Recognizing the important role parents play in their children's education, a new initiative just starting in Los Angeles promotes family engagement as a strategy to reduce summer learning loss.
Passport to Success, spearheaded by Families in Schools, an L.A.-based nonprofit, and supported with a grant from Target, aims to reach at least 20,000 families this summer by providing resources, tools, and guidance for parents on how to provide educationally enriching experiences for their children when they aren't in school. Low-income families, in particular, are targeted.
Through the initiative, families receive a resource guide and information (English and Spanish) on summer learning activities they can involve their children in around L.A., at free or minimal cost. Each child also receives a "passport," which he or she gets "stamped" at various sites around town, such as museums, libraries, learning events, and concerts. When the child returns to school this fall, students with stamped passports will be recognized for their efforts with certificates and are eligible to receive educational prizes like iPads, computers, books, and memberships to museums, parks, and aquariums.
According to Oscar Cruz, president and CEO of Families in Schools, within 24 hours of sending schools the materials, 50 were already interested in participating.
The initiative launches as the 670,000-student L.A district faces an even shorter school year next year, like other districts in the state, because of California's dire fiscal situation. A proposed cut of as many as 15 days could mean California has one of the shortest school years in the country, and parents face even greater responsibility to provide something for their children to do during the lazy days of summer.
The responsibility is typically far more difficult for parents who cannot afford camps or other summer learning experiences to occupy their children. Hence, as discussed many times on this blog, these children are often the ones who need these experiences the most.
Yet it is not often due to lack of interest, but lack of resources and guidance, suggests the Passports to Success project.
According to a press release, one parent at the initiative's launch said she was relieved to have access to information about what she could do to help her child.
"This is one more tool that is going to help me educate her so that we can keep learning, because now I am going to learn with her. It is our work; I am always looking around for activities that I can share with her, and now the activities have arrived in my hands," Mildred Medina, an L.A. parent, is quoted as saying.
A recent post in the Huffington Post, says parents should also not shy away from getting involved with their schools and districts during the summer to voice their thoughts, opinions, and suggestions about local education.
According to Meryl Ain, a former school administrator and education blogger for the Huffington Post, the summer provides a good opportunity to chat with: district administrators at the central office who work through the summer, teachers who come back early to set up their classrooms, and principals who are around at least part of the summer to plan for the coming year. Additionally, she adds, school board members continue to have meetings that provide a good outlet for parent engagement.
"Important [school board] decisions are made in the dog days of summer, particularly in regard to hiring. If you can't make it to the meetings, catch up with reports in your local media. ... The public elects board members and it is their job to represent you and report to you," she writes.