In spite of the cold and drizzling rain, about 200 parents came out on a recent Saturday morning to Central High School in Detroit. They were “parents with a purpose,” the theme of the family engagement forum co-sponsored by Detroit Public Schools and ED.
Building on President Obama’s inspirational statement that “There is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child’s education from day one,” parents from diverse backgrounds came to learn how they can partner with their child’s teacher and school and what school, district, state and federal resources are available.
As part of the day’s activities, parents and other family members attended a series of workshops on such topics as: special education rights; what every parent needs to know about parent involvement in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; financial aid; responding to bullying; and protecting students from civil rights violations.
Secretary Duncan visited Detroit on his 2011 back-to-school bus tour and noted, “I couldn’t be more hopeful about Detroit.” He told parents and community leaders, “There’s an alignment of leadership and an alignment of commitment and courage here. My challenge to Detroit is to become the fastest improving district in the country.” The recent family engagement forum was one of many steps taken in collaboration with ED to meet that goal.
At the recent event, some of the tips for family engagement given to the parents included:
- Make sure your child attends school every day.
- Limit times for watching television and playing video games.
- Read with your child 30 minutes every night.
- Assist with homework.
- Volunteer in the school.
- Communicate with your child’s teacher throughout the school year.
With a revitalized purpose, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) is working to make parents and families partners in student academic success. Linda Blanton, DPS’s Executive Director of the Department of State and Federal Programs, reinforced the need for family engagement by pointing out the importance of having the event at Central High.
One parent commented: “What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday! The workshops were great, [and] what stood out most was that presenters were attentive and compassionate with the parents,” she said. “They listened and valued our comments and concerns. I was grateful to walk away feeling respected.”
Shirley Jones is the family engagement liaison in ED’s Chicago Regional Office