Parent Partnerships

Parent Teacher Conferences

One of my goals this year as most of you know is to increase family and community engagement or better known as F.A.C.E.  As you know, I am communicating with our East Side community through a blog called 40 Weeks of Learning at East Side School.  The goal is to highlight the positives of our school and tell our story.  It is what we call “branding” our school and telling our story because there is so much negative about public education, connected educators want to push out the positives.  It is also showcasing our school, our teachers and our kids.  The feedback is very positive and parents look for it weekly as well as various Facebook and Twitter pictures of positives throughout the day.

In the last post, I highlighted parent/teacher conferences and expectations for our parents and staff.  In reflection, it really goes to the four core beliefs of F.A.C.E and if we are open as a school to family partnerships.  Here are the four core beliefs highlighted from the book Beyond the Bake Sale:

  1. Core Belief 1:  All Parents Have Dreams for Their Children and Want the Best For Them:  Believe it or not, all parents do care.  It really depends on our personal beliefs and assumptions and that we need to address difference with issues of race, class and culture.
  2. Core Belief 2:  All Parents Have the Capacity to Support Their Children’s Learning.  Yes, tapping into the potential and knowledge of our parents is so important and bringing them on for positive things is so much better than negative.
  3. Core Belief 3:  Parents and School Staff Should be Equal Partners.  This is understanding lopsided relationships vs mutual relationships.  The relationships cannot be the lopsided “power” relationship and needs to be an open, mutual respected relationship.  It needs to be our role as adults to have mutual relationships with a common goal – what is best for our kids.  Our parents have a wealth of knowledge and talent and we need to invite them in.  They want to be involved.  Attend a PTO meeting and see what is happening!
  4. Core Belief 4:  The Responsibility for Building Partnerships Between School and Home Rests Primarily with School Staff, Especially School Leaders.  What the book reference is that strong leadership has to be not only from the principal, but also from the staff.  Many of our families see school as a powerful and forbidding institution.  They may have had a bad experience or feel uncomfortable coming in or calling.  It is our job to bridge the connections of home to school and school to home and break this feeling, starting from the top as well as from the bottom.

So, what is my point?  Don’t forget to see from a parents point of view, which I know you do, when you meet with parents and caregivers in talking about their child.  Listen, form relationships and understand where parents are coming from.  My friend and colleague Lisa Meade put it simple in her blog here:

I believe in you.

We need each other.

You matter.

Check out the 40 Weeks of Learning Post here.  Have a great week!


Other News

  • Bus Duty for Nov 17- Dec 5:  Team 7:  Kathy Buell, Kate Spriggs, Megan Weldon  Upcoming bus duty: Dec. 8 – Dec. 19 Team 8:  Jennifer Prevost, Marci Woods, Gina Caldwell
  • The East Side PTO Harvest Festival was a great success.  Thank you all for helping out.
  • Mrs. French has asked to meet with elementary staff on November 20th at 7:35a.m.  She will be going over the capital project.  You will want to be present for this presentation.  (This will take the place of our scheduled staff meeting.)
  • Bridget is running Angel Tree and needs your help.  Please check out her emails and help with requests for Angel Tree.  If you are free this Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, please help in the lobby with our students.  Thanks so much!
  • I am finishing up walk through evaluations next week.  In January, I will start up walk through#2.  This will be Domain 1 entries for tenure staff and scheduled walk through’s on my calendar.  I will email those involved with directions to help you.  My plan to work downward from 5th grade down and those who will be giving test accommodations for NYS tests.  Thank you all for working with me and making this happen!  Much appreciated!
  • Due to me being out next week, I will not be producing a Monday Focus for November 23rd.  I’ll try and get one out for Nov. 30th.
  • Dismissal for Half Day conferences will start at 12;05 with K, then we will announce for grades 1-5 as normally.  We are planning for buses to roll at 12:15p.m.
  • The NYS Police department will be here on Nov. 18th for Operation Safe Child.  Students will be picked up from your classroom to take an i.d. picture per permission from their parents.  This will be occurring in the activity room.
  • MUST blog post to read by my colleague annd friend, Tony Sinanis, The Three!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!

Other Items of Interest (Read at your leisure!)

  • Don’t forget the “why”behind every plan you make and initiative you undertake.It’s important that the why is understood – it’s what makes change possible. Of course, many of us have seen Simon Sinek’s TED Talk about this.
  • Physical activity can decrease the symptoms of ADHD, according to this study. Inattentiveness, moodiness and peer interactions can be positively impacted.
  • This post from someone working on the Social Studies Toolkit provides an interesting perspective about the changes to social studies.
  • This cheat sheet will help you stay straight with all the technology and technology education jargon.
  • Having an authentic audience is one of the essential ingredients of a good project. This column can help you with those partnerships.
  • In a very frank manner, Eric Sheninger contrasts the way kids learn with the way our schools continue to be organized. He also describes the steps his school took to change.
  • This video explains why math instruction has changed. You can use this with parents at a math night.Ed Week has gathered their recent articles about Common Core math into a single collection.
  • If you are taking a good, hard look at the Essential Elements of Standards-Focused Middle-Level Schools and Programs, think about the Essential Elements: Schools-to-Watch program. You can learn from the list of middle-level schools that have been recognized in New York (great schools to visit). If you are thinking about applying, the 2015-16 materials have just been posted.
  • Pre-kindergarten is an important part of the birth through 3rd grade continuum. This article offers suggestions for vertical alignment within the primary years.
  • This infographic contrasts the way we schedule teachers and time with the way we should organize time in schools. The only thing that is stopping us is the status quo.
  • Although not specifically identified in the Common Core, social-emotional skills contribute to student achievement.
  • When working on presentation skills with your students (or your own), these simple tips can help.
  • These videos explain one of the 4 Cs: critical thinking. They do it in a common sense way, with common sense examples, while expressing its importance.
  • This young high school teacher gives a TEDx talk that is pretty frank about school and its relevance to students. He questions the format of school and it’s orientation to the past rather than the future. He also describes a different path.
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We continue our Observation series by taking a closer look at the instructional moves that help teachers release the responsibility of learning to students. Join us!
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Teachers at this school improve their practice by collaboratively observing their colleagues. See how they rotate around the school in groups of three, focusing their observations, and then discussing what they learn.
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Don’t miss the insightful questions and answers from Coaching Q&A Week. And a special shout out to guest experts Elena Aguilar and Jim Knight for their valuable advice!

A Touch of Humor

Ha Ha!  True!

What Type Of Partnership School Are We?


I have been in an intensive 6 week book chat using the book, Beyond the Bake Sale, The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships, by Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies.  These authors are the nations researchers for FACE (Family and Community Engagement) and have joined our discussions.  This intensive study is the brain child of my friend, Dr. Joe Mazza, of the University of Pennsylvania.  He is experimenting and researching how educators, leaders, parents and teachers are connecting using a common theme and utilizing various technology outlets such as AppreNnet, Voxer blogging, emails, and Google Doc.  You can see the overview of the program here.  This has been the best professional development I have had this summer and will continue throughout the school year.

As we read and reflected on each chapter, the 2nd chapter highlights what family and school partnerships look like.  I will highlight the four versions of partnerships.  What I would like you to do is look at the rubric, then rate our school.  At the end is the scoring of what it means and where our school falls. 


All families and communities have something great to offer –we do whatever it takes to work closely together to make sure every single student succeeds.


  • Family center is always open, full of interesting learning materials to borrow
  • Home visits are made to every new family
  • Activities honor the families’ contributions
  • Building is open to community use and social services are available to families


  • All family activities connect to what students are learning
  • Parents and teachers look at student work and test results together
  • Community groups offer tutoring and homework programs at the school
  • Students’ work goes home every week, with a scoring guide


  • Translators are readily available
  • Teachers use books and materials about families’ cultures
  • PTO includes all families
  • Local groups help staff reach parents


  • There is a clear, open process for resolving problems
  • Teachers contact families each month to discuss student progress
  • Student-lead parent-teacher conferences are held three times a year for thirty minutes


  • Parents and teachers research issues such as prejudice and tracking
  • Parent group is focused on improving student achievement
  • Families are involved in all major decisions
  • Parents can use the school’s phone, copier, fax, and computers
  • Staff work with local organizers to improve the school and neighborhood



Parents can be involved at our school in many ways – we’re working hard to get an even bigger turnout for our activities.  When we ask the community to help, people respond.


  • Teachers contact families once a year
  • Parent coordinator is available if families have questions or need help
  • Office staff are friendly
  • Staff contact community agencies and organizations when help is needed


  • Teachers explain test scores if asked
  • Folders of student work go home occasionally
  • School holds curriculum nights three or four times a year
  • Staff let families know about out-of-school classes in their community


  • Office staff will find a translator if parents ask in advance
  • Multicultural nights are held once a year
  • Minority” parents have their own group


  • Principal will meet with parents to discuss a problem
  • Regular progress reports go to parents, but test data can be hard to understand
  • Parent-teacher conferences are held twice a year


  • Parents can raise issues at PTO meetings or see the principal
  • Parent group sets its own agenda and raises money for the school
  • Resource center for low-income families is housed in a portable classroom next to the school
  • PTO officers can use the school office
  • A community representative sits on the school council


Come-if-We-Call School

Parents are welcome when we ask them, but there’s only so much they can offer.  The most important thing they can do is help their kids at home.  We know where to get help in the community if we need it.


  • Better -educated parents are more involved
  • “Many immigrant or low-income parents don’t have time to come or contribute”
  • Staff is very selective about who comes into the school


  • Parents are told what students will be learning at the fall open house
  • Parents can call the office to get teacher-recorded messages about homework
  • Workshops are offered on parenting


  • “We can’t deal with the poverty”
  • Parents can deal with their issues or bring a translator”
  • “This school just isn’t the same as it used to be”


  • School calls families when children have problems
  • Families visit school on report card pickup day and can see a teacher if they call first


  • Principal sets agenda for parent meetings
  • PTO gets the school’s message out
  • “Parents are not experts in education”
  • Community groups can address the school board if they have concerns

Fortress School

Parents belong at home, not at school.  If students don’t do well, it’s because their families don’t give them enough support.  We’re already doing all we can.  Our school is an oasis in a troubled community.  We want to keep it that way


  • Families do not “bother” school staff
  • “Low income and minority families don’t value education:
  • Parents need security clearance to come in
  • It is important to keep community influences out of the school


  • Curriculum and standards are considered too complex for parent to understand
  • “If parents want more information, they can ask for it”
  • “We’re teachers, not social workers


  • “Those parents need to learn English”
  • “We teach about our country and culture – that’s what those parents need to know”
  • “This town is going downhill”


  • Parents don’t come to conferences
  • Problems are dealt with by the professional Staff
  • Teachers don’t feel safe with parents


  • Principal picks a small group of “cooperative parents” to help out
  • Families are afraid to complain: “They might take it out on my kid”
  • “Community groups should mind their own business; they don’t know about education”

Where does our school fall?

  • If three or more of your checked boxes fall in the Fortress School section and none under Open-Door or Partnership, our school is trying to keep parents away rather than work with them.  In standards-based terms, it is below basic!
  • If three or more of your checked boxes fall under Come-fi-We Call and none under Partnership, your school may want parents to be involved only on its terms.  In standards-based terms, it is at the basic level.
  • If at least four of your checked boxes fall under Open-Door or Partnership and none are under Fortress School, your school welcomes families and supports them to be involved in a number of ways.  In standards-based terms, it is proficient.
  • If at least three of your checked boxes are under Partnership and the rest are under Open-Door, your school is willing and able to work with all families.  In standards-based terms, it is advanced.  Students achievement may also be reflected in the school and goes up every year.

So, where are we?  Where did you put East Side Elementary School?  I have my thoughts.  Why not join me on book study and chat to work together and have thoughtful conversations, push our thinking,  and be better at building our relationships with our families.  Enjoy the cool summer!




Developing Parent Partnerships to Tackle the CCSS

These past few weeks, I have the privilege to dialogue with many folks, teachers, parents, administrators, students, about various things.  One topic that comes to the top is how the curriculum has changed and how different it is from what has been taught in the past.  Parents are contacting teachers about homework, or about how to simply “move the decimal point” rather than to understand why the numbers have to move.  This is all new to us as educators as well as new for our parents.
In their wonderful book Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships, Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies devote a chapter on how involving parents can help your test scores.  The gist of the chapter is to help families support their children’s learning, both at home and at school.  To help their kids at home, parents need to know what is going on at school.  What often happens is that teachers may complain that parents don’t bother to check their children’s homework.  But parents may say, “We didn’t know we were supposed to check homework.  Tell us how to do it and what to look for.  Explain what the teacher wants.”
Basically, parents are asking for help and what a wonderful opportunity to bring them in.  How powerful will it be to build those relationships with your parents if you hold an evening to help them understand the Math Common Core Standards, what the curriculum is asking us to do and how it is changing instruction.  Some may say, “Oh, but this takes time out of my schedule and I cannot commit.”  Yes, it does, but the majority of you are parents – wouldn’t you want this for your child?
As you know, the research is there:  In a study of Title I elementary schools, researchers found that teacher outreach to parents improved student progress in both reading and math.  When teachers did these three things, student performance improved at a 40-50 percent higher rate:
  1. Met face-to-face with each family in their class at the beginning of the year.
  2. Sent fammilies materials each week on ways to help their children at home.
  3. Telephoned routinely with news about how their children were doing, not just when they were acting up or having problems.
Let’s become smarter and tap into this resource.  Parents want the best for their children, and what a wonderful opportunity than to open the doors, invite them in, and explain what is happening within our school.  I will help in any way possible.  Let’s take the challenge and increase our parent partnerships.  Have a great week.
  • Bus Duty for Sept 23- Oct 4 Team 2: M. Backus, P. Mahay, B. Gauthier.  Upcoming bus duty.  Team 3:  Jessica Serviss, Teresa Kiechle
  • Oct 2nd we have a BEDS meeting in the library @ 2:45pm.  Please bring a #2 pencil.
  • Our next staff meeting is October 7th.
  • Group 3 lesson plans are due to me asap.
  • Progress reports are due this week.  Just a reminder that 3-5 progress reports will be generated through the Schooltool program.  Progress reports are due to the office on Thursday.
  • We have lots of substitutes in for Thursday and Friday due to professional development opportunities for our staff.  Please be cognizant of this.
  • I am continuing with walk through visits.  I see wonderful things folks, thank you!
  • My friend John Falino writes about “Is Twitter Trending or Just Trendy?
  • Peter DeWitt writes about “The Counterproductive Ways Schools Punish Kids”  This is a must read!
  • Please check the East Side Announcement page for updated dates, announcements etc.  Lisa is updating this continually!
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!
Other Items of Interest
As you work on SLOs, don’t forget the lessons we learned from the process; that reflection is posted at the APPR 2.0 page of the APPR microsite. Additionally, there are new SLO resources on, including revised guidance and examples.


SealThe transition to Common Core Regentsexamination memo has been revised. This was revised to make it clear that the old IA and new A1 exam administration will overlap in June 2014, August 2014, and January 2015. After that, only the new A1 Regents examination will be available.
This advice about feedback rings true when providing feedback to students and adults alike.
If you encounter low expectations for students with disabilities or challenging circumstances, share this post about the “Least Dangerous Assumption.” The post addresses the cultural roots and offers concrete tips to counter low expectations.
This provocative article from The Atlantic points out that we spend more on high-school athletes than high school math students; “The Case AgainstHigh-School Sports.”

If you want higher test scores, do more physical fitness in schools. And, the more difficult the material, the more physical fitness might help.

Research is Core& Common Core, that is! October 25th is a unique opportunity for teams of teachers and librarians across the region to work to define or refine research process, K-12. We will examine how research is different under Common Core Standards. Tools and processes will be shared to develop capacity to implement research process to meet rigorous standards. Registration is filling quickly.
The Teaching Channel has hour-long “specials” prepared for public television:
This source of on-line courses includes some that would apply to teachers – and they are free.
Paula Rutherford and the folks at Just ASK Publications have created a crosswalk between all of theirresources and the NYS Teaching StandardsInstruction for All StudentsMeeting the Needs of Diverse LearnersCreating a Culture for Learning, and Why Didn’t I Learn This in College are all connected to the Standards.
In the story from The Atlantic, a parent decides to do all of his daughter’s homework for one week. Read about his experience. If you are talking about homework in your school, this is worth reading (after you get done with your homework).

A Touch of Humor