For the past two years, Dr. Constantino and his associates have been working with schools in the Wicomico School District in Salisbury, Maryland. Wicomico is a school system of about 15,000 students in 24 schools. The district is a majority minority district with a Free/Reduced Lunch population of about 55%. All of the district’s Title I schools are involved in the project. This article features one of the many schools that have experienced success with the Five Simple Principles Model ™ of effective family engagement. Welcome to Beaver Run Elementary School where engaging every family has made a positive difference in student outcomes.
Our school has always strived to provide parents with many opportunities to be involved in their children’s education. As educators, we understand that the key to helping a child meet his/her full academic potential relies on a trusted partnership between a child’s family and the school. Our goal, at Beaver Run Elementary School, is to have our parents be strong members of our educational team, working together with our teachers, assistants, and administrators to promote the academic and social success of our students. After attending several workshops with Dr. Steven Constantino, where he presented his five principles to implement authentic family engagement in our school, it became clear that our students’ academic growth could be greatly impacted by making a few changes to some of the things that we already do. That is what I found most refreshing about Dr. Constantino’s beliefs. He made it clear. It isn’t about doing more. It is all about doing what we already do, better!
In response to what we learned about truly engaging our families we decided to develop a workshop that would be offered to a targeted group of parents. We have always offered workshops, but we haven’t focused our workshops on an academic topic for a specific group of parents before. The goal of this workshop was to communicate more effectively with this core group of parents and empower them with knowledge and a better understanding of a specific program that their child had been placed in. Our hope is to ultimately produce markedly improved growth in our students’ reading ability through more meaningful communications between the school and families.
We use Fountas & Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention Program (LLI) with our struggling readers. Traditionally, a letter is sent home at the beginning of the program, a book is sent home for nightly reading and communication between families and intervention teachers is made up of conferences, emails and progress reports. This year, we invited the parents of students who had been identified for this program to a workshop. During the workshop parents learned how and why their child was chosen to participate in LLI. Grade-level reading growth expectations were explained along with examples of text levels. We put the actual leveled texts in the hands of the parents. They got to see an A-level text compared to a D-level text and so on. Parents were able to see what text on their child’s instructional reading level looks like and compare it to grade-level text expectations. After parents understood why their child was chosen for LLI, we explained the components of the program. We showed them what a lesson looks like, tools of the program were shared, and home copies of the tools were provided along with ideas for use at home. The importance of the Take Home book was explained. At the end of the workshop, parents were invited to meet with their child’s LLI teacher to discuss individual questions and concerns.
Our initial LLI Workshop provided the foundation on which our partnership would grow. We invited the same group of parents back for two more workshops. Midyear, they were invited back for a workshop titled The Importance of Reading Aloud to Your Childand at the end of the year for a Prevent the Summer Slide Workshop. Once again, we empowered our parents with ideas and strategies to use at home along with books and materials to help their child grow as a reader. Our parents’ response to these workshops was overwhelmingly positive. In addition to the gracious comments on our parent evaluations, we saw an increase in parental support over the course of the year and our end of the year reading results showed significant gains! We are looking forward to continuing this partnership with our parents in the upcoming school year.
Congratulations to Beaver Run. Keep up the great work!
Maria Curtis, Coordinator
Title I Program, Wicomico School District