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High-performing schools also tend to have systems in place to provide extra help for struggling learners or high-achieving students taking challenging coursework Viadero, , according to the NCEA's Just for the Kids Best Practices Studies and Institutes: Findings from 20 States.

Teachers need support in this work. Developing communities of teachers focused on student work was another practice cited by the NCEA. Successful schools accomplish goals through collaboration. The teachers in one Selma, California, high school hold "focus lesson meetings" in which educators from different disciplines meet and give feedback on one teacher's lesson plan, then try out the revision in one of their classes and give further feedback.

Others have "scoring parties" to develop common ideas about what constitutes high-quality student work. Educators must understand and respect the many different ways of being a parent and expressing concern about the education of one's children.

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For example, Gibson , reports that Punjabi immigrant parents in California believe it is the teacher's task to educate and that parents should not be involved in what goes on at school. Punjabi parents support their children's education by requiring that homework be done and ensuring that their youngsters do not "hang out" with other students but instead apply themselves to schoolwork.

Even though the parents themselves may be forced to take more than one job, they do not allow their children to work so that they have time to complete their homework. As a result, Punjabi students as a group have higher rates of graduation and college acceptance than other immigrant groups. Parental involvement is well established as being correlated with student academic achievement Epstein, Valenzuela and Dornbusch challenge "the dominant myth that academic achievement is obstructed by collective orientations. They suggested that when young people have relatives who have attended a U.

Running the Model

Also, being part of a dense social network of relatives enhances the opportunity for "multiple alternatives for academic support. Seek information about students' home cultures by asking them to interview their parents about their lives as children, the stories they remember, favorite poems, and family recipes. The results of these interviews can inform the teacher about the rich diversity in his or her classroom. The interviews also can be made into booklets and, subsequently, reading materials for the entire class to share. Parent-teacher organizations can hold meetings at times convenient for parents to attend, and they can provide translators for those who do not speak English.

A room in the school can be set aside for parents to meet and to discuss issues concerning their children's education or the school community. Teachers can visit parents in their homes, or they can use parent-teacher meetings as a time to discuss homework and discipline. Parents who are welcomed into the school in ways that are culturally appropriate for them become more accessible both as resources and as learners. Immigrant parents can learn both English as a second language ESL and survival skills for their new culture.

Parents who are bilingual may be asked to translate for those who have not yet achieved fluency in a new language. Parents who attend workshops can learn family literacy and math activities that enhance their own abilities to support their children's learning of these skills. When students see that their parents are respected by the school, there may be less of the conflict between home and school cultures that can cause a breakdown of discipline within the family.

Parents and guardians are a child's first teachers, but they are not always aware of the ways in which they mold children's language development and communication skills. Children learn their language at home; the more interaction and communication they have at home, the more children learn. Teachers can support this crucial role by sharing information about the link between home communication and children's learning. For example, teachers can act as "culture brokers" by talking with parents to emphasize the key role they play in their children's education.

Teachers can assist parents in understanding the expectations of the school and their classroom as they elicit from parents their own expectations of teachers and students.

Get engaged

Teachers also can suggest ways in which parents might converse more often with their children to prepare them for communication in the classroom. Parents may not be aware of how they support their children's academic efforts when they discuss the importance of education and take them to informal educational resources in the community. Teachers play an enormously important role in referring parents to community resources such as children's museums, art and science museums, and community-based organizations that offer homework help and arts and sports programs.

Children learn the importance of language in expressing ideas, feelings, and requests if parents or guardians respond to them and acknowledge their thoughts. Children also need guidance in learning patterns of communication that are necessary in the classroom, including how to make a request, ask a question, and respond to a question. If parents or guardians are literate in any language, they can read to their children in that language to encourage reading for pleasure and to help children begin to make the connection between oral language and reading.

Even if parents or guardians are not literate, they can use wordless books or create prose as they hold their children and "read" with them. Even the simplest evidence of caring about the importance of literacy pays huge dividends in a young person's schooling.

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Parents or guardians can take time to talk with their children about any activity they are doing together—eating a meal, for example—thereby encouraging language development. These conversations between parent and child are beneficial whether they are in the home language or in English. Parents or guardians can ask their children questions about whatever activity they are engaged in and how it relates to another activity, as well as ask how they feel about the activity or what they predict may happen next.

They are thus modeling the kinds of communication patterns that young people will use in school. At the same time, of course, simply giving children the gift of attention pays huge dividends. Programs in family literacy can help parents acquire or strengthen their own literacy skills, making them better able to assist their children's development of literacy. Other techniques, such as the use of recorded books, allow adults and children to learn reading skills together.

Children are encouraged to read when they see their parents reading and have their parents read to them. Quite simply, reading for fun encourages more reading. Their materials assist with parent involvement in schools; their website includes summaries of research on family involvement.

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For example, NNPS studies Epstein, showed that through high school, family involvement contributed to positive results for students, including higher achievement, better attendance, more course credits earned, more responsible preparation for class, and other indicators of success in school Catsambis, ; Simon, Catsambis and Beveridge analyses indicated that students in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty had lower math achievement test scores, but this effect was ameliorated by on-going parental involvement in high school.

NNPS studies at the high school level indicated that it is never too late to initiate programs of family and community involvement, as the benefits accrue through grade Similarly, Sheldon and Epstein b found that when teachers involve families in subject-specific interventions in reading and related language arts, "students' reading skills and scores are positively affected" cited in Epstein, , p.

Moreover, NNPS studies found "significant results of subject-specific family involvement [in homework] for students' science report card grades and homework completion" cited in Epstein, , p. Students' self-esteem and motivation are enhanced when teachers elicit their experiences in classroom discussions and validate what they have to say.

Facing the Achievement Gap

Young people become more engaged in lessons when they are brought into the initial dialogue by being asked what they know about the topic and what they want to know. If their questions are written down and used to form a guide for inquiry into the topic, students are far more likely to be interested in doing further research than if the questions simply come out of a text.

The teacher also obtains a better understanding of students' previous knowledge about a subject—a pre-assessment, as it were—that can guide the planning of the subsequent lesson. One way in which teachers can ensure recognition of students' contributions is to use "semantic webbing. For example, the teacher or one of the students might put the topic "culture" in a center circle on the chalkboard. Then, the recorder notes students' associations in circles around the center circle.

As a next step, the class can discuss and connect with lines all the related aspects of "culture," making a web of relationships on the board. This work can be expanded by categorizing the subtopics. The teacher also can ask students what they want to know about the topic at hand. Students' questions, recorded for later use, can serve as guides for research. Students are more likely to be interested in researching a topic when they begin with their own real questions. Those real questions lead them on an ever-widening path of investigation.

Implementing this strategy can be as simple as asking children to voice their questions about a given topic at the beginning of a lesson. After gathering student questions, the teacher can ask whether any student already has information about the topic. Before drawing on books and other resources, the students themselves can be resources by using their own knowledge and prior experiences. Students' self-esteem is strengthened when they see and read about the contributions made by their own racial or ethnic groups to the history and culture of the United States.

Whenever possible, teachers adapt the curriculum to focus lessons on topics that are meaningful to students. This kind of focus allows students to practice language, thinking, reading, and writing skills in real, meaningful, and interactive situations.

Students also come to realize that teachers value and appreciate each child's culture and language. Teachers can select texts or, if necessary, supplementary materials such as children's literature written by a variety of authors that incorporate the perspectives, voices, historical events, poetry, artwork, journals, and illustrations of the range of racial and ethnic groups that make up U.


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Teachers can ask students to interview their parents about their history, including their culture, poetry, music, recipes, novels, and heroes. The student can videotape, audiotape, or write the interview and share it with the rest of the class. In interviews conducted by the Latino Commission Rodriguez, , high school students observed that they feel left out when the curriculum of the school contains nothing that relates to their own culture.

Conversely, they feel that both they and their culture are valued when their culture is included in the curriculum. For younger students, children's books about young people in their own cultural context can provide avenues for discussion and comparison of the similarities and differences between the culture of their parents and that of the school or community in which they now live.