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New York City Chancellor Revamps School District's Parent-Engagement Efforts

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The nation's largest school district is planning to overhaul its parent-involvement programs to better serve students' families.

New York City Public Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told the New York Daily News that the district would emphasize the development of meaningful "family connections" this school year.

So what does that mean?

According to the story, 1,800 parent coordinators, whose main role is to encourage parent involvement at city schools, will be retrained. Fariña also pledged to support GED and English as a Second Language classes for parents to be taught in any public school where more than 20 parents request them.

Additionally, the Daily News reports parent-teacher conferences will be held with the student present. The 15-minute by-appointment meetings will be more effective, Fariña said.

The Daily News reports that New York City teachers are contractually permitted to dedicate at least 40 minutes of every school week to meet with parents, which could conceivably yield more one-on-one conversations with teachers.

"I personally don't think a PTA meeting is a good measure of whether parents are engaged in schools," Fariña said in the story. "Many PTA meetings, in my opinion, are boring, and they don't serve the purposes of parents."

However, Otha Thornton, president of the National PTA, noted in an email to Education Week that New York City has no established PTA units "due to prohibitive policies that prevent meaningful parent engagement." Thornton added that "partnerships between PTAs and schools are proven to increase family engagement, increase student achievement, help schools improve and help communities grow stronger."

After attending PTA meetings in two states, it's been my experience that these gatherings help organize parent-driven school business. So, inherently, the meetings can be boring because they involve delegating duties, drafting volunteers, and sometimes, debating the minutia. But, let's be honest, are any meetings fun?

Still, it seems to me that as long as parents feel valued and respected, with a little guidance, they can play a vital role in their children's education. I'm eager to see what develops in New York City.

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