Completed Education Projects
Improving Parental Involvement in No Child Left Behind (“NCLB”)
Under the federal “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) law, schools must notify parents about individual students’ test results and the related performance of the schools they attend. Schools judged to be “failing” under NCLB must report that fact to parents and provide parents with alternatives and resources: namely, tutoring services for their children and the opportunity to change schools. Determining whether parents receive and understand the required messages about school performance, then act to take advantage of their options, was so important to the WK Kellogg Foundation that it awarded $618,000 to the national Appleseed organization to fund research on improving the effectiveness of parental involvement.
Appleseed’s 6-State Research Report
With Kellogg’s staunch support, Connecticut Appleseed joined five sister Appleseed Centers in early 2006 to research whether parents are receiving the information to which they are entitled and whether they then become engaged to help improve their child’s educational performance. Our findings and recommendations are summarized in It Takes a Parent – Transforming Education in the wake of NCLB.
We found that:
- School districts need to become more aware of the real-life barriers that keep parents from getting involved. These barriers include demanding work schedules, the economic need to work more than one job, unavailability of daycare, and significant language/cultural barriers; and
- Some racial and/or ethnic groups feel ill at ease or even unwelcome among school officials. Better awareness of these less visible – but no less real – barriers can help school districts more effectively reach out to and connect with all parents.
Perhaps the most powerful remedy under NCLB for failing schools and failing students is the promise of tutoring for children. However, the reality is that qualified tutors are difficult for parents to access; the qualified tutors don’t live in the same neighborhoods, so transportation becomes an enormous obstacle. The other tool offered by NCLBÑ the ability to switch schools Ñis also out of reach for most students. There are far more kids at failing schools than there are open slots in schools in the same city or town.
Harnessing Parents to Narrow Academic Achievement Gaps
It takes more than just coordinated work on the federal, state and local levels to make sure that parents know the steps and resources available to prevent their children from being left behind. Schools can take small, low-cost but effective steps to better engage parents in rallying their kids to improve individual and school-wide CMT scores.
Later in 2006 we took steps to reach out to parent groups around the results in “It Takes a Parent” and connected them with resources on the tutoring and choice options available to them under NCLB. For example, in October 2006 Connecticut Appleseed presented to a room filled with more than 100 Bridgeport parents at their monthly Parent Advisory Council meeting on the results of the Appleseed report and re-emphasized the importance of their taking advantage of all the educational resources promised under NCLB. Connecticut Appleseed also presented to the Connecticut Board of Education on the major findings of the report as well as recommendations to increase parental involvement in Connecticut.
In 2007 and beyond we continued to work with school districts and state officials to emphasize the important role of parental involvement in strengthening schools.
Parent Empowerment Workshops in 2007
In many cases parents are confused by their school’s communications about options their children may have under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law – and bitter when some of those options prove to be a mirage. Busy parents are frequently unaware of the free tutoring options (Supplemental Education Services, or “SES”) provided by NCLB, while the paucity of slots available for students to transfer from failing to better-performing schools renders the “right” to such transfers meaningless.
Based on the findings in “It Takes A Parent”, we partnered in 2007 with the CT NAACP, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (“ConnCAN”), and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights to create and distribute a free guidebook entitled “How to Make Sure Your Child is Not Left Behind” (English | Spanish). The guidebook’s purpose is to better empower parents to exploit every possible advantage under the law to ensure a high-quality public school education for their children. Topics covered in this guidebook include:
- What NCLB means for Connecticut parents.
- What parents can do about teacher quality.
- How to have a voice in school improvement plans.
- How to secure Supplement Educational Services for your child.
- Tools for closing the discipline gap in our schools.
- 10 ways to get active in closing the achievement gap.
To help parents make the best possible use of this book, our coalition hosted a series of Parent Empowerment Workshops in five of Connecticut’s largest urban school districts ÐHartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, New London and Waterbury – during the first half of 2007. Through the workshops we have educated more than 250 parents about their rights under NCLB, including free tutoring, translation, and school choice. Each workshop involved a parent training session and break-out sessions with local organizations to create action agendas for greater parental involvement.
Some immediate benefits and positive results from all five workshops include:
- While only 24% of attending parents reported having used the free tutoring option/SES option in the past, 67% reported planning to use this important option in the future;
- Parents reported a high level of involvement in their child’s school – 43% reported being present in their child’s school each week, and 21% present at least monthly;
- Most parents reported an improved understanding of their rights under NCLB, with only 19% stating at the workshop’s conclusion that they still did not know their rights; and
- 82% of attending parents stated that after the workshop they understood what role they can play at their child’s school.