Op-Ed: Family Engagement Grows And More Work Lies Ahead From Harlem To Hollis

Schools Chancellor Carmen FariñaBy NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña

September is a time for new beginnings and a time to build on the progress we’ve made as a community. I am excited to announce that family engagement is on the rise across the city. Thanks to the hard work of teachers, school leaders, staff, parent leaders and volunteers – more than 1,000,000 parents across the boroughs are attending a range of school based workshops and trainings in college preparation, English as a Second Language, resume writing, Common Core Learning Standards and in response to requests from families, even Zumba, and nutrition. Also, 1,983,000 families participated in parent teacher or student led conferences, 73,000 more compared to the year prior.

Reaching every parent, grandparent and guardian is essential and while this is important progress, there is still more work to be done.‎

For instance, during my visits to schools and even to the local market, I’ve learned that families are not only interested in their child’s learning but they want to support schools with their own professional growth and wellness. And schools are listening and bringing in tailored programs and creating learning hubs for their parent community.

This school year, we are also reaching families with Equity and Excellence for All, a range of initiatives we announced last year that are all on their way to implementation. Equity and Excellence is the bedrock on which we are building student achievement through a variety of programs. Students across the city will have access to rigorous classes like Advanced Placement, one-on-one mentoring through the Single Shepherd program, increased extracurricular activities in STEM and the arts (Harlem World Magazine calls it STEAM), and college planning in middle school to provide parents with tools and resources they need to navigate the college planning process.

We’ve already hosted an AP for All event last spring for 300 students and their families in Washington Heights, which included a series of workshops on AP courses and college planning. And we launched FaceLab, a mini Makers Faire where students showcased their inventions and creativity to families – encouraging side by side learning.‎

In addition, to the programming and engagement we offer, we have also expanded language services for parents with limited English. One critical change we’ve made is access to 24 hour over the phone interpreters, so school staff can communicate with parents in their native language after 5 pm. Now, a teacher can call a parent who only speaks Mandarin and can provide that parent with an update on their child’s progress in school with a Mandarin interpreter on the line. This expansion has resulted in a surge of phone calls being made to parents using over the phone interpreters.

In addition, for the first time, we are holding citywide native language Parent Conferences conducted entirely in the family’s native language for Mandarin, Spanish, Bengali and Arabic speakers.‎ I am proud of the incredible growth we have seen while engaging families as partners because it shows that the message is resonating: community involvement is critical and when a child sees a family member involved at their school it results in self-confidence and achievement.

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I want to encourage families to help us get other families involved too! This fall, schools will host parent-teacher conferences. 

Finally, please Save the Dates for the following native language parent conferences:

  • October 14, 5:30 pm – College Access Conference for Middle School ELL Families at Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street, Manhattan
  • November 5, 10 am – Parent Conferences for Spanish speakers at Port Richmond High School, 85 St. Joseph’s Ave., Staten Island
  • November 19, 10 am – Parent Conferences for Spanish speakers, Monroe College, 2501 Jerome Ave, Bronx
  • December 3, 10 am – Parent Conference for Mandarin or Cantonese speakers, PS 94, 5010 6th Ave., Brooklyn
  • December 17, 10 am – Parent Conference for Arabic speakers, PS/IS 30 7002 4th Ave., Brooklyn
  • January 28, 10 am – Parent Conferences for Bengali speakers, Queens College, 65-30 Kissena Blvd., Queens

For information on when your school’s next parent teacher night is scheduled for visit http://schools.nyc.gov/Calendar/default.htm?mo=10&yr=2016#Conferences

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