News and Updates
Here are stories from Teaching for Change’s parent organizing. See all Teaching for Change news here.
So, this is happening now, at DC’s public schools: Parents threatened with deportation; Parents late to pick up kids because of immigration officials at their door; Immigration officials visiting metro stations during school drop off and pick up; Student attendance dropping as a result of fear. As you may recall, in February Teaching for Change and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs asked the mayor… Read more.
In the current political climate in which the President is threatening to increase harassment of immigrants and deportations of undocumented immigrants, we must publicly demonstrate our commitment to all our students and families—especially those without legal documentation. Ask DC Public Schools and local education agencies (LEAs/charter schools) operating within the District of Columbia to stand as sanctuary schools… Read more.
The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2016 (ESSA) gives states the opportunity to reduce the extreme weight on test scores to rank schools, which was the cornerstone of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. ESSA allows D.C. to select more meaningful measures of school success, but the current proposal from D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) sets standardized test scores at 80% of a school’s overall rating, with the remaining 20% primarily on attendance and re-enrollment rates. Read more.
Still, despite widespread recognition that communication from school to home is valuable, most research to date has centered on parents reaching out to educators. With the NYU study, the focus is on the reverse: communication patterns that originate with children’s teachers. Matthew Lynde Chesnut, a social-studies teacher at Kennedy High School, in San Antonio, Texas, confessed surprise at how much the findings “relate to my own shortcomings as a teacher” at a school with a 98 percent Latino student body. Read more.
The morning after the election, Principal Alethea Bustillo arrived to a school full of distraught staff and worried students. She spent much of the day checking in on every classroom in the building. The public elementary school (DCPS) serves mostly Latino and African American families in one of D.C.’s most racially and economically diverse neighborhoods. Bustillo noted, “What I saw made me really hopeful. The teachers were talking with the kids in a positive way and were allowing the kids to talk about what they were afraid of.” She added that this was in contrast to some schools where students were not allowed to talk about the election at all. Read more.
Teaching for Change is pleased to announce a new edition of Between Families and Schools: Building Meaningful Relationships. The publication addresses two key questions facing schools today: “How do we get more parents involved in our schools?” and “How do we enhance collaboration and communication between parents and teachers?”Between Families and Schools is based on the findings of an action research project on family engagement, complete with stories, suggested actions, and questions… Read more.
When Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park, Maryland, told parents in the fall of 2014 that it would allow students to use Chromebooks as a way to bridge the digital divide between low-income families and affluent families, there were mixed reactions. The plan was aimed at helping students become more adept at using technology, but the affluent parents, most of whom were white, were apprehensive about their children getting more screen time. Continue reading.
In Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, public schools that served predominantly low-income students and students of color are seeing massive demographic shifts as wealthier and more formally educated families are attracted to the school neighborhoods. Gentrification can add to the challenges traditionally marginalized families—namely those from Black, Latino, immigrant, and low income communities—face when engaging with schools. Read more.
Teaching for Change partnered twice with local researchers and education organizers to give AERA conference attendees a glimpse of the parent organizing and family engagement work happening locally. Teaching for Change placed family engagement in the broader context of gentrification in D.C. during the AERA offsite session, “Fighting for the Right to the City.” Read more.
Parents are welcomed to the school and receive an overview of what their kids are learning and what they should expect to see when visiting the classroom. After observing a typical lesson, parents are invited to comment on what they notice and ask questions. By giving family members a window into classroom life and an opportunity to offer feedback, Academic Classroom Visits build trust, communication, and shared understanding between families and the school, building partnerships that promote students’ academic achievement. Read more.
On the first day of Roving Readers, Brian sat at the back with Ms. Prater as the parents and caregivers took their seats in a long row on the reading carpet. By then his literacy skills were improving, but his interest remained low. He watched as each of the parents opened up copies of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type/Clic Clac Muu Vacas Escritoras and took turns reading in English and in Spanish. He moved from the back of the carpet where we were sitting, all the way up front so he was sitting right at their feet. Read more.
Ms. Merino was one of the Latino parents seated at the table on November 24, 2015, for a meeting with the director of DCPS’s Out of School Time Programs, Margareth Legaspi. Amy Meija, the co-president of the grassroots parents organization Parents and Teachers United for BMPV (PTU), and other parent leaders repeatedly requested a meeting with Ms. Legaspi to address a top concern at their school: the waiting list of 75 students for an understaffed after school program. Read more.
Teaching for Change’s nationally recognized family engagement project, Tellin’ Stories, added new accolades in 2015 with featured stories in Education Week and ThinkProgress. Read more.
It was the first Principal Coffee of the year at Thomson, a fourth-year Tellin’ Stories partner school located in downtown Washington, D.C. The monthly coffees are Thomson’s version of Parent-Principal Chit Chats, a signature activity of the Tellin’ Stories approach to family engagement. The chats strengthen the link between home and school, and foster relationship building among parents, and between parents and the principal. Read more.
Ms. Rodriguez met with Teaching for Change parent organizers, the parent coordinator, and two other parent leaders – one from the Caribbean and the other from Ethiopia – to plan the upcoming Welcome Back Breakfast for parents. With Teaching for Change’s approach, parent leaders are encouraged to take part in the planning of family engagement activities and not just attend as participants. Ms. Rodriguez was one of the parents who stepped up early in the year, before most activities even began. Read more.
On July 22, 2015, Teaching for Change hosted a special event, “Race, Class, and Language: Breaking Barriers to Family Engagement in D.C.,” a briefing over breakfast with community stakeholders about the impact of gentrification and systemic inequities on full parental participation in schools. The event featured case studies from the 2015-2016 school year at school partnering with the Tellin’ Stories Project, Teaching for Change’s nationally recognized approach to family engagement. Read More.
On May 29, 2015, breakfast greeted the fifth grade parents at Tyler Elementary (DCPS) a, first-year Tellin’ Stories partner school. The cheerful spread was part of a new tradition the teachers hoped to start for families preparing to make the leap from elementary to middle school: the Fifth Grade Family Promotional Breakfast. Read More.
Just after the start of the school day on June 5, 2015 more than 20 parents gathered in the large meeting room to share their triumphs and challenges from the 2014-2015 school year at Thomson Elementary’s (DCPS) final Parent-Principal Chit Chat for the school year. The Chit Chats facilitate community building among the parents and direct communication with the principal, creating an environment where parents feel that their voices are heard and valued.
Teaching for Change’s interns attended the chit-chat, and shared their observations. Read more.
May 14, 2015 – The parents at Tellin’ Stories third-year partner school Thomson Elementary (DCPS) sat with anticipation for this meeting with the principal. On Friday, May 8, 2015, they gathered in the school cafeteria with Principal Carmen Shepherd and interpreters for a special Parent-Principal Chit Chat.
“We’re going to do class visits today, because that’s something you requested—to see more of what classrooms in action look like,” said Principal Shepherd to the 20 parents in attendance. It was Thomson’s second-ever day for Academic Classroom Visits, a signature activity in the Tellin’ Stories approach to family engagement. Some of the parents present at this meeting attended the first classroom visits in January. Read more.
May 8, 2015 – “The [condition] of the building doesn’t reflect the community inside the school,” stated Orr Elementary (DCPS) parent Ms. Sirrell Phillips in a radio interview to discuss the pressing need to modernize the building where her youngest child attends pre-Kindergarten.
Phillips and another Orr parent, Mr. Bernard Dickey were featured guests on Taking Action, a weekly radio show hosted by Empower DC on WPFW 89.3FM. The parents and community supporting Orr Elementary, located in Ward 8 in Washington, D.C., have again organized to prevent further delays to a long-promised modernization. Read more.
April 24, 2015 – Orr Elementary School (DCPS) parents in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8 have organized for many years to have the building modernized. Orr, with an almost entirely low-income African American student population, is among the last open floor plan schools in the District. Built in 1974, it has never been modernized.
After a long, parent-led battle, Orr finally got back on the modernization list in 2014. This was a major victory for the community, with an allocation of $39 million to complete the planning and construction ending in fiscal year 2017.
But this week, families were dismayed when they learned the D.C. mayor’s Capital Plan allocated $0 for Orr’s modernization in FY16 and the schedule for modernization was delayed. Read more.
April 22, 2015 – Parent read alouds of multicultural books promote family literacy, bring #ParentsTeachersTogether. Please join Teaching for Change for a discussion of the Roving Readers program on Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 9pm EST. The chat, hosted by the Institute for Educational Leadership, will give insights for schools who want to implement this program which brings parents into the classroom to read multicultural books.. Read more.
March 30, 2015 – Maria squeezed into the packed Parent Center at Bruce Monroe at Park View Elementary School in D.C. on Friday morning. She came to find out how she can be involved in choosing the school’s next principal in an interactive session led by Teaching for Change that brought to life information DCPS shared the previous week via PowerPoint. Read more.
January 28, 2015 -According to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, there are roughly 1.7 million undocumented students under age 30, who are enrolled in high school, have graduated or obtained a GED, or are currently enrolled in elementary or middle school. Additionally, this past summer our nation witnessed a spike in unaccompanied minors crossing our southern border with more than 50,000 children fleeing persecution from Central America and Mexico. Most of them await immigration court dates while staying with relatives or sponsors, but in the meantime, our laws require that they attend school. In 1982, the Supreme Court determined in Plyer v. Doe that all students, regardless of their immigration status… Read more.
November 1, 2014 -In a recently released report, the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation celebrated efforts by Teaching for Change to expand the impact of our parent engagement work through storytelling. Sharing stories is an integral part of Tellin’ Stories, Teaching for Change’s parent engagement approach, but it had not been a core piece of the organization’s communications strategy. Read more.
October 15, 2014 – Laila Patrick held her breath in anticipation, waiting to hear her name called as her two children played on the floor nearby. Ms. Patrick sat with her muscles tensed, at the edge of her seat, with her mother supportively sitting in the chair beside her. “She’s talking about me!” Ms. Patrick whispered to her mother as the event host shared the story of her role in the parent activism that earned her children’s school two major victories last school year – funding for a new building, and new leadership for the school. As her name was called, Ms. Patrick proudly stood up and walked down the red carpet to be recognized as both her mom and her children watched, beaming with pride and adoration. Read more.
October 6, 2014 – Grandparents Jaime and Lorenza Vargas* sat among the 85 parents and guardians who flooded into the cafeteria of Brightwood Education Campus (DCPS) for the first Parent-Principal Chit Chat of the year on September 26, 2014. The Vargas family has two grandchildren in grades 5 and 7 who had arrived in the United States from the Mexican border just weeks prior and did not speak English. Read more.
September 26, 2014 – This year, bilingual school counselor Senovia Hurtado has been entrusted with the mission of revitalizing family engagement at Brightwood Education Campus (DCPS), a pre-K through eighth grade school in Washington, D.C. It’s her 15th year in DC Public Schools, but her first as a parent coordinator. With a reopened parent center, a supportive principal and colleagues, and a partnership with Teaching for Change, Hurtado is poised to make Brightwood a school that is open and inviting to parents. Read more.
August 12, 2014 – “Of the many hats I wear, one of those hats is that of the community organizer,” shared Thomson Elementary Principal Carmen Shepherd. “As principals, we are really here to serve and work with families.” On July 30, 2014, Ms. Shepherd, principal of Thomson Elementary (DCPS), joined principals from six other DCPS schools and one Prince George’s County elementary school for a meeting to launch theTellin’ Stories Family Partners Series. Thomson ES hosted the meeting, which was the second of two principal orientations for the eight schools participating in the Family Partners Series. Read more.
June 9, 2014 – Teaching for Change is pleased to announce that six public schools from Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s County, Md. were selected to participate in the Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series for the 2014–2015 school year. Supported by a three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, this unique professional development and parent leadership series will work with a total of eight school communities to develop meaningful family engagement strategies. Read more.
June 7, 2014 – Teaching for Change fully supports Orr Elementary (DCPS) parents who demand a new principal after months of raising concerns through formal and informal channels. Despite their efforts to advocate on behalf of the whole school, DCPS is actively discouraging parent engagement at a school serving predominantly black and low-income families. Read more.
May 15, 2014 – There are signs posted on the door to Orr Elementary (DCPS) announcing “$39 million for Orr’s Modernization!” Parents and community members are proud that their advocacy efforts led officials to restore funding for their school’s modernization to the 2014-2015 D.C. budget. Read more.
Does Family Engagement Matter? A special post by Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, and Nancy E. Hill
May 15, 2014 – Does parent involvement make a difference in children’s learning? In a new study, The Broken Compass, sociologists Keith Robinson and Angel Harris argue that when parents attempt to help, they have little impact on, and may even harm, their children’s grades and test scores. Their conclusion is, at best, only half right. Read more.
May 5, 2014 – A spaceship representing the United States and El Salvador. The church from a small pueblo (village). The “Birthday Party Express” bus. These are a few of the family projects proudly on display in the hallways of Thomson Elementary (DCPS) this spring. Read more.
May 1, 2014 – With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Teaching for Change is launching a new and unprecedented training series for D.C.-area elementary schools to develop meaningful family engagement strategies for their school communities. Read more.
April 24, 2014 – Just days after Teaching for Change presented a workshop at the first National Family Engagement Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation recognized Teaching for Change as one of 30 “exceptional organizations” to receive a grant for its new family engagement initiative. Read more.
April 24, 2014 – On Tuesday, April 8, Teaching for Change presented a highly regarded workshop at the National Family Engagement Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. The workshop was based on Teaching for Change’s approach to family engagement, called Tellin’ Stories, and the organization’s experience working in schools and leading trainings for teachers, parent leaders, and family engagement practitioners. Read more.
March 19, 2014 – Orr (DCPS) parents invited David Catania, Councilmember and chair of the Education Committee, to hear their stories and tour the building which badly needs modernization. Nearly 30 parents attended with their children, along with teachers and members of the local community. Parents expressed their concerns about the safety of the playground; stagnant air and poor natural lighting; places where the building is crumbling; and, most significantly, the open floor plan (in which there are no walls separating classrooms or hallways). The modernization was slated to begin eight years ago but has been delayed every year since. Read more.
March 6, 2014 – Isaiah Lyles was shocked as he watched his daughter Da’Vonna and her pre-Kindergarten classmates attempt to hide in plain sight from an “active shooter” during a safety drill. This day in January, Orr Elementary (DCPS) was among the schools participating in a safety assessment after the anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Orr, which was built in the 1970s, has an open floor plan, so there are no walls in the halls or separating classrooms. Read more.
February 20, 2014 – Maria Lopez* listened intently as the interpreter shared the meeting with her in Spanish. The mother of a student who loves to read, Maria came to the 3rd grade’s parent-teacher Grade Level Dialogues to find out more about what her daughter is learning in the classroom. Read more.
October 11, 2013 – We are thrilled to announce that América Calderón, Teaching for Change senior parent organizer, won the “Dedication Award” for her work with families in schools from the D.C. Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs. She received the award on October 17, 2013 at a special event at the GALA Theater. Read more.
September 11, 2013 – In its fourth year as a Teaching for Change partner school, Orr Elementary [DCPS] is no stranger to the Welcome Back Breakfast. But with a brand new principal—and a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama, Shaquille O’Neal, Dominique Dawes, and Allyson Felix as part of the national “Let’s Move” program—their 2013-2014 school year is already off to a unique start. Read More.
July 1, 2013 – In an article for ASCD’s Education Leadership, noted family engagement expert and author of Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships, Anne Henderson, challenges school leaders to build strong relationships with their families over the summer months by planning a Community Walk, a signature activity pioneered by the Tellin’ Stories Project of Teaching for Change. Read More.
June 12, 2013 – After nine years at Orr Elementary (DCPS) in Washington, D.C.’s historic Fairlawn neighborhood, principal Michelle Edwards has retired to forge a new path in her career. Three years ago, Mrs. Edwards invited the Tellin’ Stories Project of Teaching for Change to partner with Orr Elementary and develop a comprehensive family engagement program. She worked closely with Teaching for Change’s parent organizers and Orr’s staff, teachers, and parents to build a welcoming, inclusive school climate at Orr that supports student learning and meaningful parent engagement. Mrs. Edwards will truly be missed at Orr Elementary. Read More.
February 1, 2013 – The cornerstone of an effective parent engagement strategy is building relationships between parents, teachers, and administrators—but schools are becoming increasingly aware that traditional conferences and meetings with parents are not exactly engaging. “How to Have Better Parent Meetings,” Teaching for Change’s third Cross-City Parent Coordinator Training of the school year, detailed the essentials for a successful parent meeting. Twenty local parent coordinators, parent leaders, and community and parent outreach coordinators from the DC Public Schools’ Head Start office gathered January 25 at the American Federation of Teachers… Read More.
December 14, 2012 – For many schools, parent-teacher conferences, back-to-school night, and report card day are the only attempts to bring parents and teachers together. Typically, these meetings do little to foster sustainable parental engagement and sometimes the format even hinders meaningful collaboration.Teaching for Change’s Tellin’ Stories initiative offers a powerful alternative with its signature activity, parent-teacher grade level dialogues. Grade level dialogues are structured conversations between parents and teachers regarding students’ academic success. Read More.
September 22, 2012 – In Washington, D.C. and in cities across the country, cultural and language barriers present some of the biggest challenges to building effective home-school partnerships. Teaching for Change’s parent empowerment initiative has a few methods for overcoming this stumbling block: providing translation services for parent meetings, recruiting multilingual parent leaders, and promoting cultural understanding through community building and professional development are among them. Read More.
September 17, 2012 – In a promising start to the 2012-2013 school year, parents at Strong John Thomson Elementary (D.C. Public Schools) convened for the first of many discussions with Principal Carmen Shepherd. Just after the start of the school day on September 7, about 30 parents—a few with toddlers or infants in tow—gathered in the large meeting room for the first Principal Coffee & Chat of the year. The hour long monthly meetings over light breakfast were… Read More.
August 29 -2012 – Anai Crespo is a mother at Thomson Elementary who embodies the outcomes we want to see in our parents. She is Mexican, speaks only Spanish, and has three children at the school in pre-K, third, and fifth grades. She was among the parents who felt marginalized by the school and administration in previous years. Last fall, however, Anai attended our story quilting sessions and emerged as one of the parents willing to do more if given a chance… Read more.
August 27, 2012 – On Wednesday, August 22, 2012, parents at Thomson Elementary School (DCPS) led teachers and administrators on a Community Walk through the neighborhood in which many of the families live. More than 60 teachers, parents, and students visited local landmarks and the buildings that many of the school’s Latino families call home. As the group from Thomson progressed through the neighborhood, other parents and kids… Read More.
August 7, 2012 – How could this training be improved? “More of it.” Role playing, strategy games, storytelling, and interviews were just some of the activities in store for D.C. Public Schools’ Community and Parent Outreach Coordinators (CPOCs) for Head Start. “Thank you!” and “I enjoyed it!” were among the comments the CPOCs shared at the end, but they were not at summer camp. They were participants in an interactive training facilitated by the Tellin’ Stories Project of Teaching for Change. Read more.
April 19, 2012 -“Tellin’ Stories activities encourage parents to voice and work proactively, often jointly with school staff, to address their concerns,” concluded Policy Studies Associates, the firm conducting the evaluation of Teaching for Change’s parent engagement initiative, in a preliminary report this spring. Teaching for Change’s Tellin’ Stories Project has been recognized by the Harvard Family Research Project as one of the most effective approaches in the country for breaking barriers to school engagement for… Read more.
April 18, 2012 – “I feel more confident because of the Tellin’ Stories meetings – I can approach the principal and the teachers… What I didn’t do when my other children were in school, I’m doing now,” says Olga Salazar, a parent from Thomson Elementary (DCPS) in Washington, DC. Using Teaching for Change’s unique approach to family engagement, Thomson has seen more parents participating this year than in recent memory. Parents volunteer in the classrooms, meet regularly with the principal to discuss academics, assist with meals, help in the library, and… Read more.
Dec. 29, 2011 – On a chilly, rainy Wednesday evening in October, more than 50 parents filled the Orr Elementary School library in Southeast Washington, D.C. to have an open dialogue with their children’s teachers about academics and expectations. The premise was simple: bring parents and teachers together to learn from each other and discuss strategies to support student learning at home and in the classroom. The event was a Grade Level Dialogue, a tool from the Tellin’ Stories Project, Teaching for Change’s nationally recognized approach to meaningful family-school engagement. Over the course of two days, nearly 100 parents attended dialogues… Read more.
“[Teaching for Change] did not just increase the numbers of parents involved – it literally changed the face of who we saw coming in the door and advocating for their children.” – Michelle Molitor, E.L. Haynes Principal
October 4, 2011 – Teaching for Change’s Tellin’ Stories Project has been recognized by the Harvard Family Research Project as one of the most effective approaches in the country for breaking barriers to school engagement for traditionally marginalized parents. Recently, Teaching for Change received grants to support a professional evaluation of the Tellin’ Stories approach from the Cafritz Foundation, the Flamboyan Foundation, and an anonymous foundation interested in bringing our approach to building parent power and family engagement to the forefront of education policy and practices. Read more and view the Tellin’ Stories documentation report.
September 30, 2011 – Teaching for Change parent organizers América Calderón and Jhonna Turner traveled to St. Louis, Missouri in September to conduct a professional development session for more than 70 teachers of English Language Learner (ELL) students. Invited by the St. Louis Regional Professional Development Center of Cooperating School Districts, Calderón and Turner presented a full day workshop titled “Beyond International Night: Taking Parent Involvement to a Higher Level” to a packed room of educators from schools throughout Missouri. Read more.