Tagged “Parent And Family Engagement”

Bringing STEM Home to Forge Community Bonds

Vanguard Preparatory School, Apple Valley, Calif.

Recently named a California School to Watch by whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, Vanguard Preparatory School is facing the achievement gap head on. Located in Apple Valley, a rural town in California, Vanguard’s focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects has made it a standout in the area. Vanguard runs family STEM nights to further strengthen the connection between the classroom setting and the family support network.

High Expectations Yield Valuable Lessons

Fairmont Elementary K–8 School, Sanger, Calif.

Fairmont Elementary K–8 School, recently named a California School to Watch by whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform, sets the bar high for educational achievement. Located in Sanger, California, Fairmont works to help its students succeed by providing them with a safe learning environment, diverse intellectual opportunities, and a strong partnership with families and the local community. Students understand the high expectations held by their teachers and school administrators, and they strive to work at that level each day.

Technology Guides Students to a Bright Future

Owl Creek School, Fayetteville, Ark.

Located in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Owl Creek School joins a select group of Arkansas schools as a 2013 Diamond School to Watch with whole child partner National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform. The Owl School promotes growth and achievement in its students through a strong commitment to technology-based instruction and a positive campus community. This supportive, in-school environment is bolstered by high levels of engagement with families and the local community through workshops; family activity nights; and a strong, involved Parent Teacher Organization.

School Grows as a Caring School Community

Bowles Elementary School, Fenton, Mo.

Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Bowles Elementary School was one of the first schools in the Rockwood School District to pilot the Caring School Community model. Over the past seven years, it has moved from a "trait of the month" approach to a deeper, more comprehensive approach tied to curriculum and content. While Bowles' socioeconomic status is the second lowest in Rockwood, this Title I school continues to strive to be among the highest achieving of the 19 elementary schools in the district. Former principal Dave Cobb describes Bowles as a caring community that places a priority on building relationships. "Without relationships, we believe that strong character cannot be achieved." Building relationships is challenging, given the school’s ever-shifting demographics. But that diversity and student mobility has "challenged us to do out-of-the-box thinking," according to Cobb. "We literally have to do whatever it takes." Despite demographic changes, Cobb notes that Bowles has been able to maintain parental support and good test scores.

Bringing New Students and Families into the Community

Babler Elementary School, Wildwood, Mo.

Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Babler Elementary School is one of 19 elementary schools in Rockwood School District. While Babler is located in a relatively affluent section of Rockwood, the school and families are nevertheless facing the challenge of shrinking budgets and "maintaining the Rockwood advantage" with less. Unlike other Rockwood schools, Babler is surrounded by highways and subdivisions, with no town center or businesses with which to partner. Despite these challenges, Babler staff work to create community, communicate with stakeholders, and bring new students and their families into the fold. "We’re all in it together," notes former assistant principal Paul Godwin. Students jump right in to help and welcome new students, according to fifth-grade teacher Michelle Bolton. "We have very clear expectations that form a foundation," adds Assistant Principal Missy Parker.

A SAFE Approach: Successful Appropriate Foundation to Educate All Children

Roosevelt Primary School, Ferndale, Mich.

Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Roosevelt Primary School is committed to providing a Successful Appropriate Foundation to Educate all children. The key letters spell out SAFE. The school has created a caring community—or, as staff and parents would say, a "family." Principal Dina Rocheleau says, "My staff is so committed to make this work, and they have such a connection with each other. Even when they have conflict with each other, they know how to resolve it." Under the guidance of this principal, staff created classroom climates that teach children essential values. They moved to a relation-based approach that focuses on love, safety, and the whole child. There is no competition at Roosevelt, and they celebrate successes as a class and a school family. Service learning projects emphasize to young children that not only should they be helpful, safe, kind, respectful, and responsible within the school but that their outreach to people beyond the campus makes a world of difference. First-grade teacher Jennifer Zublick observes: "Our staff works together so well."

Town Meetings and Shared Grade-Level Planning

Pierce Elementary School, Birmingham, Mich.

Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Pierce Elementary School has made a significant transformation as a result of adopting character education as its focus. The changes have impacted students and staff alike. The administration, along with the leadership of the character education and wellness committees, have all played positive roles in this transformation. The touchstone, Pierce Path, unified the school community with a common language, and projects such as the Family Path (the opportunity for families to create their own touchstone and highlight core values) are universally recognized at the school. Several school-wide events focused on character are held throughout the year, including Spirit Week, Peace Day, and assemblies. The school utilizes "town meetings" by grade level and allows for ample reflection at the student level. The addition of a shared grade-level planning time helped to rejuvenate and inspire teachers and led to formation of an ethical learning community.

New School Develops Its Core

Pembroke Elementary School, Troy, Mich.

In 2007, Pembroke Elementary School had an ideal opportunity to recast itself with a new vision, touchstone, and school mascot as it moved into a brand new building. The Pembroke Character Education Committee played a role in developing the new school touchstone, with its focus on core values, as the new building opened. Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Pembroke has achieved great clarity of vision, with its core values supported by the touchstone and the school pledge. The faculty and administration recognize and testify to a well-developed integration of core values into curricular lessons. In addition to cross-age buddy programs, the school also implements a Links program, where older students reach out to special needs students every day at lunch and recess. Intrinsic reward strategies are understood and practiced, along with reflection by students involved in disciplinary situations. Parents are actively engaged in the work of the Character Education Committee and in meaningful volunteer activities in the school and through the PTA.

Ethnically Diverse School Transforms School Discipline

Bingham Farms Elementary School, Bingham Farms, Mich.

Located in the affluent Birmingham district northwest of Detroit, Bingham Farms Elementary School celebrates being one of the more ethnically diverse schools in the area. Encouraged by the district to develop a touchstone, this school's staff, students, and parents are now unified around their vision for positive character known as the "Bingham Best." According to Principal Russ Facione, the touchstone allows students to "reflect and refocus" and take charge of their choices. "It has literally transformed discipline in our building," he adds.

Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Bingham Farms also boasts numerous Promising Practices awards and creative strategies that have enabled students to succeed—both academically and socially. All students, for example, have learned a five-step conflict resolution strategy called Solve-It-Spot. Students are reminded of the steps through posters placed around the school and practice during class meetings. Students report that the strategy is informally implemented by peers, and parents testify to seeing Solve-It-Spot practiced at home.

Caring and Compassion Translates into Narrowing the Achievement Gap

Oakwood Elementary School, Glen Burnie, Md.

Parents and staff consistently refer to Oakwood Elementary School as "the best-kept secret in Glen Burnie." The sense of caring and compassion that has been fostered here, as well as the dedication to meeting the individual needs of students, has translated into a remarkable narrowing of the achievement gap and academic excellence for all. In class, students help one another, soothe each other, and share classroom materials. Teachers help children in such seamless and natural ways that no child is singled out for being "special." Named a 2011 National School of Character by whole child partner the Character Education Partnership, Oakwood's staff finds strategies that suit every student, and they have devised a consistent set of expectations for student behavior throughout the building. Parents feel well informed and welcome in the school and are involved in character education leadership. When asked about how the school has made such remarkable academic gains, former principal Nancy Knouse responds: "Everybody in this building is working for kids. Nobody ever gives up on any child."

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