How important is parent-run enrichment? - Mothering Forums

View Poll Results: How important is enrichment provided by parents for a child's education?
Extremely important. I'd be reluctant to send my child to a school without it. 2 18.18%
Very important. It adds a lot to the education, but it can be made up in other ways. 0 0%
Important. It adds to education, but is only one of many factors. 6 54.55%
Somewhat important. It may or may not add to education. 2 18.18%
Not important. It shouldn't be a factor. 1 9.09%
Voters: 11. You may not vote on this poll

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#1 of 26 Old 04-20-2011, 11:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My kids go to a school with an incredible high poverty rate (78% of kids), and a pretty high population of kids who don't speak English at home (~65%). Because of these demographics, there isn't a lot of the parent-run enrichment at our school that other schools have. So, we don't have an evening carnival, we don't have a walking program where kids walk laps and then get rewards for certain miles; we don't have a science fair; we have less art instruction because that's largely parent run.

 

Academically (reading, math, science) my kids are getting a great education. Socially, they are learning a ton about kids who are very different from them, both culturally and economically. In society at large, they an ethnic majority, but they're an ethnic minority in their classroom, which I think is a good experience for them. (They're still children of 'privilege' but at least they're not growing up thinking everyone looks like them.)

 

However, at times (like now) I feel incredibly conflicted about keeping my kids in this school. Academically, they're doing well, and in fact I think they have some better teachers than at the more upper middle class schools. But, they are missing out on some experiences that kids at other schools get to have. Some of these we can do at home (we sign them up for music/sports, for example), but some we can't. 2/3 of the parents in our neighborhood opt to transfer to a different school, and I wonder at times if we should join them. 

 

Really, the major difference between our school and schools that are perceived to be 'better' in the community at large is the enrichment piece. (And this is only an issue up until 5th grade; at 6th grade and beyond, the boundaries send us to a very middle class school with lots of parental involvement.)

 

So after that long-winded intro, how important are these enrichment pieces?

 

 


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#2 of 26 Old 04-20-2011, 11:42 AM
 
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Lynn, sorry, I didn't vote because I'm not very familiar with parent-run enrichment programs and I'm curious to hear what others have to say.  I grew up in a very good public school system and honestly I can't remember parents being involved.  Most of the things that you describe (science fairs; art; etc.) were covered by teachers and student organizations.  Not to say that parents didn't participate in some respect (for example, I know that one of my friend's moms was an assistant on the cheerleading squad - but she was a gymnastics teacher). 

 

I have to say that I would think hard about moving the children out of the school based on one of these factors.  For myself, I greatly value diversity and if the academics are good, and for me those two things alone would trump the enrichment stuff. 


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#3 of 26 Old 04-20-2011, 12:08 PM
 
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I'm not sure exactly what is meant by parent-run enrichment either. Our district hires specialists for art, music, physical education and such. The parent enrichment would be more in terms of the PTA who arrange assemblies and ice cream socials. Personally, all the astronomy nights and art shows are nice but these days, there is always some conflict preventing us from going. Plus, I admit, having been through it once, we are less motivated to go to everything with our younger child (who has been to all these things before too at his big sister's school.)

 

I have run enrichment programs in the schools but I had a specialty and professional education and training in the areas I was. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd want just anyone providing school enrichment largely because I'm not fond of other parents knowing where my kid is in every area and such.

 

If you are happy with your school, I don't see any reason to change. Like you said, they are getting some experiences that you appreciate. If you are a family who gets out of the house and experiences nature, museums, cultural activities and such, I'm guessing your kids are getting everything and more than they would get just going to a school with a parent run art class KWIM?

 

 


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#4 of 26 Old 04-20-2011, 03:30 PM
 
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I agree with the other 2 posters. My son is at a school which is actually quite heavy on what you are talking about (heavy parental involvement providing these "extras") but the things you are describing that you like at your children's school would trump that IMO. I am not sure you can really rate these things but the lessons your children are learning are I think more important in our world From seeing your other posts, Lynn, which I find very valuable, I am sure you are on top of giving your children experiences they might not get at school.


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#5 of 26 Old 04-20-2011, 07:21 PM
 
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Is there no parent enrichment programs because everyone is waiting for someone else to step up and chair a program?

 

Lots of times there are more people willing to "help" than you'd think, but nobody wants to be in charge or facilitate.  Our school is a Title 1 school and we are able to do a great many cool things--primarily because sometimes someone gets excited about an activity/program and so they're willing to coordinate it.

 

If parent enrichment is important, then sometimes people need a little kick in the butt to get it going.

 

I think parental involvement is of HUGE benefit to the school community and kids.  I've put my kids in a "choice program" that requires it on behalf of our program; and that spills over to benefit the whole school (since many of our parents are active in PTA or are willing to show up en force to support an activity).

 

Before I would switch schools, to be honest, I would try and do ONE thing (even if it's a small thing, like an evening art show displaying artwork from each classroom) and see who comes out of the woodwork to help.  Once people come out to help one time, it can be easier to tap them for another thing.  If it flops, oh well, then you know!

 

I think the same people should not always be putting stuff on for a school, but at the same time, I think that in a school where "nobody" does anything, it'd be worth it to try ONE simple thing.  That may just be my personality though. 

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#6 of 26 Old 04-20-2011, 07:29 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post

Is there no parent enrichment programs because everyone is waiting for someone else to step up and chair a program?

 

Lots of times there are more people willing to "help" than you'd think, but nobody wants to be in charge or facilitate.  Our school is a Title 1 school and we are able to do a great many cool things--primarily because sometimes someone gets excited about an activity/program and so they're willing to coordinate it.

 

If parent enrichment is important, then sometimes people need a little kick in the butt to get it going.

 

I think parental involvement is of HUGE benefit to the school community and kids.  I've put my kids in a "choice program" that requires it on behalf of our program; and that spills over to benefit the whole school (since many of our parents are active in PTA or are willing to show up en force to support an activity).

 

Before I would switch schools, to be honest, I would try and do ONE thing (even if it's a small thing, like an evening art show displaying artwork from each classroom) and see who comes out of the woodwork to help.  Once people come out to help one time, it can be easier to tap them for another thing.  If it flops, oh well, then you know!

 

I think the same people should not always be putting stuff on for a school, but at the same time, I think that in a school where "nobody" does anything, it'd be worth it to try ONE simple thing.  That may just be my personality though. 

That was my first thought but I was also considering that OP said that there was a large demographic of families where English was a second language.  I live in a similar demographic and I think that a lot of people feel shy about participating simply because they lack the communication skills.  I do think it is a good idea, though, to perhaps take a simple step forward with the idea that the project or activity needs to be inclusive and take into account the particular issues with the demographic.  If people feel intimidated or that the particular activity or subject doesn't appeal to them, then it may be frustrating for OP.  
 

 


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#7 of 26 Old 04-20-2011, 08:17 PM
 
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We have a high percentage of English Language Learning families at our school too.  But many times people will help (esp. for stuff like clean up or set up).  That's why I suggested a small project that the OP *wants* to do.  IME people get much more excited and interested in helping you if YOU are interested in something and friendly towards them;  if you're guessing at what "other" people will like and come up with an idea that you're not all that excited about, not only is that pretty easy to tell, it might engender an attitude of "those people should be grateful to me for doing this for them" (however subtle); I think the right attitude is to be willing to do this with an open hand and see who comes along for the ride.  Certainly you have to manage your expectations.  ANd there are going to be some people who simply can't or won't help.  But in my experience, pulling off a nice event is relatively easy, once it happens once with someone organizing it who is kind and cheerful, people are less intimidated about doing it again.  I think you have to be willing to not just say "will you help" but maybe give specific direction sometime;  but the key is to pick something YOU are excited about and you think would be fun and that you're willing to invest some time in.  The nice thing about nothing going on is that often means you have a clean slate, you're not having to deal with people whining about something new with "but that's not the way that it's aaaaaaalllllllwaaaaayyyyyssss been done wah wah wah".

 

I can't count how many times I have been told "zOMG that can't be done" or "It has to look like this that or the other", and even with a scaled down simple thing people have a great time.  To me, that's easier to try once than to yank my kids out of a school, go through yet another community adjustment, ect (and potentially run into a bunch of parent enrichment things run by mean, cliquish, bossy people) without at least TRYING it once, KWIM?  I guess all bets are off if you've got a hostile principal though.  Though again, I'm very much a "never hurts to ask" and "might as well try it once" type of gal; different strokes for different folks.

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#8 of 26 Old 04-20-2011, 08:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the pep talks, keep them coming! Part of it, I'm sure, is jealousy. Part of is that the grass is always greener.

 

Alas, our state massively underfunds education (and because of some bad referenda 20 yeas ago, the taxes we pay in our district go to the state, and we don't get as much back as we pay in.) So, art, a lot of science, field day, etc. is all parent sponsored. We do have some advantages as a Title I school, but they're changing some of the rules for how money is spent that aren't to our advantage (for example, they can't use Title I funds to reduce class size from 25 to 22, they have to reduce it all they way to 18 for each class in the grade headscratch.gif).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tigerchild View Post

Is there no parent enrichment programs because everyone is waiting for someone else to step up and chair a program?

 

Lots of times there are more people willing to "help" than you'd think, but nobody wants to be in charge or facilitate.  Our school is a Title 1 school and we are able to do a great many cool things--primarily because sometimes someone gets excited about an activity/program and so they're willing to coordinate it.

 

If parent enrichment is important, then sometimes people need a little kick in the butt to get it going.

 

We do have some parent enrichment, but not as much as at other schools. A number of factors play into this. All volunteers are required to have a background check. The background check requires a social security number. I was just at Kindergarten orientation and had 3 parents talk to me saying they wanted to volunteer, but they didn't have a social security number. I told them to fill out the form anyway and I'm going to see what we can do. These people can't get a SS#, and so are excluded from volunteering (which they'd really like to do). We also have a 35% turn over rate every year at our school. 35% of the kids change schools. A lot of the parents aren't there long term to see a project through.

 

We also have a huge burnt out problem because we tend to have a few people doing a lot. I'm president of the PTO this year, and I'm stepping down next year even though I could do it longer. I really want to model that you aren't sucked into the position for life. So,  a lot of projects get started and peter out after people get burnt out. We're getting better at spreading the work, but it's still hard. There just aren't that many parents with the organizing skills (or probably better put, not that many parents who believe they have the organizing skills).

 

And finally, we just can't raise the funds -- we raise about a 1/3 of what the richer schools can raise, and so our field trips are more modest. Our playground is in need of improvement, but it's going to be  years before we have the $40,000 needed to replace some of the equipment. One of the things I'm going to do next year after I'm done being PTO president is to write grants for playground equipment. My kids may never see it, but hopefully someone will!

 


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#9 of 26 Old 04-20-2011, 11:10 PM
 
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It sounds a little like the elementary my DD attended for 5th grade that we LOVED. It was a title 1 school, and it used the extra monies well. 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

We do have some parent enrichment, but not as much as at other schools. A number of factors play into this. All volunteers are required to have a background check.

....

And finally, we just can't raise the funds -- we raise about a 1/3 of what the richer schools can raise, and so our field trips are more modest. Our playground is in need of improvement, but it's going to be  years before we have the $40,000 needed to replace some of the equipment. One of the things I'm going to do next year after I'm done being PTO president is to write grants for playground equipment. My kids may never see it, but hopefully someone will!

 

I understand about lack of parent involvement. I would try to get the rule changed about background checks. In our school, volunteers can never be alone with students, but background checks are not required. This is a MUCH more reasonable policy.

 

It harder for people with less money to volunteer. The more money people have, the more flexibility they have. Language IS a barrier, and the parents who can volunteer DO get burned out. I think it's great that you are going to do some grant writing.  I suspect that some of the posters really don't get what it's like in an area with 78% poverty.

 

I'd research your other school options and see what you can find out. Our school had better policies for recess during bad weather, healthier lunches, smaller classes, and better music classes than the all white schools with better reputations. researching your options might make you like your current school more.

 

Our tests scores where higher for every group, though not higher over all. Rich white kids tend to test really well, and kids who speak Spanish and are on free lunch don't. Ergo, schools with mostly rich white kids have higher scores that schools with kids who have more obstacle. None the less, when I compared our test scores BY GROUP, every single group did better at our school. We did not have the reputation of the some of the other schools, and I became jaded that "good school" means white kids with college educated parents. It kinda makes me want to barf.

 

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#10 of 26 Old 04-21-2011, 08:08 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

 

It harder for people with less money to volunteer. The more money people have, the more flexibility they have. Language IS a barrier, and the parents who can volunteer DO get burned out. I think it's great that you are going to do some grant writing.  I suspect that some of the posters really don't get what it's like in an area with 78% poverty.

 



Actually, I do understand the frustration in the regard (my kids may go to a choice program, but it's in a larger school with many of those issues, and I've been part of other far more impoverished title 1 schools).  It's easy to just expect that none of "those families" want to help, but again, as I have made contacts in the community, I find that there are quite a few that do.  It's not always the parents;  sometimes it's the jr. high or high school sibs (or the upper elementary students).  Our PTA runs on very little $$, with a small number of the same people that historically do everything (though we are trying to move beyond that.  As the OP mentioned, it requires a lot of good modeling from leadership that you're not "stuck" doing it forever (and you have to be willing to not rescue everything, which can be really hard when you want YOUR kid to have access to that). 

 

Again, for me, if I otherwise loved the school I would not shift to one just because the PTA/PTO is able to offer tons of bright and shiny baubles; esp. if my kids were happy where they were.  Sometimes it's good too to focus on an even smaller project (like one limited to your children's classrooms) if you have a teacher willing to work with you.  Their hands may be tied though, if the building principal is a hard sell (and you live in an area with strong principal autonomy).  I guess I have always found having high expectations of everyone else tends to fry me to burnout really quick.  If I focus more on things that I am personally willing to do and that I find fun (which for me personally DOES tend to include hanging out with the ELL families, so I can kind of practice my horrific, rusty Spanish and because I have met some really nice and fun people that I wouldn't have otherwise--but again, other people might find that incredibly frustrating or it just wouldn't work for other reasons) and just don't worry about what everyone else is doing, then for some weird reason I have more people become interested in what I'm doing and wanting to help.  That works for me, though I don't know if it would work for other people.  :)

 

I am thinking perhaps people have a far more specific idea about what constitutes "parent enrichment" than I do.  The "projects" I am thinking of are free or $100 or under.  I think my most favorite thing I have seen/participated in was a cultural festival night, where people could come and set up a table (provided by us) sharing about their country of origin.  We worked with the ELL teachers to specifically reach out to families, and the response was enormous.  Because the PTA sponsored it, renting the gym was free, so was the table rental.  People brought in awesome stuff (and food!!!).  We even had some arts performances by some of the kids--that the kids put on themselves and they were the ones that approached us, it hadn't even crossed our minds.  The first year we bought a bunch of colorful plastic tableclothes to put over the tables/clusters of desks (they were pretty beat up).  This was not my idea;  I was kind of thinking that it wouldn't work actually.  But it DID.  Did it lead to a surge of new people volunteering every day at school?  No.  That's not realistic.  But people had a great time, I had a great time, it was fun having a bunch of kids I'd known through library or other round the school volunteering drag me over to "their" table wanting to show me.  Would that work again?  Maybe, maybe not, it depends on the mix of families you have at the moment.

 

For me, though, that's fine.  I don't care if something carries on forever, and I don't have a lot of expectations that what works once will always work again.  I think where resources (whether it's $$ or time) you do what you can do when you can do it and just enjoy it when it works.

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#11 of 26 Old 04-21-2011, 08:05 PM
 
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If my kids had really good academic instruction, were part of a diverse group of students, and happy with their school life, then I would be absolutely fine with the situation.  It doesn't sound like your kid's experience is lacking a sense of community, it just sounds like that part takes place during the school day, as opposed to outside, or after school activities.  I definitely hear the desire for the extras, but my experience is that, in the long run, the strengths of your school are the ones that end up really mattering.

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#12 of 26 Old 04-22-2011, 04:58 AM
 
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Our school is similar, Title 1, probably about 60% free & reduced lunch. We don't have many non-English speakers though. I have organized on our carnival and I'm having a hard time qualifying that as "enrichment." To me, it is a fundraiser. I guess there is a community building aspect but most people are there mainly to see if they won something in the raffle. It's not the type of event where you can sit down and have a chat with your child's teacher, parents of friends, etc. It's too noisy and chaotic!

 

A woman here started a track program and we staff it with 4 people. We just do it over the lunch recess period and have one person come each day (one lady does two days). The lady who heads it has laminated cards for the kids who do it. Each card has 20 numbers on it and then we punch a number for each lap. When all 20 are punched, the child gets a new foot card and gets a little "toe token" to wear on a chain. You do need someone there at noon each day but the record keeping can be done by someone at home, which may make it easier to find someone to do it.

 

I can't imagine having background checks for volunteers. There is no way we could staff the carnival. We need like 80 people to come in and work 1 hour shifts at a game, there is no way I'd get 80 people to submit their info for background checks in time. Is that for all events at the school or can you get an exception for PTO run evening events?

 

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#13 of 26 Old 04-22-2011, 07:42 AM
 
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Actually, I do understand the frustration in the regard (my kids may go to a choice program, but it's in a larger school with many of those issues, and I've been part of other far more impoverished title 1 schools).  It's easy to just expect that none of "those families" want to help, but again, as I have made contacts in the community, I find that there are quite a few that do.  It's not always the parents;  sometimes it's the jr. high or high school sibs (or the upper elementary students).  Our PTA runs on very little $$, with a small number of the same people that historically do everything (though we are trying to move beyond that.  As the OP mentioned, it requires a lot of good modeling from leadership that you're not "stuck" doing it forever (and you have to be willing to not rescue everything, which can be really hard when you want YOUR kid to have access to that). 

 

Again, for me, if I otherwise loved the school I would not shift to one just because the PTA/PTO is able to offer tons of bright and shiny baubles; esp. if my kids were happy where they were.  Sometimes it's good too to focus on an even smaller project (like one limited to your children's classrooms) if you have a teacher willing to work with you.  Their hands may be tied though, if the building principal is a hard sell (and you live in an area with strong principal autonomy).  I guess I have always found having high expectations of everyone else tends to fry me to burnout really quick.  If I focus more on things that I am personally willing to do and that I find fun (which for me personally DOES tend to include hanging out with the ELL families, so I can kind of practice my horrific, rusty Spanish and because I have met some really nice and fun people that I wouldn't have otherwise--but again, other people might find that incredibly frustrating or it just wouldn't work for other reasons) and just don't worry about what everyone else is doing, then for some weird reason I have more people become interested in what I'm doing and wanting to help.  That works for me, though I don't know if it would work for other people.  :)

 

I am thinking perhaps people have a far more specific idea about what constitutes "parent enrichment" than I do.  The "projects" I am thinking of are free or $100 or under.  I think my most favorite thing I have seen/participated in was a cultural festival night, where people could come and set up a table (provided by us) sharing about their country of origin.  We worked with the ELL teachers to specifically reach out to families, and the response was enormous.  Because the PTA sponsored it, renting the gym was free, so was the table rental.  People brought in awesome stuff (and food!!!).  We even had some arts performances by some of the kids--that the kids put on themselves and they were the ones that approached us, it hadn't even crossed our minds.  The first year we bought a bunch of colorful plastic tableclothes to put over the tables/clusters of desks (they were pretty beat up).  This was not my idea;  I was kind of thinking that it wouldn't work actually.  But it DID.  Did it lead to a surge of new people volunteering every day at school?  No.  That's not realistic.  But people had a great time, I had a great time, it was fun having a bunch of kids I'd known through library or other round the school volunteering drag me over to "their" table wanting to show me.  Would that work again?  Maybe, maybe not, it depends on the mix of families you have at the moment.

 

For me, though, that's fine.  I don't care if something carries on forever, and I don't have a lot of expectations that what works once will always work again.  I think where resources (whether it's $$ or time) you do what you can do when you can do it and just enjoy it when it works.



I was going to suggest this. Our school does "heritage night". We are also a Title I in our small school (under 300 students). But along w the title I, we also have the highest ISAT scores in our area and our district. We were featured in Chicago Magazine for the suburban schools. But, I should add, we do have the low income, but the other 70% is high or higher income earners so it creates a huge difference. This year, our minority population had gotten more diverse that at last year's heritage night, we had 15 tables, this year 32. All cooking, showing culture etc. My DH had to be rolled out of the place after eating several empenaditas, home made mole sauce (grandma visitng from mexico) irish soda bread and swedish meatballs. Next year we are  doing a French table. My brownie  troop did a historical twist to the heritage. We borrowd costumes from the local historical society and some items to show what children did 100 years ago. There was also 3 bands  playing incl the principal's son who plays the bagpipes.

 

I should add, we did meet lots of new families which resulted in at least 2-4 new volunteer parents who we would not have known otherwise.

 


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#14 of 26 Old 04-22-2011, 09:11 AM
 
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I can't imagine having background checks for volunteers. There is no way we could staff the carnival. We need like 80 people to come in and work 1 hour shifts at a game, there is no way I'd get 80 people to submit their info for background checks in time. Is that for all events at the school or can you get an exception for PTO run evening events?

 



We're also in WA and getting the background checks is generally not a problem.  They are good for two years and the district office takes care of it.  It's a short form, a copy of your driver's license and you're good to go for two years.  I know several non-US citizens who volunteer in the school so there must be some alternative id that is acceptable.

 


 

 

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#15 of 26 Old 04-22-2011, 09:55 AM
 
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Every volunteer, and enrichment provider, in our schools requires a background check.

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#16 of 26 Old 04-22-2011, 11:06 AM
 
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Anyone who works in the classroom needs a background check in our school but they don't check everyone who helps at school events. You don't need a background check to sell sodas at the school international fair, work a booth at the halloween carnival, volunteer at the book sale or to help at any of the big events that take tons of volunteers.

 

 

 

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Every volunteer, and enrichment provider, in our schools requires a background check.



 


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#17 of 26 Old 04-22-2011, 11:24 AM
 
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When I think parent involvement, I think less of things like carnivals and harvest fairs and fundraising (although parents do a lot of this at our school).

What really makes the difference to the school environment is the number of parents who volunteer in the classroom. We have parents who read with small groups. Parents who come in and talk about herbs to the kids studying Colonial life. Parents who take the library cart around to classrooms on a weekly basis and run the library after school so kids have access then. Our parents cook with kids, and teach knitting weekly to the 1st and 2nd graders. They volunteer to assist the PE teacher and help out in the art room and the science room.

All this makes a huge difference in the amount of things teachers can do and offer to our children. And of course, it's the parents who can afford to be in school during the day who are the volunteers. We have a high percentage of middle/upper middle-class families at our (public) school who are intensely dedicated to the school and to education, and absolutely, it makes a difference.
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#18 of 26 Old 04-22-2011, 04:21 PM
 
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Originally Posted by zinemama View Post

What really makes the difference to the school environment is the number of parents who volunteer in the classroom. We have parents who read with small groups. ....
All this makes a huge difference in the amount of things teachers can do and offer to our children. And of course, it's the parents who can afford to be in school during the day who are the volunteers. We have a high percentage of middle/upper middle-class families at our (public) school who are intensely dedicated to the school and to education, and absolutely, it makes a difference.


This is exactly why Title one schools get more money per child. At the Title one school my DD went to, there were few parent volunteers. Instead, there were more paid staff members per student -- reading specialist working with kids one on one or in small groups, smaller classes, educational professionals to help with homework during after care, etc. It made a difference.

 

I'm not knocking what parents contribute, my kids now go to a private school with tremendous parent involvement, but I wouldn't assume that a school with lots of volunteers has more or better adult interaction than a well run title one school. At the title one school, that interaction may be more consistent or better qualified.
 

It's comparing apples to oranges.


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#19 of 26 Old 04-22-2011, 06:49 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zinemama View Post

When I think parent involvement, I think less of things like carnivals and harvest fairs and fundraising (although parents do a lot of this at our school).

What really makes the difference to the school environment is the number of parents who volunteer in the classroom. We have parents who read with small groups. Parents who come in and talk about herbs to the kids studying Colonial life. Parents who take the library cart around to classrooms on a weekly basis and run the library after school so kids have access then. Our parents cook with kids, and teach knitting weekly to the 1st and 2nd graders. They volunteer to assist the PE teacher and help out in the art room and the science room.

All this makes a huge difference in the amount of things teachers can do and offer to our children. And of course, it's the parents who can afford to be in school during the day who are the volunteers. We have a high percentage of middle/upper middle-class families at our (public) school who are intensely dedicated to the school and to education, and absolutely, it makes a difference.


We have a fair amount of this as well.  I have been hugely involved as a volunteer.  Frankly, for the classroom pieces, I've begun to want professionals, not volunteer parents, because there are a number of ways that I've been seeing this not work well.  Confidentiality is an issue.  Preference for working with certain kids, not others.  Subtle ways in which parental agendas come into play.  I think I've seen too much--I'd rather have a paid professional working with my child.

 

Of course, this isn't what the OP is asking about.  Enrichment, which has voluntary participation, is a different thing.

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#20 of 26 Old 04-23-2011, 08:19 AM
 
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One thing that has been a big success at my DD's school (she goes to a Montessori school but I think this would work at the public level too) is that they have cultural heritage days - which requires a lot of parent participation because it involves making a dish, the child making a presentation (for the older kids at least) and perhaps wearing a traditional costume.  We have India day, Asian heritage day, African-American day, Hispanic Heritage day, etc.  All the parents must make a dish with their children from their family of origin, and then bring it in and the day at school is centered around that particular culture.  Parents aren't actually involved in the day itself, but it is a great way to get parents involved in something that the child is doing at school, and it has been a lot of fun for everyone.  I consider that enrichment for the kids from the perspective that they are taking an active part in a cultural tradition whether it be food or costume or whatever.  I think from the parental involvement end, it would involve some organization as far as organizing the days which fall around the time of major cultural holidays (Chinese New Years being an example for Asian Heritage day).  This would be  a small start, but I think the teachers and students would appreciate it and it is probably bound to be fun.  Just an idea among many ideas already suggested.


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#21 of 26 Old 04-23-2011, 03:14 PM
 
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How can you know that other schools have better parental enrichment?  I wouldn't move for that. I don't think you can count on it.  I also suspect things probably always look better from the outside looking in. 

 

I have one friend who is a fantastic volunteer for DD's school.  But her youngest is moving on to middle school next year.  My friend will take her magic with her and I suspect that all the great programs she chaired will descend into mediocrity.  She's just a special person--I can't do what she does!  Most people can't.  You might be seeing one persons spark at another school.  youc an't move for that.  And--one person looking at your school might see things you've done and wish their school did xyz...

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#22 of 26 Old 04-23-2011, 04:31 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

This is exactly why Title one schools get more money per child. At the Title one school my DD went to, there were few parent volunteers. Instead, there were more paid staff members per student -- reading specialist working with kids one on one or in small groups, smaller classes, educational professionals to help with homework during after care, etc. It made a difference.

 

I'm not knocking what parents contribute, my kids now go to a private school with tremendous parent involvement, but I wouldn't assume that a school with lots of volunteers has more or better adult interaction than a well run title one school. At the title one school, that interaction may be more consistent or better qualified.
 

It's comparing apples to oranges.


Your school sure sounds like it got more out of Title 1 than my kid's school does. There are two Title 1 tutors, one for reading and one for math. It does help but there are only 2 of them and there are 300+ kids at the school. Of course, not all of them need extra help with reading and/or math, but a good number of them do. The tutors can only do so much. There is another teacher who does a reading program at the school, I'm not exactly sure if she is paid by Title 1 funds or not. But she relies heavily on community volunteers to come in and read with the kids.

 

That is a great point that the PP made about the level of parental involvement really depends on the parents involved. One parent at our school wrote a grant for healthier breakfasts and lunches and has been working all year to get more kids to come eat breakfast at school and she also set up the walking club program. Her daughter is open enrolled so if she were to leave next year, I'm sure that all of these programs would fall apart. I don't know anyone who would pick them up. 

 

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#23 of 26 Old 04-23-2011, 08:53 PM
 
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I don't take that into consideration at all when I am looking at schools.  My daughter went to a school with a lot of parent involvement and I felt like she got much less out of her education than the kids at the Title 1 school I was at doing student teaching in the same grade level.  They did a lot of fun stuff but her education was seriously lacking in important areas like math and reading, plus she ran into a tree and got a nasty cut inside her mouth during the running/walking program at recess there.  Her teacher at her current school doesn't have volunteers in the classroom and her education and sense of community is wonderful this year.  I think you should stick with the school you have if you like the education because moving to a higher income school may not necessarily be a positive thing.  In our areas the Title 1 schools get extra grant money to use for support teachers so they are actually able to give a much higher level of education.

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#24 of 26 Old 04-24-2011, 08:22 AM
 
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Your school sure sounds like it got more out of Title 1 than my kid's school does. There are two Title 1 tutors, one for reading and one for math.. 


What is the class size at your school compared to the class size at the non- title 1 school you are considering?

 

Do they have the same number of hours per week in "extras" such as art, music, pe, library, computer?

 

The tutors can make a huge difference. In most schools, kids cannot get extra help unless that have a diagnoses of an LD, a cognitive impairment, etc. If the child doesn't have anything "wrong" with them, they are just left lost in their regular classroom. Not only is that NOT helpful to that child, it lowers what the whole class can do. When students can get extra help -- just because they need it -- it helps not only that child but what the teacher can do with the class as a whole. The tutors at our school were professionals with training in teaching reading -- not just mommies who showed up.

 

(I don't have anything against mommies, but I think that helping kids "get it" when "it" doesn't make sense to them is a real skill. there is a lot more to really teaching than just being willing to show up)

 

I'm a big believer that the smaller the class the better. I think that kids are better off in a class of 18 than of 28.

 

I really don't know which of your options is best for your kids -- I don't really know much about your specific options. In our situation, there were just so many little things that added. I just encourage you to look at all those little things while trying to decide.


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#25 of 26 Old 04-27-2011, 07:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post


What is the class size at your school compared to the class size at the non- title 1 school you are considering?

 

Do they have the same number of hours per week in "extras" such as art, music, pe, library, computer?

 

That's one of the things that frustrates me -- the state has changed the Title 1 rules. Two years ago, our class sizes were smaller. But the state has passed some sort of rule that says unless you can get class sizes under 18 for the entire grade, you can't use Title 1 funds to lower class sizes. So, the rich school that a lot of the kids in the neighborhood transfer has classes the same size, or sometimes smaller.  In fact, this year, dd's 1st grade class has 25, and the other school has 19. It's a bit of a demographic issue - there are 102 1st graders at our school, and 38 at theirs. They couldn't have a class of 38, so they got divided into 2 classes of 19. Ours got divided into 4 classes of ~25. At one point dd had 27, but 2 kids moved.

 

We have the same number of hours per week of music, pe, library and computer. Art is parent-volunteer run and our kids have considerably less. The kids at the richer school get 1-2 hours a month. Our kids are lucky to get 3-4 lessons a year. We don't have as much science. They have foreign language, we don't.
 

Quote:
The tutors can make a huge difference. In most schools, kids cannot get extra help unless that have a diagnoses of an LD, a cognitive impairment, etc. If the child doesn't have anything "wrong" with them, they are just left lost in their regular classroom. Not only is that NOT helpful to that child, it lowers what the whole class can do. When students can get extra help -- just because they need it -- it helps not only that child but what the teacher can do with the class as a whole. The tutors at our school were professionals with training in teaching reading -- not just mommies who showed up.

 

(I don't have anything against mommies, but I think that helping kids "get it" when "it" doesn't make sense to them is a real skill. there is a lot more to really teaching than just being willing to show up)

 

I agree that I'd much rather have someone trained to teach (I train teachers for a living and I know how little most people know about how to teach). The problem I struggle with is that there's such a focus on the low end kids that sometimes my kids get lost in the shuffle. Ds actually lost ground in math in 2nd grade. He's largely made that ground up again, but only because he has a stellar teacher. This year, thanks to some creative budgeting by the former principal, my kids are getting pull-out enrichment for reading and math. Next year that money is going away (new principal who's not as willing to be creative, new rules from the state, less money all around).

 

Quote:
How can you know that other schools have better parental enrichment?

 

Dd's best friend (from church) lives in the other school's area and goes there; 90% of ds' baseball team goes to the other school. So, you hear other parents talking. It's hard not to get jealous when the 4th grade at the other school goes and spends a night at a camp in the woods as part of their Lewis and Clark unit and my kids are just reading about it in a book.

 

We're not going to change schools next year. I have no idea what's going to happen with the budget shake up. Next year will be ds' last year there before middle school, and since he's not the most socially adept kid, I won't move him. I'm more worried about dd, who's in first grade. She's much more academically inclined than ds (he's bright, but not as driven, and may have some mild visual-spatial issues for learning). Dd needs skilled teachers, but she also needs other kids who are working at her level (she's reading at a 5th grade level in 1st grade).

 

At least dd did come home this week and said "E is teaching me to count to 10 in Tagalog!"


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#26 of 26 Old 04-29-2011, 09:34 AM
 
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Originally Posted by zinemama View Post

When I think parent involvement, I think less of things like carnivals and harvest fairs and fundraising (although parents do a lot of this at our school).

What really makes the difference to the school environment is the number of parents who volunteer in the classroom. We have parents who read with small groups. Parents who come in and talk about herbs to the kids studying Colonial life. Parents who take the library cart around to classrooms on a weekly basis and run the library after school so kids have access then. Our parents cook with kids, and teach knitting weekly to the 1st and 2nd graders. They volunteer to assist the PE teacher and help out in the art room and the science room.

All this makes a huge difference in the amount of things teachers can do and offer to our children. And of course, it's the parents who can afford to be in school during the day who are the volunteers. We have a high percentage of middle/upper middle-class families at our (public) school who are intensely dedicated to the school and to education, and absolutely, it makes a difference.



We have a bit of both. We have a very active PTA and several parents I know spend a few hours a week in the classroom or spend a few hours a week doing some work for the teachers. I do our grade's copying for the teachers once a week. My DH has a anatomy lesson he teaches to the gym classes in the fall. He brings in a skeleton etc. The PE department loves him! Several neighbors I know do the small reading groups. Another cuts out stuff for the kindy class. And yes, I agree its the parents who can afford to have a parent there. DH is the boss so he has some leaway getting to the school during the day but its only one or two days a year. He will take a day off next month and work field day too. Along with about 20 other dads.

 


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