At the Charlotte Community Think Tank our vision is to become a valued community resource for innovation in education solutions. We seek to build a culture of academic appreciation and respect for education on the West Side and the Charlotte Community.
Parent involvement is an important component to academic success for children. Study after study indicates a direct correlation between low performing schools, race, and academic performance. In these schools, there is evidence of minimal parental involvement. For the purpose of this reflection, parental involvement is defined as a parent, caregiver, other relative, or community member who is actively involved in school activities related to a specific child or family in the school. Involvement consists of volunteering at the school, becoming involved in a parent lead organization within the school, performing community service on behalf of the school, and most importantly interacting with the school about his/her child. This is a shared commitment that is held between the presumed parent and the school. We see parental involvement as a first step to a long, shared journey of cooperation between the school, child, and parent and the respective community.
There are challenges for education systems to encourage involvement and at the same time fulfill the student’s basic academic needs. The challenges are a culmination of changes in the family dynamic over the past two decades and government welfare programs. Welfare-to-Work initiatives in the mid 1990’s that were designed to empower families financially and break the cycle of being dependent on these systems had unintended consequences. These programs were designed to target single parent households and the effects of maternal employment have not benefited children fully. The single provider of the home is now working outside the home in largely low-paying service sector jobs with unpredictable schedules that keep the parent(s) from attending school functions and engaging in outside activities. These activities do not lead to immediate upward mobility and contribute to the family’s resources. Families who were once dependent upon entitlement programs had time to engage more in their child’s education. These families are no longer on welfare. However, they are working outside the home and still in poverty.
Education institutions have been slow to strike a balance between providing basic needs to families and teaching and training the next generation without out the typical parent involvement that existed prior to these reforms. There is an understanding that welfare programs will not be re-instituted any time soon in the same way they were prior to welfare to work. As a result, communities must find ways to fill the gaps to support the academic success of students in families of low social-economic status.
Keeping with our vision we launched a campaign to support the Community Schools Model. We believe this model is the competitive advantage with built in equity and we hope to bring it to Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. We are also partnering with Greater Enrichment Program, UNC - Charlotte and Read Charlotte to promote parental involvement using the Reading Check Up tool. We will encourage parents to utilize the tool by providing hands on support. We further support the family by having interns re-enforce reading with the kids.
Our cultural competence and understanding about families of low social economic status will lead to success.