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District of Columbia Expands Family-Engagement Program

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A District of Columbia Public Schools' parent-involvement partnership, which is credited with helping to boost student test scores and attendance in four elementary schools, will be implemented in more schools this fall. 

The Family Engagement Partnership focuses on creating strong parent-teacher relationships and is largely supported by the Flamboyan Foundation, according to a news release. The Flamboyan Foundation, which is based in Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, supports efforts to improve student achievement in public schools. 

Twenty-one schools will participate in the parent partnership program during the 2014-15 school year. Each participating school receives a grant for up to $25,000, Melissa Salmanowitz, spokeswoman for the District's school system, wrote in an email.

According to the release, the Family Engagement Partnership instructs school administrators and teachers how to develop trusting relationships with parents. Teachers conduct home visits and work with families to set higher academic expectations for their children. The program also includes a new approach to parent-teacher conferences. These Academic Parent Teacher Teams help families create supportive learning environments for students in their homes. 

This school year, about 86 percent of all partner-school teachers conducted at least one home visit. More than 3,000 families have received a home visit from their child's teacher. There are currently 15 Family Engagement Partnership schools.

In the 2011-12 school year, the four pilot schools engaged in the partnership improved on the district's student assessment system, the DC CAS, by more than 7 percentage points, which was more than double the increase for non-participating schools. Attendance in those schools piloting the program also improved at double the district average. Salmanowitz said Mathematica Policy Research, a Princeton, N.J.,-based policy research firm, is currently conducting a five-year randomized control trial of the family-engagement program.

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