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The purpose of the critical analysis is to make discuss the importance of school leader's role such as superintendent, principal, school/parent liaison, in community relationships. A major factor in the understanding of the leader's role is an ability to come to terms with his or her philosophies, beliefs, and values associated with school and community relationships. In other words, they have to "know thyself" before they will be able to build the relationships necessary for successful school and community relationships. (Coleman 2007)
How should school administrators and community leaders think about the school and community involvement? If they have not taken the time to grasp what they believe and what their goal is for their school, then it will be difficult ever knowing the path they should take to get there. This is true of leadership for parent and community involvement, as well. It is evident that there is a low parent involvement between Inkster High School and the community. Community leaders and school administrators must build a stronger relationship and work closely with each other to meet educational goals. A stronger relationship between the school administrators and community leaders could provide tremendous support for students, families and staff when they are an integral part of the school and community. There are varieties of activities in which administrators and community leaders can become involved to build and improve school-community relations.
II. School Mission Statement
First, the schools' mission statement needs revising because it does not reflect anything to about community relations. It simply states, "The staff of Inkster High School is committed to ensuring a 90% academic success rate for all students in a culturally relevant, clean, and safe learning environment."
Inkster High School has a total enrollment of 1,262 students, which consists of 637males, and 625 females. The majority of the student population is African American totaling 1,249. Nonetheless, the population remains diverse in that 254 students receive special educational services.
The majority of the students reside in other cities surrounding Inkster and Detroit. The overwhelming and unique reversal of the student population via schools of choice law has yielded 70% of students. The remaining students are Inkster residents.
The student enrollment has increased over the past four years because the school district and board of education members voted to make Inkster High School a "school of choice.' This school district is among the few districts in the State of Michigan to increase enrollment over the past four years consistently, they experience other challenges relevant to the population of students. After analyzing and interpreting the demographic data, the critical demographic challenge areas were special education population, parental involvement, economically disadvantaged students, and student mobility challenges.
The newly appointed Principal is not pleased with level of parent participation at the school. The observation of the problem is the parent participation and involvement in school activities are low, and not at a desirable level. The Principal want parents to be involved in schools activities as part of a contract for their students enrolling at the school. The staff suggested that parents are more receptive to attend school activities when they are contacted personally. It was suggested that the school should help the parents to utilize the technology such as Zangle and the Honeywell Instant Alert system. Additionally, use the Attendance Clerk to communicate with parents to improve communication between the home and school. The use of incentives was suggested to motivate parental participation.
IV. Analysis of Parental Involvement
a. Parent Perceptions:
A limited number of parents were administered a survey to complete during the 2008 2009 school year. The survey was designed to analyze parents input in the school improvement planning process as well as facilitates the understanding of challenges to parental involvement.
The results of the survey indicated the following:
- 20% of the parents attended three parent/teacher conferences.
- 20% of the parents attended two parent/teacher conferences.
- 10 % of the parents attended one parent/teacher conference.
- 50% percent of the parents did not attend any conferences.
- 50% of the parents resided in Inkster.
- 50% of the parents resided outside of the City of Inkster.
- 70% of the parents do not use Zangle Parent Connect.
- 30% of the parents used Parent Connect.
- 80% of the parents are pleased with the School Improvement Plan (SIP).
- 10% of the parents have not seen the SIP.
- 10% of the parents do not know whether they were pleased with the SIP.
- 40% of the parents would increase their parental involvement if the school increase and diversify the parent meetings times
- 20% of the parents were involved parent meetings.
- 10% of the parents would increase their parental involvement if the school moved the parent meetings closer to Detroit
- 10% of the parents would increase their parental involvement if the school would improve it communication issues by answering the phone.
- 10 % of the parents indicated that they do not know what the school could do to increase its parental involvement.
- None of the parents was satisfied with the current process of what the school is currently doing to increase parental involvement.
b. Parent Participation
The Inkster School District welcomes and encourages parent participation in their child's educational process. Parental Involvement is one of the most important factors of a child's success in school. Therefore, it is important for parents and teachers, along with each individual child, to discuss student progress information on a regular basis. There have been many opportunities for parent contacts and participation, which included open houses, parent meetings, parent workshops, special programs, telephone conversations, personal conferences, parent-teacher conferences, building level parent advisory committees, parent surveys, interactive web based information and district level committees. These opportunities were initiated in order for parents to have input and interaction with teachers and school personnel for the past two years.
c. District / Two-Year Parent Contact / Participation Data:
The district leaders understand that improvements must occur relative to school-wide parental involvement initiatives. In the 2008-2009 school year, 83 parents attended parent/teacher conferences according to the limited formal data collected although it is believed that many parents attended informally (inconsistency with sign-in procedures).
In an effort to enhance parental involvement, alternative times and locations for parent teacher conferences were discussed as a means to increase participation. One and two-way communication were established with parents by sending mailers with pertinent information as well as providing email addresses for return contact. Additionally, parents have access to the district website and can contact teachers and staff members via phone and e-mail. The Honeywell Instant Alert system notifies parents in the event of an emergency or any other school organizational occurrences including points of pride. Parents also remain informed of meeting dates and times and overall school events by way of marquees, which are updated daily.
Parents received training for the Zangle system as well as a Honeywell Instant Alert update in our parent meetings. Through the Parent Connect feature of Zangle, parents can access grades, attendance and other academic related information about their children 24 hours a day. Committed to improving the relationship with parents, the district even implemented a Parent/Attendance Center. This center houses a full-time attendance secretary who sends correspondences regarding attendance, suspensions, and other disciplinary related concerns as well as the preparation of mailings, etc for parents. These measures are taken in the spirit of transparency to recognize the urgent need to maximize efforts to connect with our parent population.
According to Marzano, "parent and community involvement is critical to the success of schools today. No longer can the schoolwork in isolation. The diversity of the student population and the challenges that are present for today's educators are creating an environment that is reliant upon parent and community involvement." (Marzano 2003)
V. Strategies to Increase Parental Involvement
The school district is moving toward methods of getting parents more involved in non-athletic events. It is looking forward to launching Parents as Partners program, which will be student focused and parent driven. This program will include, a newsletter written by the parent organization as well as an advisory board who will have increased input with decision-making.
The strategies to increase parental involvement were based on the CNA results and data collected through surveys. The data shows low attendance at parent conferences and monthly parent meetings, as well as low participation on other school committees and organizations. The data also shows the parental involvement rate is approximately 10% or less. The leadership team has defined "low" as anything below 50% of parental involvement and attendance.
During the 2008/2009 school year, the call was made to all parents to become an active member of the Parent Advisory Committee, which is a parent organizational committee developed by parents and supported by the high school administration. This advisory committee has been in existence at Inkster High School for several years.
Inkster High School is continuously using strategies to transform and restructure the learning community; strategies include mailers, phone calls, and personal invitations, as well as alternative meeting dates and times for parent meetings. The school leaders have had consistent support and involvement from parents throughout the school improvement process. Parents were involved in the design, implementation and evaluation of the schools' strategies.
To ensure that parents had a voice and active involvement in identifying parental involvement strategies, the school included parental representation on its school Leadership Team. Working collaboratively, the school was able to revise the school level Parent Involvement Policy and the School Parent Compact. The current Parent Involvement Policy meets the NCLB requirements of Section 1118 and the plan is part of the school-wide plan along with the School-Parent Compact.
The school-wide plan was developed from the collaborative efforts of parental and community representation and Inkster High School staff members. The Parental Involvement Policy as well as the School-Parent Compact addresses all parents, students, and teachers, and explains the partnership that is necessary between home and school to yield improved student achievement.
Monthly parent meetings, board of Education meetings, parent-teacher conferences, semi-monthly correspondence, and newsletters are used as conduits to assist parents in understanding Michigan Content Standards and Assessments, as well as to provide material and training that empowers parents to work with their children.
To disseminate information in a format and language that parents can easily understand, Inkster High School provides informational mailings, a district website (which includes a link to an on-line version of the student handbook), a High School Marquee, and the Honeywell Alert Calling System).
Zangle Parent and Student Connect, Progress Reports, Report Cards, and Early Intervention Notices are working mechanism provided to assist parents with monitoring their child's progress around the clock and throughout the school year. Professional development days are provided to train the Inkster High School staff on research-based strategies that help build effective parental involvement.
Active partnerships such as Wayne County Community College-Dearborn, University of Michigan- Ann Arbor and Dearborn, Eastern Michigan University, Wayne County RESA, and 21st Century After-School Program allows the school district to collaborate with organizations to coordinate parental involvement activities as well as provide other reasonable support for parental involvement at the request of the parents. The revised school level Parent Involvement Policy applies to the entire school population and its parents. The low-achieving students-parent population has the support of extended learning programs, health and welfare programs, and stakeholders to provide ongoing support for students as well as to provide training for parents. The dual enrollment-parent populations receive scholarship and financial aid workshops and invitational college visits, as well as other resources. Pre and post surveys and parent emails will be used to evaluate the parent component of the school-wide plan. Results from surveys, emails, and other perceptual data on parental involvement will be used to guide the necessary revisions and improvements to the school-wide program.
The analysis of parental involvement and strategies to increase parental involvement are the utmost importance to the enhancement of school/community relations. One can see that parent and community involvement is a characteristic of schools that are having success. School leaders must realize this fact and become experts at communicating and encouraging participation of all stakeholders in the school community. Leaders must come to an understanding and realization of their personal and professional philosophies of leadership, communication, participation, and governance of the school system. Being a reflective practitioner is one way to help leaders grow both personally and professionally to meet the goals, values and objectives that they set for themselves and their schools.
- Coleman, J., (2007). "Know Thyself" The Importance of Self-Analysis for the School/Community Leader"
- Marzano, R. J. (2003). "What works in schools: Translating Research into Action." Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Inkster Public Schools Public Act 25 Annual Report June 2008