Reaching out to wary parents macdonough elementary

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Reaching Out to Wary Parents Macdonough Elementary School in Middletown, Connecticut, serves 80 percent low-income students (the highest percentage in the Middletown School District). In 2008, Macdonough had high staff turnover and a reputation for being a "not-so-good" school in a run-down, working-class neighborhood. Although the school had recently improved under the leadership of principal Jon Romeo, word had not gone out beyond the immediate neighborhood. A redistricting plan to improve racial balance was poised to move one-fourth of the district's elementary students to different schools, including moving many new kids to Macdonough. Parents packed school board meetings to express concerns. Romeo realized that Macdonough had to create positive relationships with new families fast and assure them that it would provide high-quality academics. When Romeo first heard about the program to improve Title I compacts, "To be honest, I groaned," he admitted. The school's compact hadn't been revised in a while and was sitting on the shelf. But the school needed to work more closely with families to close the achievement gap between its middleclass and low-income students. Romeo realized that co-creating a compact was a way to start; so he assembled a team of teachers, curriculum specialists, and parents to take this on. Sample School-Family Compact 1st Grade Teachers Will Conduct daily small-group reading instruction. Read aloud each day to students. Provide take-home reading materials for students. Provide homework that supports topics learned at school. Take weekly trips to the school library. Keep families informed of children's reading progress and ways to support learning at home. 1st Grade Families Will Make reading a daily part of family time. Ask children questions about books they're reading. Visit the local library on a regular basis. Complete homework assignments with students. Attend family literacy events at Macdonough School. Stay in touch with teachers about reading progress. Source: Macdonough Elementary School, Middletown, Connecticut Drawing on what they learned at the 2008 Compact Conference and on help from consultant Patti Avallone, Macdonough's teachers invited families to family-friendly evening learning events, such as an author's tea, organized by grade level. Romeo confessed, "We were afraid if we mentioned compacts they'd stay away. We enticed them with a fun event featuring their children."
After each activity, teachers pulled parents into the library and asked them to share ideas on improving students' reading. Romeo talked to the group about grade-level goals, and teachers showed parents what reading instruction looked like in their child's grade. Families met in small groups, with a Macdonough staff member guiding each group's conversation. To encourage parents to open up, teachers asked, What advice would you offer next year's parents to support children's reading? Ideas poured out: Visit the library once a month, spend family time reading, write letters to

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