Maria Paredes, Sr. Program Associate at WestEd, talks to Sonoran Living about forming partnerships between parents and teachers.
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The average American student spends 14% of his or her time in a given year receiving direct instruction from an educator. This means the majority of our students’ time is spent with their most influential teachers: their families. Parents and other caretakers who collaborate with their students’ schools, becoming more engaged and supportive of academic success are among the biggest contributors of student achievement.

Maria Paredes, Sr. Program Associate at WestEd, created the Academic Parent-Teacher Teams program when she was working with the Creighton Elementary School District in Phoenix. She replaced traditional parent-teacher conferences with three classroom team meetings for parents and one 30-minute individual parent- teacher conference (or more if needed). At the team meetings, the teacher models activities that parents can do at home with their children. The teacher also presents academic performance data for the class and gives parents individual information about their own child’s performance compared with the other students in the class.

Paredes says that some schools are more ready than others to be supportive and encourage family engagement in education, but that parents should approach teachers and educators to learn how they can be supportive of students at home. “We need to understand what our school’s goals are for student achievement,” she says. “Through stronger collaboration and alignment between families and schools, we can get what we need to be supportive of student learning at home.”

She also believes that setting high expectations for student achievement at home is the most powerful aspect of family engagement. “Children, in spite of their family background, who receive the high expectations message at home from an early age tend to achieve at higher levels,” says Paredes.

Parents tend to have lofty aspirations for their children. Forming stronger partnerships with schools and setting high expectations at home will lead to higher student achievement, more options and opportunities for our graduates and a stronger education system for Arizona.