with parents about student learning;
§ Notes from parent conferences;
§ Parent notes from report cards, mid-term reports, and daily assignments;
§ Weekly notes about student learning behaviors and attitudes. 

Video Tape:
§ Interviews with parents about a specific classroom activity and their observations of student learning. 

Terra Nova Scores:
§ Student achievement scores for the 2001 and 2002 school terms.

Parent Partnership Activities: 
To form partnerships, I invited parents to participate in monthly classroom activities that were both academically and socially oriented. I also encouraged parents to make random classroom visits to engage in student learning activities. I provided multiple opportunities to meet with me in extended conferences to discuss student progress. Data were collected on six focus students who were in the novice (4) and partially proficient (2) achievement levels and whose parents agreed to be actively involved in their child’s learning throughout the school year.

Findings 

§ 96% of all parents participated at least once in my classroom during the year;
§ Parents of focus students had markedly increased participation;
§ Parent comments indicated an interest in supporting student learning, but admitted a lack of confidence in their own academic skills, particularly in Math. “I could help her with Math until third grade. Now this new stuff is confusing me. I can divide and multiply, just not like you do it in the class. I am afraid I am confusing her.”
§ Parents communicated a better understanding of standards. “I know the fifth grade benchmarks now. I know he needs to work on understanding fractions.”
§ Parents demonstrated a stronger support for completing homework assignments. “I will make sure we practice multiplication flashcards every night for 20 minutes. Will that be enough?” “ David does his homework every night in his room and then I check it over. There isn’t a TV in there. He has a desk.”
§ As Math content became more challenging, focus group students maintained or increased their math achievement level.
§ Focus student scores on Terra Nova math assessments gained an average of 21 points from fourth grade to fifth grade.
§ Jerome and Maria moved from partially proficient to proficient based on Terra Nova math assessment results, and the rest of the focus students moved from novice to partially proficient. All of the focus students demonstrated significant gains in achievement based on Terra Nova.
Policy Recommendations 
1) Encourage employers, as part of the educational community, to support their schools, by providing time for parents of school age children to spend 90 minutes per semester in their child’s classroom.
2) Encourage teachers to implement a variety of academically meaningful parent involvement activities in their classrooms.
3) Encourage teachers to provide multiple opportunities for parents of students in the lower quartiles to participate in academic activities.

 

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