Hiring over 40 Family Support Coordinators, one in each district, to support family outreach and community engagement. 40 minutes of weekly parent engagement for one-on-one time with teachers and families. Six Chancellor’s parent conferences held since Spring 2014
NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited student-led parent teacher conferences at MS 577, Conselyea Preparatory School in Brooklyn today and highlighted an increase in parent engagement across the City. She championed the efforts of principals to implement innovative programs and support services to strengthen the partnership with families that raises standards and improves student achievement.
“Parent involvement is critical to increasing student achievement and cultivating relationships with the community,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “School leaders across the City are thinking outside the box and spearheading creative programs to involve parents. Whether it’s student-led conferences that allow students to articulate their academic progress to their family, parent forums on coping with stress and high school admissions, or inviting parents to curriculum meetings, educators are implementing best practices for including families in education.”
At today’s school visit, Chancellor Fariña championed the importance of parent-teacher conferences, and the added value of student participation in those conferences. Under the new teachers contract, all schools must hold four evening parent-teacher conferences this school year. At the urging of the Department of Education (DOE), many schools have adopted the student-led parent-teacher conference model, enabling students to take ownership of their successes, articulate areas for improvement, and establish a clear focus of immediate and future goals. At these meetings, students discuss their academic progress and parents are asked to fill out a checklist and self-reflect on their child’s ability to articulate his or her academic performance, progress, and goals.
“Parents are essential partners in their children’s education and an integral part of improving our schools and strengthening communities,” said Executive Director of the Division of Family and Community Engagement Jesse Mojica. “We are committed to providing our families with the support and information needed to best help their children. We know that when parents are involved, our students succeed.”
“Supporting parents at the district level is critical and superintendents are committed to bringing the community to the local district so families know where and who to go to for help,” said Senior Deputy Chancellor of School Support Dorita Gibson. “Creating a welcoming environment for parents in our district offices is imperative to strengthening partnerships with the larger community.”
“In order to identify and meet the needs of every student, we must reach out to the families,” said Principal of MS 577, Conselyea Preparatory School Maria Masullo. “Student-led conferences embody the Chancellor’s vision for students to build their self-confidence and hold themselves accountable for improvement, and also inform parents how to best support their child both inside and outside the classroom.”
Parent-teacher conferences represent one aspect of Chancellor Fariña’s focus on family engagement, one of the critical components of the Framework for Great Schools. As part of its new school support structure, the DOE is currently hiring Family Support Coordinators to work in the office of each community and high school superintendent. The new Family Support Coordinators – who will join District Family Advocates to ensure two dedicated family and community engagement staff members in each superintendent’s office – will be a single, dedicated point of contact for families in the district, and will work across the system to address and resolve issues and concerns. This new role will also allow District Family Advocates to focus on additional responsibilities critical to the community, including supporting parent leadership structures and building community partnerships.
As part of the recent teachers contract, DOE has supported schools through 40 minutes of weekly time for educators to connect with families. Schools have hosted innovative, welcoming activities like a “homework diner” and “bilingual parent breakfast” where, respectively, educators and parents share strategies over dinner and bilingual parents share their concerns in their native language. The DOE has compiled innovative ideas schools are implementing online.
Chancellor Fariña has also focused on family engagement through the Chancellor’s parent conferences as well as her attendance at Town Hall meetings. Beginning in Spring 2014, the Chancellor’s six parent conferences have attracted more than 1,500 parents from across the City to Tweed Courthouse for grade-specific workshops on topics included reading to your child, pre-K activities for the home, preventing bullying, helping teens organize and prioritize, helping adolescents manage stress, and the Individualized Education Plan process. Chancellor Fariña will host three additional parent conferences – one each for elementary, middle, and high school parents – this fall. She has also listened to the needs of school communities across the City since January 2014 through her attendance at 36 Town Halls and Education Council meetings.
Additional support for the important work of Citywide and Community Education Councils has also taken the form of the 2015 “Raise Your Hand” campaign, a multi-lingual, Citywide outreach effort that encouraged parents to run for a seat on their Council this year. As a result, 1,290 parents applied, a 77% increase in parent participation from 2013, when only 729 parents applied. The 32 district CECs are responsible for approving school zoning lines, holding hearings on the Capital Plan, and providing additional input on important policy issues. Citywide Councils evaluate and advise on school policy concerning their areas of focus. Election results will be announced shortly, and elected parents will receive training and leadership development sessions to ensure they are able to use their positions effectively to make their voices heard, advocate for students, and form functional Councils. Additionally, 21 current presidents of Community and Citywide Education Councils and Presidents’ Councils graduated from the Parent Council Leadership Institute, a professional development and leadership coaching series developed in collaboration with NYC Service.
The DOE’s Division of Family and Community Engagement has also invested in training school staff who advocate for parents, providing 25 professional development trainings for parent coordinators and District Family Advocates this school year. Three-thousand parent coordinators attended one or more of these trainings, which focused on topics ranging from how to leverage the City’s art and cultural institutions as a family resource to understanding trauma and emotional resiliency. In addition, the Division’s Translation and Interpretation Unit provided training for hundreds of language access coordinators. Language access coordinators are responsible for monitoring parents’ language needs, and working with school leaders to address these needs and effectively communicate with families who speak a language other than English.
“The best way to help a student succeed is to have all the adults in a child's life – parents, teachers, grandparents, administrators, and school staff – working together,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.“That's why teachers are excited about these initiatives to build these relationships – because we know they can make a difference. At MS 577 you will see this in action. Students take part in the parent-teacher conferences. Students use the time to share with their parents how they are doing in their class.”
“Parental engagement is critical in a child’s journey to becoming a strong and independent adult. Truly engaged parents help educators do their jobs better,” said Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Ernest Logan. “Our school leaders have always depended upon their parents working with them for the greater good of their children and their neighborhoods, and our principals have been instrumental in implementing new programs that encourage parent participation.”
“Parental engagement is a necessary component of a strong education system,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “That’s why I applaud the Chancellor for her continued efforts to implement parental participation systemwide and why I have introduced state legislation to expand parental access on Community Education Councils.”
“When kids see their family engaged in their academic success, they perform at a higher standard,” said City Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “Creating a culture of collaboration in a school takes dedication and hard work from all parties, and I congratulate Principal Maria Masullo for successfully implementing student-led parent-teacher conferences at the Conselyea Preparatory School.”