A lot of parents are very busy. Sometimes they’re too busy to really be involved in their children’s education. I’m pretty sure my dad has only met about a handful of my high school teachers and only remembers the ones I constantly complained about. And he just has one job. What about the parents that work two or three jobs to support their family? How can they get involved in their children’s education when it’s hard just to spend time with them at home? One school decided to bring the teachers to the homes.
The Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science (A.M.S.) has a program where they visit future students at their homes in South Bronx a month before classes start in the fall. A group of about 3 or 4 teachers set up appointments with their future students. They bring the students their uniforms so that the students can practice putting them on and feel pride at being part of A.M.S.—what it represents and where wearing the uniform will lead them. They also answer any questions that the parents may have. “Is it safe to walk from the school to the bus stop after dark?” one mother asked. Other parents echo the question, along with some others: “Is there an after-school program?” (Yes, until 4:30 p.m.) “Does the school serve breakfast?” (Yes, at 7:50 a.m.) “Is there a football team?” (No, but there is soccer). And they have the students sign a learning agreement as a sign of their commitment to the school and their education. They also require future students to read part of the agreement out loud in their homes to their parents and future teachers:
I will be respectful to everyone.
I will ask for help when I need it and offer help to others.
I will wear our school uniform every day.
If they don’t find the family right away, they keep trying to locate them. I can’t think of many schools that “hunt” down families for appointments about their child’s education. It speaks to a type of dedication that you don’t generally see these days. And the teachers actually keep the parents updated throughout the year! They schedule more appointments throughout the year with the parents to discuss the student’s progress. Principal Ken Baum believes it’s critical for families to be involved in education. To Mr. Baum, these early visits are a key factor in a statistic he likes to cite: 63 of the 72 seniors in A.M.S.‘s first graduating class last spring received Regents diplomas, and 50 of them are headed to four-year colleges, including Cornell, Boston University, Mount Holyoke, and campuses all across the State University of New York system. The parents themselves are ecstatic about the visits. One mom kept saying, “No one has ever done that to us before.”