The relationship between teachers and parents should be strong. That's why I have introduced HB 235, a bill that creates the Family School Partnership Pilot Program in eligible elementary schools. This program establishes a plan where teachers make visits to willing families in their homes to build relationships and better understand the various roadblocks that might stand in the way of student progress. All participation in the program is voluntary, from the school to the teacher to the family, and similar programs have shown very positive results.
Many years ago, the schoolteacher was an integral part of the community. Relationships were forged both inside and outside the classroom, and there was a closeness felt between students and teachers that is often missing today.
Our cities have grown, and many schools have students from immigrant or refugee families. The parents in these families have never experienced the American school system, and some may not even have had the opportunity to receive an education in their native land. Now, as they arrive in the United States and attempt to integrate into a new society, it is important that they know how to interact with their children’s teachers and schools.
This program eases the process as they work to overcome the cultural and language barriers that often exist and have sometimes led to the misconception that some parents don’t care about their children or their educational success. Sometimes they just don’t know how to provide what their children may need. As they build a relationship with teachers, parents are able to learn how to interface with the school and how to prepare their children for, and assist them with, the challenges of their new experience. The parent-teacher relationship is strengthened and so, in turn, is the community, with caring individuals around the child.
Some have raised concerns about government intrusion in the privacy of the home. I don’t see how allowing a caring teacher who chooses to participate to visit with a willing family away from the school environment to better meet the needs of the child is an intrusion. This is community building.
This program has proved effective where it has been implemented. In the 2016-2017 school year, 23 state turnaround schools chose to participate in home visits. Over 750 teachers were trained and 4,600 visits were completed.
The feedback was tremendous. We have been told that when these relationships are established, parents are less defensive and more willing to discuss issues that need to be addressed. Some schools have even received phone calls requesting visits from families who have heard positive feedback from neighbors. Parents have expressed that the home visits have helped them set goals with their children and better encourage them in their school activities.
Unfortunately, the state was unable to provide funding for the 2017-2018 school year. We must make sure that teachers and schools have the resources they need to continue to successfully work within the community to build relationships that benefit students and their families and lead to greater educational success.
Whether this bill passes, and whether it is funded by the state, I will continue to advocate for facilitating better interaction between parents and teachers and appropriately compensating teachers for the additional time these types of programs require. I encourage Utahns to contact their state legislators and State Board of Education representatives to encourage their support and financing of this program.