Photo: L.A. teacher Pam ChirichignoLos Angeles teacher Pam Chirichigno is starting a home visit program at her school to improve parent engagement.

As a former social worker, teacher Pam Chirichigno knows that much more goes into creating successful outcomes for students than what she provides in the classroom. And it starts at home.

“Studies have shown that increased parent involvement improves student achievement,” Pam says. Though she works at a high-performing magnet school in Los Angeles, Pam and her colleagues are concerned that “academic achievement in the general school has not shown adequate growth, and parental involvement is low.”

And when there is parental participation, it’s not always productive. “Our PTA has low membership, and has been known to have arguments amongst the members,” says Pam.

Parent Engagement Initiative

Teachers at the school — Buchanan Street Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Center in Highland Park — have often lamented the lack of parent involvement. The parents who have shown eagerness often aren’t sure how to get started. So Pam decided it was time for the teachers themselves to help solve the problem.

Pam started the Parent Engagement Initiative, which seeks to increase parental involvement through a variety of strategies, including:

  • Classroom events

    For instance, parents are being invited to join a schoolwide reading day, as part of the NEA’s Read Across America initiative.

  • Parent summits

    Teachers organize meetings for parents to both learn and engage with their children and the school.

  • Home visits

    Sometimes the best way to engage is by reaching out to people where they are. Classroom teachers will visit parents and families at their homes, building trust and relationships.

Before Convincing the Parents, Convince the Teachers

To get started, Pam researched different parent home visit models and met with a teacher from another LAUSD school who had implemented a similar program.

As tough as it is to get parents to participate, she knows that the plan asks a lot of her fellow teachers. It is essential to get them on board.

“I started by establishing a planning committee of teachers with like minds,” Pam says of her strategy to organize Buchanan’s teachers behind the effort. “Those teachers are approaching others in an effort to get more buy-in before we present to the entire staff.”

The key to growing the effort is being intentional about tying student achievement to ongoing parent engagement activities. “This action will live on as teachers see results,” Pam says.