Raising the bar for schools, parents and students
Brenda Walker realized that only 13 students at Hardy Middle School were enrolled in Algebra I. Some parents might not have viewed this as low student achievement. But Walker did. She created “Parents are Part of this Equation” to work with families of Algebra I students to understand math concepts better and the value of taking higher level math. The following year, 49 students enrolled in Algebra I with 100 percent of the class passing the Mississippi Algebra I test. Walker became the Parent Coordinator at Hardy Middle School. She started a mentoring program for girls and increased student participation in after school tutorials.
Parents for Public Schools of Jackson works to create change in ways that will last – change from the ground up. The Parent Leadership Institute trains parents, such as Walker, to become advocates for excellence in education – with their children and their schools. The Institute teaches, encourages, and engages parents in their local schools because parents who feel connected to their schools are parents who are connected to their children and daily homework.
As a JPS parent and psychologist, Joy Hogge knows first hand the importance of establishing good discipline policies and practice. After completing the PLI she asked to join the Superintendent’s discipline task force to examine legislation, survey parents, and research policies that work in other districts. Hogge played a major role in getting Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports piloted in some JPS schools. The program has been adopted for middle schools with plans to expand into all schools by July 2013.
Every year PPSJ makes sure Institute applications are available throughout the community and in the hands of PLI alumni. And every year, there is a waiting list of people wanting to attend. The PLI takes place at Henry Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi, during three different weekends in August, September, and October.
In the first session, participants learn from State Department of Education staff the details of No Child Left Behind. They explore different learning styles, leadership skills, and why parent involvement matters. Participants identify barriers to being involved in their schools and with their children. And, they identify strategies for breaking those barriers. Then participants work to build their “tool box” for school reform, which includes learning how to read complex test data, understanding school improvement plans mandated by No Child Left Behind, strategies for creating sustainable change, effective advocacy, and accessing community resources, grants, and technical assistance for doing this work. Finally, participants identify the greatest need in their school and develop a project plan for addressing that need. The projects must be driven by measurable data, involve more parents, and be sustainable over the long term.
As Toni Lewis, a PLI participant said, “The Parent Leadership Institute was like a map in a maze. I learned the educational terminology I needed to know to understand decisions that were being made. I learned how to network and organize with other parents.”
Paula Anders, a 2004 graduate explains why PLI enlightened her: “You go thinking you are helping your own, but you are helping the whole. I can now help not just my own child; I can help a whole generation.”
Each of the PLI projects impacts student learning because parents raise the bar for themselves as well as their children – one school at a time, one parent at a time, and one child at a time.