On Anderson Cooper’s CNN program, “AC360,” last week I saw a segment regarding the Philadelphia School System’s “Parent University,” the brainchild of Superintendent Dr. Arlene C. Ackerman.

The Philadelphia School District’s own description of this initiative reads: “Parent University, a program started under Dr. Ackerman’s directive shortly after her arrival in Philadelphia, is an innovative approach to assisting parents in supporting their children’s academic progress. The nationally recognized program provides opportunities for parents to collaborate with schools and the District in order to fully participate in their children’s education. Participating parents are provided the opportunity to attend day and evening classes and workshops on family and financial literacy, health/wellness and cultural enrichment, information on District and community resources, multi-lingual programs and professional certifications and college degree attainment. To date, the program has served over 22,000 parents, with classes offered at 50 sites throughout the city.”

More than a dozen years ago, a similar program (“Family Technology Resource Centers”) was started in the DeKalb County (Georgia) school system, under the direction of Dr. Edward Bouie, Jr. These centers were, and are today, open to entire extended families, including the children. DeKalb’s results have proven equally successful.

“Social, economic, and political changes are rapidly moving America to a land composed of those who have achieved all that the society has to offer and those who are unable to break free from the chains of poverty that have, in many instances, trapped their families for generations,” Dr. Bouie says.

The DeKalb FTRCs are attempting to address all of the issues that Dr. Bouie discussed in his initial concept paper. They are doing so — successfully — through a realization of three basic precepts:

• What parents do to help their children learn matters more to their children’s accomplishment than family income or education.
• What schools do to encourage parents to participate in their children’s education matters more to student achievement than family income or education.
• What community groups — including employers, religious organizations, and service agencies — do to support families and schools can make an important contribution to overall community effectiveness.

The Philadelphia and DeKalb County schools are just two of the very best examples in our country. Involving parents and children, together, in the education process is a win/win for everyone. Both school systems must be applauded!

More on Tuesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning