Each entry in Education World's "Partners for Student Success" series focuses on a school or district that has taken a unique approach to bringing together the school, its parents, and the community to help ensure student achievement. Articles in this series are based on the work of the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University.
Winning Combination of Activities Draws Crowds
To bolster attendance at school events, one Maryland middle school plans a unique evening that combines teacher conferences, dinner, and a science expo. The event engages families as it builds community partnerships. Included: Tips for planning an event.
Red Carpet Readers
It was "A Night at the Oscars" and many of the students and nearly all staff members donned formal attire for the event that highlighted the connection between reading and the silver screen. The celebration was the latest take on the school's annual "Family Reading Night," and its theme was created by the students themselves.
Dad's Breakfast Is DIY Dream
The Dad's Breakfast is in its eighth year at Elmwood Elementary -- and it’s going strong. The special Saturday breakfast involves kids and their dads, granddads, uncles, and others in do-it-yourself projects like building birdhouses, toolboxes, or stepstools.
Flea Market Fundraiser
A flea market on campus is a priceless find for building relationships with the community. Families sell their gently used goods while the school markets its concessions and local vendors socialize on a small city street. It's a fundraising event with fringe benefits!
Health Fair Gives Shot in the Arm to Parent Involvement
In Ronceverte, West Virginia, one middle school's health and wellness fair features free glucose checks, blood pressure checks, and flu shots plus healthy snacks and fun activities. The fair brings in parents who have never before stepped through the school doors.
Student Mentors Encourage Wise Choices
A mentoring program brings middle schoolers into primary classrooms to teach lessons about manners, bullying, and more. The primary students are putting the lessons to good use. The older students confidence has grown and they take academics more seriously.
Summer Expo Connects Kids With Careers
In one Illinois community, an annual summer job fair puts high schoolers in touch with summer employment, volunteer, and enrichment opportunities. Companies, camps, and community groups present opportunities that can set students on the path to a career.
Planting Seeds in Future Scientists
Research shows that interest in science must be fostered before students get to seventh grade. Engaging future scientists is the reason one Maryland middle school presents an annual night full of science exploration and enlightening presentations.
Authors with Artifacts
Through a writers workshop, participating fifth graders gathered family artifacts, learned their meaning, and created books that explained them. They also constructed wooden family artifact boxes that will last long after the lesson has passed.
Planner Nights for Parents Give Students a Jump on Projects
Teachers were concerned about students effort on projects, so the schools Title I teacher planned a Project Planner Night. Parents appreciated this chance to gather project materials, clarify instructions, see sample A and C projects from previous years, and more.
Project Tutor Helps Boise Students Stay on Target in Reading and Math
An inventory of practices in one school district revealed that many of its schools were deficient in the area of training for school volunteers. Project Tutor was created to prepare community volunteers to work in the neediest schools and support reading and math instruction.
Quilting Program Enriches the Fabric of School
Stories are a way to bring individuals in a community closer to each other. Lexington Park (Maryland) Elementary Schools Tellin Stories quilt project turned out to be much more than a needle-and-thread project; it turned into a community bonding experience.
Annual Day of Parent Appreciation
From early in the school year, parents in Philadelphia schools receive a clear message that they are appreciated. "Parent Appreciation Day" recognizes the contributions of families and shares information about services to help parents navigate through life.
VIP Families Honored for Involvement
Miami schools recognize their Very Involved Parents (VIPs) at an annual Family Involvement Festival. The district has made a special effort to define what a VIP is, to provide a standard that can be understood by the whole community and attainable by all parents.
A Community of Angels
The "Angels" got their start in one Detroit school when a benefactor provided a Thanksgiving turkey for every student enrolled. Over time, other "angels" have joined in the effort to ensure that every family has a true Thanksgiving celebration.
Collaboration Dinners Bring Together Staff, Parents
After a family dinner at school, daycare is provided for the students who work on homework while the adults convene in another room where they work in small groups to define the schools mission and create an action plan for ensuring success.
Money Fun: Investing in Families and Math Skills
Each year, students and families come to share a night of family fun that really "adds up." The night includes games such as "Crack the Safe," which requires students to guess the amount of candy in a safe, to "Roll Down the Debt," a dice game about place value.
Camp Out Lures Dads to Get Involved
The Dad's Club Camp Out is one of the most looked-forward-to events of the school year. This is not just another event; it's involvement for the entire family -- the entire community. The most wonderful part is that each year the event grows in size and scope.
"Pizza Party Patrol" Delivers Great Attendance
Students who get themselves to class each day at one Virginia elementary school may earn rewards that are both tangible and tasty. The schools pizza party patrol has motivated improved attendance in a school with the districts highest mobility rate.
Math Flies ‘Off the Shelf’
Parents in Virginia learn to capitalize on "teachable math moments" at home in the kitchen with hands-on items like cereal and soup labels. The experience of using common household goods “off the shelf” to explore math has had unexpected outcomes.
Project Reach Offers Outstretched Hand to Community
When teachers at one Georgia elementary school recognized the need for more frequent and meaningful dialogue with the parents of their students, they decided to take the conversation directly to the parents in the form of "Project Reach."
Couplets, Coffee, and Community
Students at one Cleveland school display their writing talents at an annual Coffee House-Poetry Night. It is an opportunity to present their work to an authentic audience of peers, teachers, parents, and community members. And the writing efforts have boosted test scores too.
Feeding a Community
Part of the mission at Scott Elementary School (Naperville, Illinois) is to educate students to be "community contributors." The school's food drives involve students in each step of the process -- from visiting the food pantry to reporting results.
Non-Fiction Has Character With Biography Blitz
For the last three years, Lake Park (Georgia) Elementary School has met AYP goals and been named a Distinguished Title I School, and Teresa Parkerson, an academic coach, believes that the Biography Blitz has contributed greatly to the schools success.
Cultural Experience Night
Students and families gathered at one Illinois elementary school to enjoy entertainment and cuisine from places like Africa, Ireland, the Philippines, and more. The goal of this event is to improve students relationships and interactions with each other.
Students Produce Must-See TV
Students at one Pennsylvania elementary school keep families and the community in the know about school events by producing video segments that they upload to the Teacher Tube Web site. Crew members at the K-4 school storyboard and film each segment.
"Classroom Coordinators" Capitalizes on Community Talent
The Classroom Coordinator (CC) program at one Minnesota elementary school is an organized effort to maintain a small-town, grassroots feel within the school community. This family-community-school partnership is one that truly benefits all students.
Support from One Family to Another
When students' families feel the economic pinch, volunteers rush to the rescue! The Family Connection at Naperville (Illinois) North High School meets the needs of students and their families anonymously as it strives to set an example of service and selfless giving.
Night of Math Games Preps Families and Kids for Tests
"The most memorable moment from our testing kickoff and math game night event was the evening's icebreaker activity -- a round of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? that pitted a team of volunteer parents against a group of students"
Passport to the World
Students in Chaska, Minnesota, explore countries and cultures within their school walls. Each student wears a "passport" that identifies the different countries s/he will "visit." To maintain interest, all sessions include at least one hands-on activity.
School Makes "Community Read" Its Own
A local librarys community reading program has given rise to a month-long family reading program at Meadow Glens Elementary School in Naperville, Illinois. The program, which is focused on family literacy, has been a big success.
Reading and Math "Carnival" Equals Low-Stress Test Prep
A Hampton, Virginia, school prepares elementary students for standardized tests with "Reading and Math Mania." It is the most well-attended event of the year, and it helps staff get to know families by connecting with them in an open and lively setting.
Hispanic Families Hear and Are Heard
As the Hispanic population increased, parent participation did not. So one elementary school reached out to Hispanic parents to learn what they needed. The result is increased participation, higher achievement, and an unbreakable bond between school and home.
"White Elephant Bingo" Is Jumbo-Sized Fun
On "White Elephant Bingo" night, everyone brings a "gently used" prize. Kids who win bingo games choose a prize. At the end of the night, the rest of the students pick a "new-to-them" prize too. The event is a great opportunity to bring together kids, parents, and teachers.
"Cracking Open" Kids' Brains
A guest speaker introduced Virginia parents to the latest in brain research and, most important, how it applies to parenting. The program was not clinical. Everyday examples showed parents how they could use the information to be better parents and help children learn.
"SMART" Night Builds Interest in Science, Math, Technology
One South Carolina designed a Science, Math and Relevant Technology (SMART) Night to build community by bringing parents, students, teachers, and others together for food and activities. The evening promotes a love of science, math, and technology.
Student Showcase Highlights Science and More
When the principal of one Maryland elementary school suggested an open house in spring to complement one held in the fall, it was decided to combine the event with an already scheduled science fair to create one huge "showcase" of student work.
Musicals Give Student Talents a Chance to Shine
Each year, students at one school put on a musical that is viewed by an audience of more than 4,000 people. The endeavor requires the cooperation of the entire school community. Organizers are committed to having a minimum of 45 students involved.
Student-Led Conferences Open Parent-Child Dialogue
Student-led conferences are a staple at one Maryland middle school. Students select and compile exemplary assignments from each subject and practice a short script that improves their communication and presentation skills before the big day.
Program Hauls In Huge Catch of Reading
Challenged to create a program that encouraged young students to read in school as well as at home, Betsy Lepak created "Hooked on Books." Classes kept track of every book that they read in exchange for the privilege of caring for two fish in a bowl.
Volunteers Become "Math Mates" for Elementary Students
At one Illinois elementary school, volunteer tutors help improve students' mathematics skills. Both formal and informal assessments show that students who take part in the Math Mates program have increased achievement and confidence in the subject.
Young Scientists See and Believe
An evening of science projects and demonstrations encourages kids to view themselves as scientists-in-training. In addition to student projects and demos by real scientists, teachers created class experiments to share and read great science literature to children.
"Oneth by Land, Twoeth by Sea"
Students in one school have formed a unique partnership with sailors aboard a Navy cruiser. The most surprising thing about this partnership is the dedication of the sailors, who give up time for students when they are in port and serve as pen pals when deployed.
Santa Delivers Summer Reading
In Virginia, Santa interrupts his summer vacation to distribute books to students. "Our staff was looking for a fun summer event to inspire our students to continue reading," said one organizer. Santa is helping to get books into students' hands.
School "Snapshots" Paint Welcoming Picture
Designing a "snapshot" for each school in the district was a time-consuming task, but those snapshots have proven to be very valuable, especially for families and new students. "Snapshots" include photos, contact information, school hours, the school calendar
Families Share the Reading Experience, Bolster Reading Skills
Reading specialists at one Illinois school approached their parent group and proposed a new project. A "parent-child book discussion group," which would strengthen family connections through a shared reading experience, was a bestseller!
High Five After-School Program Boosts Spirits, Scholarship
Karen Collins loves to share information about the "meaningful and memorable" after-school, intergenerational program she runs at a K-4 Wisconsin school. Program activities include cooking, crafts, drama, gardening, reading, homework help, and more.
Brushing Up on Parenting Skills
Planning workshops for parents was a new concept at one Wisconsin elementary school. However, with several workshops under her belt, the program coordinator reports that "workshops are a wonderful way to help bring the school community closer together."
Ballentine Elementary Goes to "Work" in Many Ways
The staff at one South Carolina elementary school noted that many of their students' parents worked 30 minutes or more away. Those parents were not able to drop by to visit classrooms -- so the staff sought other ways to bring them into the loop.
Baskets Deliver Homework Help
Kelly Morton is a family and community partnership coordinator at a Maryland elementary school. When she noticed students were coming to school without their homework, she and the school's guidance counselor teamed up to tackle the problem.
Folders Help Families Remain in the "Fold"
Parents of one Minnesota magnet school participate in a new parent information night in the spring before their children attend. They are given a valuable tool -- a family support folder -- that helps them adjust to and keep in touch with the new school.
Workshops Nip Behavior Problems in the Bud
When a number of parents expressed frustration over not knowing how to handle their child's behavior at home, one principal designed a workshop program to support them. Strategies to help parents help children become better students were presented.
Literacy Efforts Over the Long Haul
When staff members at one Maryland school discovered that students' reading scores weren't improving as hoped, they took action to motivate the students to read and to get parents involved. A continuous focus on literacy is helping the school make the grade.
Dr. Seuss Literacy Night Is the Cat's Meow
An evening event at one Utah elementary school features a principal dressed as Dr. Seuss. The event includes face painting, free books, Reader's Theater readings, and music. Families play literacy games and event "make and take" game activities for home use.
Late Summer Cookout Lights Fire for New School Year
What began as a segue from a traditional school calendar to a year-round schedule has become a signature event at one school. The "beginning of the school year cookout" brings together staff members, students, and parents. The picnic event is a "scorching success."
Community Finds Happiness in Clowns
Each year, teachers at one Virginia elementary school host an event that incorporates all of the non-core courses -- art, music, physical education, character education, and library science. The event promotes those subjects and enriches students' experiences in them.
Course for Families Enhances Math Test Scores
With boosting math scores as a goal, the staff at one Wisconsin school focused on curriculum, instructional practices, and the role parents play in student success. The result: a series of sessions in which students and parents learned test-taking strategies together.
'Crossing the Bridge' Puts Freshmen on Solid Ground
When one high school principal arrived at her new assignment, she found a school with critically unacceptable rates of attendance, dropping out, suspensions, and expulsions. She designed a program to improve those areas by providing guidance to incoming ninth graders.
Kids Fill 'Passports' With Practical Math
The success of Reading Nights at one Wisconsin elementary school prompted the family-school-community partnership team to design a similar math-focused event. Students' math "passports" were stamped as they and their families "traveled" among activities.
Adult 'Buddies' Boost Confidence, Skills
Today, when teachers at Barnum School find a student who is struggling, they ask the coordinator of the school's "Barnum Buddy" program to find an adult buddy for that child. The one-on-one attention has proven very successful in boosting students' skills.
Lunch and Learning for Parents and Students
Lunch and Learn sessions familiarize parents with teaching techniques they can use at home. Parents are often critical of kids reading and spelling skills, said one teacher. "We encourage them to be positive and enjoy the journey along with their children."
"Guess Who's Coming to Lunch" at School?
Guess Who's Coming to Lunch is a great way for students to interact with leaders whose decisions directly impact their community. Over lunch, speakers -- school officials, politicians, and other invited guests -- talk for 15-20 minutes and then answer questions.
Math Games Encourage Practice at Home
A partnership with a local teacher supply stores is helping the staff at one Maryland school improve state assessment scores. The result was a night of creating make-and-take games to help reinforce math skills at home. Everyone went home with materials to use.
Math Makes More Sense in Many Languages
A survey of parents in one Seattle elementary school revealed that parents felt the need for more information about the school's math program in order to support their children at home. So the staff developed a multilingual program to accomplish just that.
"Together Program" Unites Kids and Parents for Learning
Located in a high-poverty area of New York City, P.S. 280 holds monthly "Together Program" sessions for kindergarten and first grade students and families. Music, cooking, storytelling, and more involve parents, teachers, and kids.
Chess Club Teaches Thinking Skills, Sportsmanship
Chess is not just another board game with interesting pieces. The game involves strategy, spatial relationships, planning ahead, ethics, and reason. "It is a brain developer," says the coordinator of one elementary school's after-school chess program.
"Jobs" for Community Improve Skills
At one high school, community projects are the key to building reading and math skills that enable students to pass basic standards tests, a graduation requirement. In one project, students calculated the task of painting a local garage and painted it one Saturday.
"Reading Buddies" Pair Up for Literacy
A "Reading Buddies" program at an Illinois school pairs education students from North Central College (NCC) with fourth and fifth graders. Each twosome reads an assigned book and works together to create a final project to share with the entire group.
Demonstration Puts More Meat Into Essays
Title I teachers and staff members at one Virginia school use the Hamburger Writing Model to help students in writing better essays. The Hamburger approach was the subject of a family night at which family members wrote and enjoyed hamburgers together.
Parent Workshops Overcome Language Barriers
A survey conducted on Open House night at one Maryland school has resulted in a series of bilingual workshops that help parents support their children's education. Sessions on community resources and helping children improve math skills have proven popular.
Red Ribbons and Walking Shoes
During Red Ribbon Week, activities at one Virginia elementary school get parents involved as they emphasize their commitment to helping kids stay drug-free. A week of special events includes a group walk and a Drug Free Pledge Day.
Working With Your MUSE
Musicians United for Superior Education (MUSE) has been a cultural partner of one school for more than fifteen years. The partnership's MUSE-ical events have included African drumming, a tool that helped students both academically and socially.
"FACT Nights" Bring Families Together
At one Wisconsin school, Families and Children Together (FACT) Nights gather together parents and students to share a free meal and spend quality time as they join in reading or math activities. One event saw kids and teachers reading together in tents.
Sports Stars Celebrate Literacy
Watching children's faces as their "heroes" read to them is one of the most memorable moments from one New Hampshire school's Celebrity Literacy Night. The event was spurred by a school-wide goal to increase students' pleasure reading.