By RON FANFAIR
High student achievement is attained when pupils, parents and school staff work together, American educator Dr. Karen Mapp told parents and school council members from Toronto District School Board (TDSB) system at a one-day conference last Saturday.
“Kids grades go up, they enroll in higher level programs, they are promoted on time and earn more credits, they adapt to their school environment easily and attend classes regularly and they go on to post-secondary education,” said Mapp who is the Director of Education, Policy and Management at Harvard Graduate School of Education.
“We need each other to do this work. This is a wonderful way to create a network of family and educators who can move together to create a movement.”
Mapp, the co-author of A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement, said educators in the United States are excited about President Barack Obama’s support for family engagement.
“There is a lot of communication between the U.S. Department of Education and researchers like me about how we can change policy to better support family engagement in this era of shared responsibility,” she said.
Workshops addressed key issues for the successful running of school councils through open-ended discussions, making the best of five-minute parent-teacher interviews, bullying and the importance of the male presence in encouraging and nurturing education and learning.
TDSB Director of Education Dr. Chris Spence reminded parents that they are their students’ first and best teachers.
“We need your help, we want to learn from you and we want to grow with you to make the TDSB the best system in the country,” said Spence. “I think we have an unprecedented opportunity to move away from random acts of parental involvement to a real strategic vision for our parent-community engagement because we know that schools work together with families to support learning and that children tend to succeed not just in school, but through their whole life.
“As part of our strategy, we will be launching a satisfaction survey to see how we are doing in the eyes of our community and our parents and use that really as a temperature reading as we move forward.”
Spence said the board plans to establish a parent academy and community advisory committee along with full service schools that will give the TDSB an opportunity to embrace the belief that schools are community assets.
TDSB Student and Community Equity executive officer Lloyd McKell told parents that the work they do in their schools is a vital support for student achievement and objectives.
“I want you to take the ideas you get here today and share them with your colleagues back in school,” he said. “We very often forget to take the next step that makes what you learn here go beyond today. Take whatever you grasp back to your parent groups, student councils and school administrators because those are the connections that will make today’s event important and sustaining for us.”