Monday, January 10, 2011

New program, PASS, empowers parents to help children with school success

By Allegra Henderson

Parents and Students Succeeding (PASS), a new parent involvement initiative in Duluth, has graduated its first class of 33 parents at Laura MacArthur School and is now in planning for a February workshop at Nettleton School. Offered through the Duluth school district’s Office of Education and Equity, the free seven-week workshop encourages parents to get involved as much as possible in their children’s education.

Dennis Line and Patrick Ribbich graduated from the Duluth school district’s seven week Parents And Students Succeeding program. The program empowers parents to help their children do well in school. Contact the Office of Education and Equity at (218) 336-8714 to learn more. Photo by Tamara Smith

Studies show parents’ involvement in their children’s education has a direct correlation in the academic achievement of their student. Higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates are some of the results when parents regularly communicate with school teachers via phone calls, email and letters; attend parent teacher conferences; and volunteer at the school through PTA or other parent organizations.

In fact, family participation in education can be up to 10 times as predictive of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status. Parent involvement creates better school attendance, increased motivation, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of suspension.

PASS is modeled after Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) in California, which began as a bridge of information and knowledge for parents who didn’t speak English and grew into a powerful parent involvement forum which has graduated over half a million parents nationwide.

During the PASS workshop, parents learn the importance of homework and how to enhance home learning environments, understand tests and assessments, and promote positive communication between home and school. The workshop sessions are dialogues, not lectures, and parents create community, supporting one another, sharing experiences, and problem-solving together.

PASS gives them the skills and tools needed for their children’s academic success in school: knowing what essential questions to ask during parent teacher conferences, learning how to decipher tests and assessments and calculate GPA’s and report cards, and finding out how to access academic school services and programs that enhance student performance.

“There was so much valuable information,” said Katrina Thunberg, a PASS parent from the initial class at MacArthur. “Every week, I felt so supported in my parenting, and knowing that I have a community of parents that go through similar challenges was so empowering! When I saw many of the parents again at the Christmas program, I greeted them and was so happy to see them. We built a sense of community each week, and I miss that.”

For many parents, PASS was not just an education in how to navigate the school system — it became a support system for parents to feel validated, encouraged, and empowered. When parents have a chance to share their stories and challenges and support one another, the workshop becomes a forum to develop leadership and community.

Parents are encouraged to become involved in the school, whether with increased home school communication, through volunteerism, or by joining the Parent Teacher Association or other school-based committees to express their voice and leadership. Information regarding funding for college and other schools after high school is also covered during the workshop.

The next PASS workshop will be held in February at Nettleton School. Childcare and a meal for parents are available. Please contact the Office of Education and Equity for more information at (218) 336-8714.