The historic closing of 49 elementary schools in Chicago left many parents bitter and feeling left out as they try to get involved in new schools. Yet parent engagement is essential for school improvement, and principals are faced with the challenge of building trust at schools that scored poorly on surveys of parent involvement.
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Educare preschool boosts academics, parent involvement
A follow-up study of students who attended the Ounce of Prevention Fund’s Educare early childhood center show promising results—for parents as well as students.
Among the findings:
-- Graduates are outscoring their classmates on the reading portion of the ISAT: 67 percent of Educare students now in elementary school passed the reading portion of the ISAT, compared to 57 percent of a comparison group of students in the same schools.
-- In both preschool and 3rd grade, students scored higher than the national average on measures of social-emotional learning.
-- On a vocabulary test, students scored slightly lower than the national average but did just as well, compared to other students nationwide, as they had in preschool.
-- Fewer than half of the students who received special services at Educare still needed those services in elementary school.
A hallmark of the Educare program is a focus on helping parents find the best elementary school for their children, as well as helping children make a successful transition into kindergarten.
Educare has begun to focus on sending children to better schools. The percentage of students attending neighborhood schools shrank from 66 percent in year 1 of the study to 38 percent in year 6 of the study, when 62 percent of students went to charter, contract or magnet schools.
Portia Kennel, senior vice president of program innovation at the Ounce of Prevention Fund, says the experience of participating in Educare sets up families to continue building social relationships and accumulating “social capital” after they leave the program.
“We are creating a culture of parents who are armed out there to make sure their child gets the best education, and see themselves as responsible,” Kennel says.
The study also found, however, that some parents have struggled with schools that don’t value their input – and with helping students with homework once it gets more complicated.
Parents of Educare graduates, Kennel said, have now started an alumni network to continue the support they received in the program.