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Building partnerships to help students succeed

The 2nd Annual Mary Bacigalupo got over 100 people out of bed early on this rainy Saturday morning to hear Dr. Joyce Epstein talk about “School, Family and Community Partnerships.” The audience included school department officials, elected officials, parents, teachers, and representatives from UML and Middlesex Community College. Dr. Epstein shared results of her years of research into this topic with a focus on how perceptions have changed in the last 25 years.  As Co-chair of the parent participation sub-group formed at last year’s forum, I was particularly struck by her assertion we should not be talking about barriers and obstacles to parent involvement, but about the realities – the facts of peoples’ lives such as working two jobs, being homeless or not speaking English – that create challenges and the need for partnerships.  In Epstein’s words, “Stop blaming parents; start building partnerships!

The other important idea that I gleaned was that parent involvement is not about parents. It’s about improving student achievement.  Getting parents into the school for coffee and muffins or a potluck supper doesn’t advance student achievement unless there is some goal for students along with tips for parents to help.  Some of this sounds obvious, I know, but it is helpful to have it stated by an expert in the field.

I think my group was reenergized by some of the concrete ideas offered by Epstein; however, most valuable to me were the words of our own superintendent, Dr. Karla Brooks Baehr, who showed her usual ability to synthesize the most pertinent and complex ideas into one succinct statement: 

the goal is to find ways for schools to support parents in a complex, changing world and, in a city that is diverse, to help families find their voice, so that we are not just hearing the voices of those already speaking.  

posted in Education, Local Groups | 0 Comments

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