photo credit: Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture blog
Every two years, all Chicago Public Schools prepare school improvement plans, known as SIPAAAs (School Improvement Plan for Advancing Student Achievement). The latest round of plans are due in early April. Getting parents involved in the planning can be a challenge.
Last week at Orozco Elementary in Pilsen, Principal Coralia Barraza, home-school coordinator Teresa Fraga and other staff were eager to show me how they are bringing parents into the process. They translate SIPAAA documents into Spanish and get small groups of parents together to discuss what's working, what needs work, and who and how the work will get done. They use charts to keep track of parent input, and Barraza painstakingly translates their work into English for inclusion in the SIPAA.
But getting to this level of parental participation was built on many other activities that bring parents into the school building, such as workshops to teach parents, many of whom didn't go to school in the United States, how to help their children do a science fair project. Man, I wish my local grammar school had workshops like that!
The Orozco folks also passed on a tip they've learned from neighboring Walsh Elementary: schedule short meetings for parents to help with the SIPAAA right after school starts, when some parents may be able to stay for half an hour to give input.
Fundamentally, Orozco has a core of involved parents who step up as needed and who pass the word through the community to recruit parents or spread information quickly. It's clear Teresa Fraga's deep roots in the community--she's been there nearly 40 years, I think--were instrumental in building that network.
There's so much complaining in school quarters about parents not being involved, it is very refreshing to find examples where they are. If you have such examples, or tips on how schools can do a better job of tapping into parental energy and expertise, please leave a comment and share your knowledge.