Parents as Tutors
Building families’ capacity to impact student achievement

             Parents as Tutors initiative is based on the belief that family engagement programs should be integrated in school districts’ goal for increasing student achievement, and in so doing, stakeholders’ capacity to do so must be developed. Requiring parents to be fully vested begins with empowering them to impact change, as such, the dialogue between teachers and parents surrounding student achievement needs to change from a discussion only on children’s academic shortcomings, to including; here is what you can do in our joint effort to raise your child’s academic level.

            Too many parents walk away from parent/teacher conferences feeling despondent because they do not know the strategies needed to help their academic strugglers. Many parents turn to outside tutoring services, while some are unable to afford those services. Informing parents of children’s academic shortfalls without simultaneously providing solutions will negatively impact the trust and relationship between families and the school system. It is great that school systems have structures in place for parents to monitor their children’s progress, but where is the tool to build their capacity for addressing deficits? It is our duty to build the capacity of those we invite to join us in the pursuit to raise student achievement, and it is our duty to build teacher capacity to collaborate with stakeholders in this quest. This speaks to the fact that the ability to engage with stakeholders is a part of teachers’ evaluation system, and teachers’ capacity to engage must be developed, enriched, and aligned with student achievement.

Alignment with Dual-Capacity Framework

The research-based dual capacity framework espouses that educators and family engagement partnerships can be impacted by challenges such as lack of opportunities for families to build the capacity for partnerships, and lack of opportunities for educators to do likewise. The Parents as Tutors program bridges this gap by providing parents with the tools, knowledge and skills needed to assist their children who struggle with reading. Reading is our main focus because without the ability to read and comprehend, students are unable to address math word problems. Being able to read is the fundamental skill that stakeholders need to jointly address. In addition, the nation’s report card, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), clearly shows that Reading is in dire need.

In keeping with the organizational and process conditions outlined by the dual-capacity framework, the Parent as Tutors program is integrated and sustained in a school district’s systemic goal of improving student achievement, core readiness, and school turnaround. Our program is designed to help low-performing schools target student achievement through building family capacities around the core components of the process conditions. This means that family capacity-building activities are linked to learning, and “connect families to teaching and learning goals for students.” Parents as Tutors guides parents as they use strategies for helping children learn to read and read to learn. Parents are taught the strategies needed to develop children’s decoding skills through phonics and phonemic awareness, help them understand differences between informational and narrative texts, vocabulary and grammar associated with comprehension, writing for comprehension, and deepening reading comprehension skills.

Through the Parents as Tutors program, the dual-capacity process condition of interactivity is met when participants are given opportunities to test out and apply new skills. The complete set of materials are embedded with activities and items, which teachers and parent liaisons can use to coach parents and demonstrate strategies that parents should use to address students’ reading deficits and increase reading levels. This collaboration helps to build trust and increases dialogue, because instead of merely telling families that their children need help, there is now a joint effort to ensure that parents know what they should do to assist in the intervention process. The dialogue between families and teacher increases as they can discuss implementation around the resources and tools being used.

When parents are armed with tools provided by the same entity that is telling them that a problem exists, trust and relationship-building begins. This leads to the developmental component of the dual capacity framework that advocates building the intellectual, social, and human capacities of stakeholders. Because the Parents as Tutors program provides the resources centering around strategies that stakeholders need in order to contribute to the academic achievement change, the dual capacity process component is addressed in that stakeholders are empowered and enabled to be confident, active, knowledgeable, and informed in the transformation of their schools and ultimately their neighborhoods.

Finally, when Parents as Tutors resources are used to build parent capacity, it can be done in the collaborative and collective environment that the dual-capacity framework speaks to. Parent workshops can be held as they collectively collaborate around using the activities and strategies outlined in these resources. Schools are able to build that learning community and learning network that is so vital to raising student achievement.

Program Description
The program addresses phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension. It is comprised of a complete set of parental guides and workbooks, and is available in both English and Spanish to help schools with a high percentage of parents of English Language Learners. The program aligns with existing reading curriculums and in some cases is used as a turnkey intervention program. The full set consists of the following books.

Items Description

Reading Foundation Parent Guide

Includes strategies and skills parents need to address differences between consonants, vowels, uppercase and lowercase letters; and guided letter-writing activities. Phonics and Phonemic Awareness.
Reading Foundation Workbook Independent practice activities associated with the parent guide.

Blending and Segmenting Parent Guide

Includes strategies for building decoding skills, recognizing word parts, blends, digraphs, vowel patterns, etc.
Blending and Segmenting Workbook Independent practice associated with blending and segmenting.
Understanding Words Strategies for helping children understand the rigors of grammar and building vocabulary.
Comprehension Intervention Includes strategies for building comprehension skills, and correcting reading comprehension deficits.

Complementary Resources

Includes additional activities associated with phonics, phonemic awareness, reading fluency, vocabulary/grammar, and comprehension.

Turnkey Guide

A guide used to outline a 4-9 week intervention program utilizing the complete set of books; from phonics to comprehension.

Option 1
Targeted Intervention
After examining disaggregated data, a school may choose to build the capacity of a targeted population. Data may reveal that the need exist more so with one population than another, and as part of addressing the deficits, the school may target parents of the targeted population to use the Parents as Tutors material for building capacity.  Parents would be armed with the tools and resources, and then jointly work with teachers in raising student achievement for the targeted population.

Option 2
Targeted School – District’s Systemic Initiative
A school district may choose to target low performing schools and as part of the turnaround process, increase family engagement. In this case, all hands are on deck as parent liaisons, teachers, and specialists coach parents in using the Parents as Tutors resources to assist their children. While parents are given the tools and resources to support learning and help correct deficits, they must meet with teachers and specialist to monitor students’ progress, and focus on implementation and next steps.

Option 3
PTO/PTA Family Engagement Resources
As stakeholders, parent teachers associations or organizations are vested in family and community engagement. They can fund resource centers in schools where parents can freely access the Parent as Tutors resources for building capacity to help their children learn to read and/or read to learn.

Option 4
Sustaining Family Engagement
Some schools may not be regarded as low performing, but they attribute the school’s success to its engaged parents. Schools such as these should not take high level of parental engagement for granted, believing that these parents do not need capacity building support. These schools should adopt a ‘continuous improvement’ stance to ensure that families’ capacity to impact student achievement is sustained. Parents as Tutors tools and resources have been instrumental in meeting such goals.

Dr. Andrea Thompson, co-founder of Parents as Tutors, is an education consultant dedicated to assisting school districts support parents who want to help their children academically. She has worked in the K-12 school system for more than thirty years, and has been an instructional specialist, instructional coach, classroom teacher, teacher mentor, media specialist, and education consultant. In addition, she is an Educational Leadership and Research Methods professor in higher education. Dr. Thompson has devoted many hours to training and supporting parents whose children are speakers of a second language, parents who simply were unable to fund tutoring services, parents who desired to prepare their children for kindergarten, and parents who needed the skills to ensure that their children would be able to pass reading standardized tests.