Active parents make a teacher’s job much easier. They check up on homework assignments, help with discipline and guarantee that education is valued.
But what happens to the kid whose parents aren’t active? Is she doomed to failure?
No. And neither are the other kids who come to school carrying heavy loads of family baggage.
For evidence, look no further than this week’s National Public Radio series on turning around failing schools. Today’s story about Annapolis High School in Maryland, for instance, shows that it’s possible to make a difference in the face of great odds. The educators at Annapolis employed some strategies that Teaching Tolerance has advocated in its Teaching Diverse Students Initiative (TDSi).
Annapolis was a failing school with two tracks. In one track, middle class white students studied and graduated. In the other, poor students of color struggled, failed and dropped out.
Under a new principal—and with funding to back massive reforms—Annapolis changed its school climate and academic culture. Educators agreed to a 12-month school schedule, ran intensive remedial tutoring sessions and met weekly in professional learning communities focused on identifying what each student needed.
The single most important change, according to the story, was sending teachers out “to knock on doors” and meet students’ families. Knowing the students outside the classroom—building real relationships—helped educators develop plans that were relevant and effective.
These educators stopped focusing on what students lacked. Instead, they focused on the unique strengths that students and their families brought to the process.
Annapolis High School is a good news/bad news story. The good news is that AP and honors enrollment are up, and more students are staying in school and graduating. The bad news is that the additional funding runs out this year. Next September, Annapolis returns to a nine-month schedule.