BY CHRIS TAYLOR, First-Year Communications Intern
The Education Architecture developed by Duke University’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs (DARA) seeks to support Durham Public Schools and its newly launched strategic plan. One critical component is to help the district develop new models for engaging parents.
DARA has been pleased to support one such effort at Forest View Elementary, a Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership school where staff are introducing a parent focus to an already existing afterschool program for African American male students.
“We always meant there to be parental involvement,” said Linda Foreman, Research Triangle Schools Partnership Coordinator for Forest View. “But we realized it would take some sort of targeted support.”
With funding from the Office of Durham and Regional Affairs and a 21st Century Learning Center grant, Forest View was able to act on the results of surveys in which parents were asked what kind of programming or workshops would compel them to participate in the afterschool program, along with their children.
Forest View Assistant Principal Ronnie Winston said most parents wanted an opportunity to earn their G.E.D. So Forest View partnered with Durham Technical Community College and with the Durham Cooperative Extension Service to offer an array of online and in-person classes, all of which could be taken from Forest View.
Over the past two years, the Forest View Extended Day program has offered African American students the opportunity to reinforce and expand background knowledge. Drawing from DPS curricula, the program already has brought all 25 participating students up to or above grade level.
Winston said the program, which currently serves kindergarten and first-grade students, will continue to build until it serves all African American male students from kindergarten to grade 5. And by allowing parents to work toward their G.E.D. or other skills as their children make their way through the Extended Day, Forest View staff hope that parents will become more connected to the success of their children.
Forest View is looking to expand the Extended Day program to serve Latino students and families, as well. The school hopes to offer English as a Second Language classes to both parents and students, and staff hope that by working directly with parents, they will build a trusting relationship that increases families’ willingness to remain with the program.
Winston said staff are working to address the biggest challenges of parent education programs, such as transportation, childcare, and the transience of families. While these obstacles exist in every program of this nature, Winston said he hopes “to keep every obstacle out of the way.”
“If we can change ten families, ten parents who when their child graduates, they graduate, then we have achieved our goal.”