Sunday, June 14, 2009

An Interview with Parent Liaison Jose F. Alonso of Paint Branch Elementary

Q. How do you define parental engagement as it relates to education?

A. Parental engagement in education can be defined as the active participation of parents in the affairs of the school and its community. When the parents are actively involved in the school it also benefits the home/school/community partners.

Q. What are some of the major barriers to parental engagement today versus years ago as it relates to education?

A. Essentially, there is a need for the families to adjust to today’s societal dynamics. That is, most parents work and some more than one job. Therefore, they are no longer at home to assist the children with their school work. Children spend a substantial amount of time after school away from home, often along in the house without adult supervision or interaction.

In addition, as our neighborhoods become more and more diverse, language and cultural barriers inhibit the needed communication between the school, the students and the families. Very often the level of academic achievement of the parents can be a barrier to communicate with the students and the school. This problem precludes many parents from assisting their children with school work. Living in poor urban settings and with many families in one household, does not provide the appropriate climate for learning and schooling. Many of those urban settings do not have adequate schools that offer quality educational programs to meet the needs of the diverse populations.

Q. What are some of ways parents can become more engaged with their children around school?
Parents and community members joining the PTA
Volunteering to assist in school functions
Engage the teachers in discussions related to your children academics
Visiting the classroom on regular basis
Assisting the community in events that benefit the school

Q. What do you believe the school system has to do in order to increase parental engagement?

A. Maintain “Open Schools” and keep the lines of communication open. Keep the school open year around by providing extended school hours after the regular school day. In this setting schools can offer programs during those extra hours for parents to increase their knowledge and well being. For example, literacy classes, adult education courses in computers, math, household finances, general history knowledge of the country and practical courses in parenting and health. One potential component of Open Schools is the ability to offer tutoring programs year around for those students in need of academic support.

Other ways to increase parental engagement is: (a) keep the parents informed about the school and community happenings; (b) use all the lines of communication available (Data bases, internet, SCS, Internet, School Newsletter, Letters, Flyers) in at least English and Spanish language as we are a culturally diverse schools; (c) provide assistance as requested and as much as possible using the information available in the school and the school system; (d) coordinate with other agencies to offer parents information and workshops about the community and available resources and (e) foster the parents/school and community relationships.

The goal is to make the school a place where parents feel that “the school is theirs and is there for their families.”

Q. In your opinion, do you believe active parental engagement has an impact on the persistence of students at the secondary and or postsecondary level?

A. Yes, parental engagement is capable of providing guidance, confidence and support to the secondary and post--secondary students. Students like to feel that their parents are engaged in their schooling. Parents should encourage good study habits and instill the desire to achieve success and foster the need to continue pursuing their educational goals. These qualities will remain for the entire life of their children.

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