Lessons for Chicago locals on power of parents in schools

Monday, December 9, 2013

On their first day of training, one mother after another paused in the classroom doorway, unsure where to sit or whether signing up for this highly regarded parent program was a good idea after all.

Trainer Monica Soto-Espinoza had anticipated their doubts. Six years ago, she was just like many of them — a mother with limited English skills who’d come to the U.S. as a teenager and never finished high school.

What, she wondered, could she possibly offer her child’s school? With humor and enthusiasm, Soto-Espinoza, now 35 and fluent in English, told them why she didn’t quit on her first day — which is really the story of how a Chicago community group, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, has built one of the strongest parent-school partnerships in the nation.

A lot of research backs the notion that parents play an important role in the academic success of their children, and their children’s schools. While too much parent involvement can cause problems, as happens in some high-income schools, many other schools struggle to foster any ties with most of their families — especially in the growing numbers of neighborhoods where teachers and students don’t share a language, a culture or a ZIP code.

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