Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Aiding Parents to Help Their Students

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Aiding Parents to Help Their Students

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

You would think that the Duval County school system would have its hands full just trying to educate children.

But now it seems it'll be trying to educate parents, too.

Recently Nikolai Vitti, Duval's superintendent of schools, told the Times-Union that he's creating a task force to build a Parent Academy here. The main mission of the academy is to help parents navigate issues that prevent them from being involved in their children's education.

The idea is long overdue.

SUCCESS IN MIAMI

In 2009, Time magazine featured a piece about Miami's Parent Academy, where Vitti last served as chief academic officer. Among other things that academy, which has been around for eight years, offers a number of workshops that teach parents skills, such as how to help their children with schoolwork and how to handle behavioral problems.

More than 120,000 people have participated in that academy's workshops, and it is considered one of the most successful in the nation, according to Time.

Vitti said he believes many of the issues that hinder parents from being involved with their children's education have less to do with them not caring and more to do with them feeling overwhelmed or incapable.

Many struggling parents work multiple jobs that leave little time for them to help with homework. Also the structures that allow for parental participation have not quite kept up with the times.

"The PTAs do a good job of reaching out to parents who are already involved," Vitti told me. "We want to target parents whose children are working below grade level, whose children are at risk of dropping out.

"We want to go to churches, to community centers, even to Laundromats [to get parents involved]. ... We want to have sessions with flexible times, Saturday mornings, Sunday nights. .. …

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