Homework: A Guide for Parents

As a parent of a 1st Grade student myself, I have been consumed, in recent months, by what I would call “The Homework Dilemma”.  Despite my own, personal viewpoints on homework, its relevance, the research behind its negligent impact on student achievement, and my own individual and personal feelings, I found this article by Peg Dawson to be enlightening.  I am hopeful that this helps provide you with some information that you may find supportive and helpful with your own students (children).

by Peg Dawson, EdD, NCSP

from http://www.nasponline.org/resources/home_school/homework.aspx

“Homework has been around as long as public schools have, and over the years considerable research has been conducted regarding the efficacy of homework practices. While the results are not uniform, most experts on the topic have drawn some common conclusions.

Background

Harris Cooper, a leading homework researcher, examined more than 100 studies on the effects of homework and concluded that there is little evidence that homework at the elementary school level has an impact on school achievement. Studies at the junior high school level have found some modest benefits of homework, but studies of homework at the high school level have found that it has clear benefits.

Despite mixed research on homework effects, many teachers believe that assigning homework offers other benefits besides contributing to school achievement. Homework teaches children how to take responsibility for tasks and how to work independently. That is, homework helps children develop habits of mind that will serve them well as they proceed through school and, indeed, through life. Specifically, homework helps children learn how to plan and organize tasks, manage time, make choices, and problem solve, all skills that contribute to effective functioning in the adult world of work and families.

Reasonable Homework Expectations

It is generally agreed that the younger the child, the less time the child should be expected to devote to homework. A general rule of thumb is that children do 10 minutes of homework for each grade level. Therefore, first graders should be expected to do about 10 minutes of homework, second graders 20 minutes, third graders 30 minutes, and so on. If your child is spending more than 10 minutes per grade level on work at night, then you may want to talk with your child’s teacher about adjusting the workload.

Strategies to Make Homework Go More Smoothly

There are two key strategies parents can draw on to reduce homework hassles. The first is to establish clear routines around homework, including when and where homework gets done and setting up daily schedules for homework. The second is to build in rewards or incentives to use with children for whom “good grades” is not a sufficient reward for doing homework.

Homework Routines

Tasks are easiest to accomplish when tied to specific routines. By establishing daily routines for homework completion, you will not only make homework go more smoothly, but you will also be fostering a sense of order your child can apply to later life, including college and work.

Step 1. Find a location in the house where homework will be done. The right location will depend on your child and the culture of your family. Some children do best at a desk in their bedroom. It is a quiet location, away from the hubbub of family noise. Other children become too distracted by the things they keep in their bedroom and do better at a place removed from those distractions, like the dining room table. Some children need to work by themselves. Others need to have parents nearby to help keep them on task and to answer questions when problems arise. Ask your child where the best place is to work. Both you and your child need to discuss pros and cons of different settings to arrive at a mutually agreed upon location.

Step 2. Set up a homework center. Once you and your child have identified a location, fix it up as a home office/homework center. Make sure there is a clear workspace large enough to set out all the materials necessary for completing assignments. Outfit the homework center with the kinds of supplies your child is most likely to need, such as pencils, pens, colored markers, rulers, scissors, a dictionary and thesaurus, graph paper, construction paper, glue and cellophane tape, lined paper, a calculator, spell checker, and, depending on the age and needs of your child, a computer or laptop. If the homework center is a place that will be used for other things (such as the dining room table), then your child can keep the supplies in a portable crate or bin. If possible, the homework center should include a bulletin board that can hold a monthly calendar on which your child can keep track of longterm assignments. Allowing children some leeway in decorating the homework center can help them feel at home there, but you should be careful that it does not become too cluttered with distracting materials.

Step 3. Establish a homework time. Your child should get in the habit of doing homework at the same time every day. The time may vary depending on the individual child. Some children need a break right after school to get some exercise and have a snack. Others need to start homework while they are still in a school mode (i.e., right after school when there is still some momentum left from getting through the day). In general, it may be best to get homework done either before dinner or as early in the evening as the child can tolerate. The later it gets, the more tired the child becomes and the more slowly the homework gets done.

Step 4. Establish a daily homework schedule. In general, at least into middle school, the homework session should begin with your sitting down with your child and drawing up a homework schedule. You should review all the assignments and make sure your child understands them and has all the necessary materials. Ask your child to estimate how long it will take to complete each assignment. Then ask when each assignment will get started. If your child needs help with any assignment, then this should be determined at the beginning so that the start times can take into account parent availability. A Daily Homework Planner is included at the end of this handout and contains a place for identifying when breaks may be taken and what rewards may be earned.

Incentive Systems

Many children who are not motivated by the enjoyment of doing homework are motivated by the high grade they hope to earn as a result of doing a quality job. Thus, the grade is an incentive, motivating the child to do homework with care and in a timely manner. For children who are not motivated by grades, parents will need to look for other rewards to help them get through their nightly chores. Incentive systems fall into two categories: simple and elaborate.

Simple incentive systems. The simplest incentive system is reminding the child of a fun activity to do when homework is done. It may be a favorite television show, a chance to spend some time with a video or computer game, talking on the telephone or instant messaging, or playing a game with a parent. This system of withholding fun things until the drudgery is over is sometimes called Grandma’s Law because grandmothers often use it quite effectively (“First take out the trash, then you can have chocolate chip cookies.”). Having something to look forward to can be a powerful incentive to get the hard work done. When parents remind children of this as they sit down at their desks they may be able to spark the engine that drives the child to stick with the work until it is done.

Elaborate incentive systems. These involve more planning and more work on the part of parents but in some cases are necessary to address more significant homework problems. More complex incentives systems might include a structure for earning points that could be used to “purchase” privileges or rewards or a system that provides greater reward for accomplishing more difficult homework tasks. These systems work best when parents and children together develop them. Giving children input gives them a sense of control and ownership, making the system more likely to succeed. We have found that children are generally realistic in setting goals and deciding on rewards and penalties when they are involved in the decision-making process.

Building in breaks. These are good for the child who cannot quite make it to the end without a small reward en route. When creating the daily homework schedule, it may be useful with these children to identify when they will take their breaks. Some children prefer to take breaks at specific time intervals (every 15 minutes), while others do better when the breaks occur after they finish an activity. If you use this approach, you should discuss with your child how long the breaks will last and what will be done during the breaks (get a snack, call a friend, play one level on a video game). The Daily Homework Planner includes sections where breaks and end-of-homework rewards can be identified.

Building in choice. This can be an effective strategy for parents to use with children who resist homework. Choice can be incorporated into both the order in which the child agrees to complete assignments and the schedule they will follow to get the work done. Building in choice not only helps motivate children but can also reduce power struggles between parents and children.

Developing Incentive Systems

Step 1. Describe the problem behaviors. Parents and children decide which behaviors are causing problems at homework time. For some children putting homework off to the last minute is the problem; for others, it is forgetting materials or neglecting to write down assignments. Still others rush through their work and make careless mistakes, while others dawdle over assignments, taking hours to complete what should take only a few minutes. It is important to be as specific as possible when describing the problem behaviors. The problem behavior should be described as behaviors that can be seen or heard; for instance, complains about homework or rushes through homework, making many mistakes are better descriptors than has a bad attitude or is lazy.

Step 2. Set a goal. Usually the goal relates directly to the problem behavior. For instance, if not writing down assignments is the problem, the goal might be: “Joe will write down his assignments in his assignment book for every class.”

Step 3. Decide on possible rewards and penalties. Homework incentive systems work best when children have a menu of rewards to choose from, since no single reward will be attractive for long. We recommend a point system in which points can be earned for the goal behaviors and traded in for the reward the child wants to earn. The bigger the reward, the more points the child will need to earn it. The menu should include both larger, more expensive rewards that may take a week or a month to earn and smaller, inexpensive rewards that can be earned daily. It may also be necessary to build penalties into the system. This is usually the loss of a privilege (such as the chance to watch a favorite TV show or the chance to talk on the telephone to a friend).

Once the system is up and running, and if you find your child is earning more penalties than rewards, then the program needs to be revised so that your child can be more successful. Usually when this kind of system fails, we think of it as a design failure rather than the failure of the child to respond to rewards. It may be a good idea if you are having difficulty designing a system that works to consult a specialist, such as a school psychologist or counselor, for assistance.

Step 4. Write a homework contract. The contract should say exactly what the child agrees to do and exactly what the parents’ roles and responsibilities will be. When the contract is in place, it should reduce some of the tension parents and kids often experience around homework. For instance, if part of the contract is that the child will earn a point for not complaining about homework, then if the child does complain, this should not be cause for a battle between parent and child: the child simply does not earn that point. Parents should also be sure to praise their children for following the contract. It will be important for parents to agree to a contract they can live with; that is, avoiding penalties they are either unable or unwilling to impose (e.g., if both parents work and are not at home, they cannot monitor whether a child is beginning homework right after school, so an alternative contract may need to be written).

We have found that it is a rare incentive system that works the first time. Parents should expect to try it out and redesign it to work the kinks out. Eventually, once the child is used to doing the behaviors specified in the contract, the contract can be rewritten to work on another problem behavior. Your child over time may be willing to drop the use of an incentive system altogether. This is often a long-term goal, however, and you should be ready to write a new contract if your child slips back to bad habits once a system is dropped.

Involving Siblings

Parents often ask how they can develop one kind of system for one child in the family and not for all children, since it may seem to be “rewarding” children with problems while neglecting those without. Most siblings understand this process if it is explained to them carefully. If there are problems, however, parents have several choices: (a) Set up a similar system for other children with appropriate goals (every child has something they could be working to improve), (b) make a more informal arrangement by promising to do something special from time to time with the other children in the family so they do not feel left out, or (c) have the child earn rewards that benefit the whole family (e.g., eating out at a favorite restaurant).

Adaptations and Further Support

Suggestions provided in this handout will need to be adapted to the particular age of your child. Greater supervision and involvement on the part of parents is the norm with children during the elementary school years, while, by high school, most parents find they can pull back and let their children take more control over homework schedules. Middle school is often the turning point, and parents will need to make decisions about how involved to be in homework based on the developmental level of their children. If problems arise that seem intractable at any age, consult your child’s teacher or a school psychologist.”

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25 Ways to Ask Your Kids ‘So How Was School Today?’ Without Asking Them ‘So How Was School Today?’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-evans/25-ways-to-ask-your-kids-so-how-was-school-today-without-asking-them-so-how-was-school-today_b_5738338.html

Earlier this week, I stumbled upon this blog post (website listed above) and, as a parent, I thought it was interesting.  As a result, I thought that I would pass it along to the JFK Community, if you are interested.  Enjoy!   -JW

by liZ Evans (Yes, she spells her name this way.)

This year, Simon is in fourth grade and Grace is in first grade, and I find myself asking them every day after school, “So how was school today?”

And every day I get an answer like “fine” or “good,” which doesn’t tell me a whole lot.

AND I WANT TO KNOW A WHOLE LOT!!!!

Or at least get a full sentence. So the other night, I sat down and made a list of more engaging questions to ask about school. They aren’t perfect, but I do at least get complete sentences, and some have led to some interesting conversations… and hilarious answers… and some insights into how my kids think and feel about school.

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1. What was the best thing that happened at school today? (What was the worst thing that happened at school today?)

2. Tell me something that made you laugh today.

3. If you could choose, who would you like to sit by in class? (Who would you NOT want to sit by in class? Why?)

4. Where is the coolest place at the school?

5. Tell me a weird word that you heard today. (Or something weird that someone said.)

6. If I called your teacher tonight, what would she tell me about you?

7. How did you help somebody today?

8. How did somebody help you today?

9. Tell me one thing that you learned today.

10. When were you the happiest today?

11. When were you bored today?

12. If an alien spaceship came to your class and beamed someone up, who would you want them to take?

13. Who would you like to play with at recess that you’ve never played with before?

14. Tell me something good that happened today.

15. What word did your teacher say most today?

16. What do you think you should do/learn more of at school?

17. What do you think you should do/learn less of at school?

18. Who in your class do you think you could be nicer to?

19. Where do you play the most at recess?

20. Who is the funniest person in your class? Why is he/she so funny?

21. What was your favorite part of lunch?

22. If you got to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you do?

23. Is there anyone in your class who needs a time-out?

24. If you could switch seats with anyone in the class, who would you trade with? Why?

25. Tell me about three different times you used your pencil today at school.

*****

So far, my favorite answers have come from questions 12, 15 and 21. Questions like the “alien” one give kids a non-threatening way to say who they would rather not have in their class, and open the door for you to have a discussion to ask why, potentially uncovering issues you didn’t know about before.

And the answers we get are sometimes really surprising. When I asked question 3, I discovered that one of my children didn’t want to sit by a best friend in class anymore — not out of a desire to be mean or bully, but in the hope they’d get the chance to work with other people.

As my kids get older, I know I am going to have to work harder and harder to stay engaged with them — but I know it’s going to be worth the work.

Welcome Back!

Welcome back JFK Cougars! I am hopeful that this letter finds each and every one of you, and finds you well. Hopefully you have enjoyed your summer adventures with family, friends, and loved ones and are excited to look ahead to students returning to the classroom. On behalf of the staff at JFK, I would like to cordially invite you to join us for our Back to School Open House on Wednesday, August 26th from 4:00 – 6:00pm as we kick off the start of what we hope will be another successful school year. Don’t miss this opportunity to meet your student’s teacher, see your classroom, and enjoy reconnecting with other members of the JFK Learning Community. All are welcome and invited to attend!

The staff at John F. Kennedy Elementary has made all the preparations to ensure a smooth start to the school year. This letter includes some basic, yet important, information that will help you get off to a positive start. Once the school year begins, important information will be sent home with students, all of which will be helpful throughout the school year.

You should have received a newsletter for the upcoming school year. Class lists will be posted at our Open House for all JFK families to see and discover who will be joining your student in his/her class. Please be advised that class lists are quite fluid at the beginning of each school year, especially as we work with families who are both entering and exiting John F. Kennedy Elementary.

The first day of school is Tuesday, September 2rd. The school day for students begins at 9:25am and dismissal will be at 3:55pm. Students are invited into the building at 9:20am and will not be admitted into the building prior to this time, even during winter months, as supervision is not available until that time.

As part of the Lakeville Area Public Schools, we at John F. Kennedy Elementary hold high expectations for the success and achievement of all our students. Our passion is to inspire and prepare all students with the confidence, courage, and competence to achieve their dreams; contribute to community; and engage in a lifetime of learning. Academic success and achievement depends upon the combined efforts of students, family members, and staff. It is our belief that through this combined effort, our students will receive the best educational experiences that can be provided.   If, at any time, you have a question or a concern, please do not hesitate to visit or call the office. By working together as a team, we can make this school year a very successful one for your student!

A JFK Community Event

Dear JFK Learning Community,

I am hopeful that this communication finds you, and finds you all well.  In an effort to try to communicate more effectively with students and families at JFK, I have created a couple of different items that would like to encourage you to view as your schedules permit.  The first you can find directly below this paragraph to the left, underneath the frighteningly close image of my face, which is a TouchCast I made for students to view.  By clicking on the link below this pic, you will be able to view this video on a channel I created within TouchCast via an app on my iPad.  This app is free, and I would encourage you to check out this website if you are interested in working with it yourself.  I’ve included a link to their website, listed below, or you can check out the app in the Apple Store.  I am hoping to use this tool in the future at JFK, perhaps even with students!  Directly to right of the TouchCast video is the flyer that I sent to you last week via Blackboard Connect.  You can also find this on our JFK Homepage.

 Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 11.33.27 AM

www.touchcast.com

Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 11.22.01 AM                        Screen shot 2014-07-28 at 11.15.07 AM

Click Here to Check Out Mr. Willey’s Video Message                       Meet the JFK Principal – Flyer

I am sincerely hopeful that you, your family, and your loved ones are able to attend our JFK Community event at Sweeney Park on August 3rd from 4-6pm.  My family will be in attendance throughout, and we are very much looking forward to meeting each and every one of you!

Top 10 Ways Parents Can Help With Homework

As I sat down and began thinking about what I could or would share with you that would be of service to you, I remembered an article that I came across on familyeducation.com, which has a number of interesting resources for parents and families that may be worthy of a quick (or long) look at your home.  The article was entitled, “Top 10 Ways Parents Can Help with Homework”.  A fan of “Top 10” lists in general, I decided to give this one a quick read, and was surprised with what I found.  While I will confess, very little of this content could be deemed as “earth-shattering”, it does provide several simple and easy-to-implement suggestions that may make the whole homework process a little easier in your home – and hopefully more impactful for students and their learning.

From http://school.familyeducation.com/homework/parenting/38543.html?page=1:

Provide a Suitable Environment and Materials

It’s important to provide your child a quiet, well-lit space, away from distractions and with all the right study materials — paper, pens and pencils, a dictionary, a desk or large table, and whatever else he may need to be comfortable yet productive. Right after school, have your child look over his assignments to see what textbooks and materials he needs. We’ve all had to make those last-minute runs to the store for a protractor or poster board, or back to school for a book left in the locker — no fun!

Designate a Space for Each Child

Even if your children are well-behaved peas in a pod (lucky you), they’re probably distracting to one another during study time. Try to find a separate space for each of your children, or schedule quiet times for homework in designated spaces. If one child finishes her homework earlier than the other, try to encourage reading time or quiet time until the entire family is ready for some together time in common areas.

Establish a Schedule

Create a regular schedule, allowing for adequate study and free time. Most kids are most productive earlier in the evening and not too close to bedtime, but others need a little after-school play break and dinner, or at least an energizing snack, before hitting the books. The most important thing is to establish a routine that works for your child.

Make Homework Time Tech-Free

Limit TV time. And cell phone time. And laptop time. Unless your child needs to use the computer for her homework assignment or her phone to consult with a classmate (hint: confirm that claim is true!) make your child surrender her technology to you during homework time. It’s a really hard line to draw and enforce, especially with tech-obsessed tweens and teens — but the better she focuses, the sooner she’ll complete her work and be free to text and tweet away.

Be Ready to Be a Resource

Whenever possible, be available to answer homework questions. Try doing a problem or two together, then watch as your child tries the next one. Let’s face it: You’re a busy parent with a lot going on — dinner on the stove, a mile-long to-do list, and maybe a wild preschooler in the mix — but remind your student (and yourself) that school work is a top priority, and you’re always around to answer questions or look over her work.

Don’t Give the Answers

Blowing off kids’ requests for homework help is one extreme, but doing the work for your child is the other no-no. Avoid simply giving answers. Instead, ask questions that let your child see the problem in smaller, sequential steps. You won’t be there to take your child’s tests for him, so doing his tough science projects and math problems for him will not help in the long run.

Use An Assignment Book

From day one of the school year, provide your child with a notebook for writing down assignments. Some schools have designated academic planners that they recommend or require. You could also print out this simple homework completion chart. Whatever you choose, make sure your child writes down her assignments on paper, which will help her remember everything. When she’s finished with all her homework, compare the work and the assignment notebook and/or description from the teacher to make sure everything is done.

Connect With the Teacher and School

See if your child’s teacher has a website where assignments are listed, and if his school has a homework helpline, a tutoring service, or extra study sessions that can be of help if he’s struggling. During parent-teacher conferences, or at any point during the school year, share any concerns you have about the amount or type of homework assigned. Be sure to let the teacher know if your child is regularly having difficulty or is unable to do most of it by himself.

Review Graded Work and Mistakes

Look over completed and graded assignments. Don’t scold your child for bad grades or mistakes. Discuss errors to be sure your child understands the material. Incorrect answers are an opportunity to learn, and those tough questions might be asked again in end-of-year exams, so it’s smart to help your child learn the correct answer when the material is fresh in his mind.

Keep Up Healthy Habits

Many kids are sleep-deprived, falling short of the 8.5+ hours of zzzs that their growing bodies need. If your child is nodding off over her language arts assignment, try moving bedtime up by an hour for one week to see if that helps. If your child’s schedule is booked every afternoon and evening — with everything from clubs to sports to volunteering or a part-time job — it might be time to rethink all those extra activities. Children need some time to unwind at the end of the day. Also, encourage healthy eating habits and regular exercise to help keep kids’ minds sharp and prevent illness.

Thank you for everything that you do to support Fernbrook Elementary School.  Your efforts are genuinely appreciated.  We would not be nearly as successful as we are without our strong partnership with every one of you.

5 Ideas to Bring Parents Into the Learning Process

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 TIES Conference with one of my colleagues, Patrick Smith, Principal at Basswood Elementary.  One of the themes from a presenter we ended up following throughout the conference was to establish a greater “presence” in the digital world as a means of communicating, connecting with students and families, and enhancing relationships.  I reference Mr. Smith (@patricksmith111) to start this article because he tweeted out a link to the article, posted below, from this presenter which I thought I would share with you.  My purpose in doing so is to highlight my own professional learning, as your principal, and begin to share with you some of the efforts and/or changes I plan to make with my own leadership as we move into the new year.

Below is a blog post from this presenter, a man named George Couros, from his blog entitled “The Principal of Change”, which can be found at http://georgecouros.ca.  George is a Division Principal in Canada who speaks all around the world at different conferences promoting digital literacy and citizenship for leaders, educators, parents, and students.  You can also follow him on Twitter at @gcouros to learn more – as I do.  In this post, entitled “5 Ideas to Bring Parents Into the Learning Process”, which I want to share with you as I seek continued growth as an instructional leader.  I hope that you find this as enlightening as I did.

“The role of parents in the education of their children cannot be overestimated.” ~Unknown

When you ask parents from any country in the world, what they ask their children at the end of the day about school, their question is very similar:

“What did you learn today?”

The disconcerting thing is that the answer is almost always exactly the same.

“Nothing.”

Parents are a great untapped resource in our schools, and social media gives us an opportunity to engage them in their child’s classroom in a way that we never were able to before.  The traditional modes of communication are still vital in the way we connect with parents.  I am a firm believer in the importance of calling parents to share good news and hearing a voice is the only way that bad news is delivered.  I strongly suggest that an educator never deliver any bad news about a child over email.  Although I do not have children of my own, I remember my secretary distinctly saying to me, “When you call a parent to deliver some bad news about their child, you are about to destroy their world.  Make sure that you let them know the positives and that you still care about their kid.”  That advice has always stuck with me.

With all of that being said, I think that there is a larger role that we can ask parents to play in the learning of their child.  In my view, if a parent reinforces the learning of the school, at home, the child is more likely to be successful.

Here are some ways that we can build strong connections with the parents in our school communities:

1.  Use what the kids use – Often times, when communicating home with parents, we have created special platforms or have put a lot of money in developing a website to ensure that we constantly “branding” our school.  Yet this type of communication is all surface with little depth.  If we can connect using mediums (blogs, YouTube, Twitter, etc.) that our students use, not only are we building an understanding and instructional leadership within our schools, but we are familiarizing our parents with many of the tools that their children will be using.  The first time a parent uses a blog, should not be from their child, but from adults in the school.  This shows that we are not just “throwing” kids online, but we are building our own understanding as well.

2. Have an open mind – I cannot count the number of times I have heard from teachers or administrators that “the parents will never go for this”, when talking about the changing landscape in schools.  My question is, “Have you asked them?”  I fell prey to this assumption before.  After a session with a group of parents, one of the parents had her hand raised and looked annoyed with what I had just presented.  Preparing myself for the pushback I was used to receiving, she said to me, “Why are we not moving faster?”  I couldn’t believe it and was ecstatic to know that there were many parents out there that are pushing for the same opportunities for learning that many progressive educators are pushing for.  You may not have all parents excited about the changes that are happening in school, but they are out there.  You have to find them which leads into the next point.

3.  Tap into parent leadership – One thing that we have to realize is that parents are more likely to listen to other parents.  Not necessarily educators that have children because they may feel their view is biased, but other parents in your school community.  What is imperative is that we connect with parents that have a voice with others and get their feedback on new initiatives.  This is not necessarily a parent-council type meetings, but in one-on-one conversations. It is also not a time to simply tell parents what the school is trying to do, but to listen to them, get feedback, implement their advice, and show them that you have listened.  Once this happens, it is important that we ask those parents to talk to others so that they get their perspective.  Focusing on developing parent leadership, listening to them, and empowering their voice is crucial if we want to move forward as a school community.

4. Focus on open communication – Every week I would write an email to staff sharing where I was during the week and some articles that I suggested for them to read.  I thought about it, and there was no reason why I shouldn’t share this information with parents.  I then decided to share that information through a blog and make it open to our community.  Obviously there was nothing shared in this space that would be considered confidential, but it was important to share the learning my staff was doing openly with our parents.  Sharing blogs and articles from other schools, helps to show your community that the things that our school is doing is not something specific to our school, but many others are taking on similar endeavors.  Leading parents to a Twitter hashtag for the school and encouraging staff to tweet to it during conferences, also shows what teachers are learning in real time while also giving a chance for parents to connect with them in that space as well.  Blogs, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 technologies allow parents to not only hear the conversation, but to be a part of it.  With most people comfortable with back-and-forth communication, we have to make sure that we communicate in this same manner.

5.  Create learning opportunities – Traditionally, schools have had “parent-nights” where new initiatives or learning or simply shared with parents.  Parent-teacher interviews were one of these ways, where parents simply heard about what their child was learning.  But with activities such as “student-led conferences”, parents are actually engaging in the learning that is happening with their kids. Leaders like Patrick Larkin have had nights with parents where does not tell them about blogging and Twitter, but actually teaches them and gets them to engage in the practice.  With all of the amazing things that many schools are doing, it is very powerful to give parents the opportunity to learn these activities so that they can partake at home with their child.

You often hear comments that parents are advocating for the old ways of school, but ultimately, they just want the best for their kids.  If we focus on bringing parents into the schools, it is my hope that they become grateful of how much better school can be now, they will be advocating for change alongside educators.  When we work together with our parent communities and focus on bringing them in on the learning of their child, the opportunities for our students will be endless.

As I mentioned in my December article, I would encourage you to visit my blog, where this article will soon become a “post”, at https://aprincipalperspective.wordpress.com or follow me on Twitter at @PrincipalWilley.  While I cannot promise you that every tweet I send out will be entirely riveting, I can promise that I will surely not send out what I ate for breakfast, and I will try to keep it relevant to the greater Fernbrook community at large.  I am hopeful that this finds you, and finds you well after a wonderful winter break and holiday season with family and loved ones.

The Hidden Truth About Attendance

Did you know that missing just 10% of the school year in the early grades can leave many students struggling throughout elementary school? Or that by 6th grade, missing that much school is strongly linked to course failure and even eventually dropping out of high school?  That’s just 18 days — or two to three days per month. Every school day counts, and everyone can make a difference: educators, afterschool programs, community members, and parents.

Every year, as many as 7.5 million students nationwide are chronically absent, meaning they miss ten percent or more of the school year for any reason, excused or unexcused. That level of absenteeism predicts poor academic performance as early as kindergarten and is a warning sign that a high school student will drop out.  The good news is that chronic absence can be reduced when schools work with families and communities to debunk common myths about attendance, build a culture of going to school or preschool every day and address barriers to getting to class.  Parents and families are essential partners in promoting good attendance because they, ultimately, have the bottom-line responsibility for making sure their children get to school every day. When children are young, they are especially dependent upon adults or older siblings to help them get to school or preschool.  Just as parents should focus on how their children are performing academically, they have a responsibility to set expectations for good attendance and to monitor their children’s absences, so that missed days don’t add up to academic trouble.

To carry out this responsibility, however, parents need to be equipped with the right information so they are not unwittingly falling into traps created by common and pervasive myths about attendance.  For example, many of us view good attendance as a matter of complying with rules.  We don’t recognize that good attendance is really a matter of providing children more and better opportunities to learn.  We think that missing school is a problem only if a child was skipping school without permission.  We don’t see that too many absences, even if they are excused, can hinder learning.  In fact, just two or three absence a month can add up to too much lost time in the classroom.  While some absences, especially those due to illness, may be unavoidable, it is important to get children to school as often as possible.  Another myth is that attendance matters mostly for older students in middle or high school. We don’t recognize the adverse impact that poor attendance can have on learning as early as preschool or the importance of building a habit of good attendance from the beginning.

At every level, parent and family engagement is a key component of effective, comprehensive approaches to reducing chronic absence.  All of us – schools, preschools, community agencies and parents themselves – can make a difference by engaging and helping families to nurture a habit of regular attendance so they can help their children realize their hopes and dreams.

“What Can I Do?”

Getting your child to school on-time, every day, unless they are sick, is something that you can do to ensure your child has a chance to succeed in school. While others can help, you are the bottom line. You can promote good attendance when you:

  • Establish and stick to the basic routines (going to bed early, waking up on time, etc.) that will help your child develop the habit of on-time attendance.
  • Talk to your child about why going to school every day is critical and important unless they are sick.  If your child seems reluctant to go to school, find out why and work with the teacher, administrator or afterschool provider to get them excited about going to school.
  • Come up with back up plans for who to turn to (another family member, a neighbor or fellow parents) to help      you get your child to school if something comes up (e.g. another child gets sick, your car breaks down, etc.).
  • Reach out for help if you are experiencing tough times (e.g. transportation, unstable housing, loss of a job, health problems) that make it difficult to get your child to school.  Other parents, your child’s teacher, principal, social worker, school nurse, afterschool providers or counselor can help you problem solve or connect you to a needed resource.
  • If your child is absent, work with the teacher to make sure she or he has an opportunity to learn and make up for the academics missed.

Interesting Research

Link to SlideShare

More Information?

Check out www.attendanceworks.org for additional resources and information that may be of benefit to you.  Much of the information compiled in this publication was derived from this resource, as there is a wealth of information families can utilize.  I hope that you find this informative as we continue to engage in an ongoing partnership to ensure learning for all students at Fernbrook Elementary.