Tameka Carter, left, and Bliss Requa-Trautz, knocked on doors of families with Public School 112 students in the Edenwald housing projects in the Bronx. Photo: Karsten Moran, New York Times
In hopes of turning around struggling schools, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has spent a million dollars to “train parents in organizing techniques and to hire people to knock on the doors of roughly 35,000 parents,” reports the New York Times.
“Bringing families into their child’s education is essential,” Mr. de Blasio’s schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said. “Study after study shows that family engagement improves student performance and attendance.”
The initiative is modeled after Cincinnati’s “community schools.”
So on a hot afternoon in late August, one of the outreach workers, Tameka Carter, a single mother of four from Brooklyn who said she had always been active in her children’s schools, went from building to building in the Edenwald housing project in the Bronx, knocking on doors of families with children in Public School 112.
When Ms. Carter did find the parents who were listed on her clipboard, typically mothers, they listened as she explained what it meant that their child’s school was becoming a “community school.”
Parents were asked to rate “how much they would value potential new programs, like medical services, tutoring or summer activities” or “an opportunity for parents to sit at the decision-making table.”
“Meaning?” Maria Pena, a 31-year-old mother of three, asked.
Ms. Carter explained that she could “sit at the table” with P.S. 112’s “community school team,” a group of parents and staff members who would decide what programs the school needed.
“I would definitely sit,” Ms. Pena said. “The problem is if they would listen.”
The administration will spend $106 million over two years to add social and health services at schools.
Parents will come to student performances or award ceremonies, but not to workshops on how to help their children with schoolwork, says Susan Barnes, principal of P.S. 112. “Most of my parents are non-readers,” she said. “People don’t want you to know that they can’t read or write.”
Most types of parental involvement have little or no effect on children’s academic performance, said Keith Robinson, a University of Texas professor who’s studied the issue. Parents’ expectations — will their child go to college? — does make a difference.