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Helping You Help Your School

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The following is a guest post from Molly Toney, Business Coordinator for the Governor's CommonwealthInstitute for Parent Leadership (GCIPL) at the Prichard Committee.


Often, parents feel they would love to help in their child's school, if they better understood the need, or how to be an effective partner. Parent or family involvement is frequently cited by schools, districts, and their administrators as a high priority for impacting achievement. Unfortunately, the disconnect between home and school on how to work in partnership is prevalent, and the gap is not bridged frequently enough to make a difference in student success.

Since 1997, the Prichard Committee's Governor's Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership, or GCIPL, has been the model for how to bridge that gap and create authentic family involvement in schools in Kentucky and beyond. This 6-day comprehensive training, adopted by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, gives parents across the state the information they need to be engaged in activities to improve schools for all children. The institute has also been replicated outside Kentucky in states such as: Florida, Ohio, Delaware, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Mississippi. In addition, the umbrella of GCIPL programs was expanded in 2003 to include stand-alone workshops and family and community leadership training.

The Prichard Committee has trained over 1,600 parents in the state of Kentucky, and hundreds more throughout the U.S. with workshop offerings such as Missing Piece of the Proficiency Puzzle. This workshop was developed from a report issued by the Kentucky Commissioner's Parent Advisory Council (KY CPAC) called Missing Piece of the Proficiency Puzzle: Recommendations for Involving Families and Community in Improving Student Achievement. As members of the KY CPAC, GCIPL-trained parents led the way in the development of a rubric which is included in the report and used by Kentucky schools to evaluate and plan family and community engagement. Our Missing Piece training brings together teams of school stakeholders (comprised of parents, administrators, counselors, teachers and other school staff), who use the rubric to analyze and create better family engagement policies and procedures, and improve the school climate. Parent Leadership 101 is another workshop that focuses on data, common core standards, and parent engagement research. It is a 2-day workshop that includes the basics of the full 6-day GCIPL institute. Authentic Parent Engagement is a training-of-trainers, designed to teach those who work with parents how to better engage, utilize and collaborate with families of their students.

Right now, plans are underway to premiere new training opportunities through GCIPL in 2014 and beyond in the following areas: middle-to-high school-to-college transitions and preschool-to-kindergarten transitions. Anecdotal parent feedback shows that student testing timelines, types of assessments, deadlines, content, and informed, step-by-step college preparation is crucial to student success - and parents say they're having a hard time finding guidance in these areas within their child's school. Guidance counselors are overworked in the areas of testing coordination and administration, and there are too few on staff at large high schools to give the type of personal attention to planning families feel their students need.

Recently, The United States Department of Education has proposed working with states to provide high-quality, full-day preschool for all 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families. The goal is to end achievement gaps before they start. At GCIPL, we feel that strong transitions between preschool and the early primary grades lay the groundwork for school success and healthy school habits and relationships. Parents and preschool teachers, communicating with kindergarten and first grade teachers about skills, behaviors, expectations and home reinforcements help families begin positive habits early for their students. From Pre-K to On Our Way! is a training GCIPL previewed in 2013, with funding from the United Way of the Bluegrass. In addition, we are happy to be partnering with United Way Kentucky and Toyota, through their bornlearning Academies. Our hope is to create a systemic pipeline for parent engagement, from early learning through high school, to increase parent involvement in school improvement efforts for all students.

Schools and districts are in need of strong parent and family engagement and these are just some of the opportunities that exist.   It is important that we all engage together to help our kids move to the next levels. 

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