Schools can sometimes be daunting places for parents to go, especially if their own experience with school has not been positive, or if there are barriers, including language and culture, that push parents away.
Austin Voices helps schools reduce those barriers, turning schools from “fortress schools” to “community schools” that are welcoming and supportive of meaningful parent involvement.
We have three strategies:
- Reduce barriers for parents
- Improve school climate, culture and communication
- Empower parents to become advocates for their children’s education
1. Reducing Barriers
AVEY’s network of 6 Family Resource Centers, serving north and northeast Austin, helps families deal with issues at home that affect the academic, social and emotional success of their children. The FRCs are a “one-stop shop” for families facing the challenges of poverty, offering them employment, housing, health, counseling and basic needs assistance, with the goal of family stability and success. AVEY’s FRCs have helped campuses improve attendance and academic performance by helping students focus on learning at school rather than needs at home.
Each FRC also has an Adult Academy, offering courses such as ESL, GED, Computer Literacy, and Financial Literacy during the day and evening hours convenient to families.
2. Improve school climate, culture and communication
AVEY brings parents, teachers, administration, staff, students and community together to craft practical and detailed school improvement plans, which include moving the school towards being an inviting and welcoming hub for parents and community. Strategies may include improving the welcome in the front office, mailing out a monthly calendar to families, making sure that school meetings occur at times convenient to parents, developing a cadre of “parent ambassadors,” and offering food and childcare at school functions. Teachers, especially if they are new, may need to be connected to the local community to improve understanding of parents.
3. Empower parents to become advocates for their children’s education
AVEY believes that schools need to go beyond just informing parents about their children’s education. Schools need to become places where parents are invited to become ADVOCATES for learning, deeply involved in the success of children. AVEY’s “Right Question Project” develops parent leaders who are able to support, monitor and advocate for their child effectively. AVEY also helps schools increase their capacity for shared leadership, providing parents with meaningful opportunities for volunteering and involvement. At the local and statewide level, AVEY also involves parents as public education advocates through its Save Texas Schools project.
For more information about how you can get involved with Austin Voices as a parent, contact Julie Weeks at firstname.lastname@example.org.