Florida Schools: Parent Academy Sends Parents Back to School

Florida Schools: Parent Academy Sends Parents Back to School
Not just kids need schooling. Learn about the Parent Academy offered through Miami-Dade County Public Schools, where parents go back to school.

Parents are an integral part of their children’s education, but many parents aren’t sure how to go about helping their kids become successful in school. Miami-Dade Public Schools are committed to equipping parents to help their children become successful, productive students. The Parent Academy features a wealth of learning and resources designed just for parents of school-aged children.

What is the Parent Academy?

The Parent Academy is a unique service offered by Miami-Dade Public Schools, although similar types of services are offered at other large school districts around the country. The “academy” actually consists of a network of courses for adults on child development and education, discipline and even nutrition. There are also numerous resources available through the Parent Academy website, including services for low income families and additional educational opportunities for parents.

According to Neighbors 4 Neighbors, the Parent Academy has a number of goals for bringing parents into the education equation, including:

  • Strengthening families through ongoing, relevant education
  • Helping parents to become more active in their children’s education
  • Support both education and the community at large
  • Promote advocacy for stronger public education

To meet those goals, the academy strives to provide a wide range of offerings for parents, most of which are free of charge. The organization is currently supported by a long list of corporate sponsors and depends on additional donations from the community to continue its work.

The Parent Academy in Miami-Dade is particularly relevant because of the demographics of the population in the district. Many of the families with children in the school system are unfamiliar with how schools in the United States operate. They may not speak English as a first language, which can make communication with teachers and administrators challenging. In addition, the Harvard Graduate School of Education reports that in some Latino communities, parental engagement with the teacher may be seen as disrespectful. This cultural difference may hinder parents’ willingness to make their presence known in the classroom.

However, the issues of engagement are not limited to the Latino community. Some parents may have simply never finished school themselves. Perhaps they struggled in school, and their negative attitudes about the experience are now influencing their children’s perception of the classroom. All of these factors can hinder a parent’s ability to get involved in their child’s school, which can in turn affect how successful that child is in the academic setting.

Starting Early

The Parent Academy doesn’t wait until children begin school to get parents on the right track. Time reports that in Miami-Dade County, every parent of a newborn baby receives a welcome pack in the hospital that includes a letter from the Parent Academy. The letter reads, “Keep in mind that you are, and will always be, your child’s first and most important teacher.” The letter also lets new parents know that the Parent Academy is ready and able to help them launch their child’s academic career, with plenty of free resources at their disposal.

By helping parents right from the beginning, the Parent Academy hopes to engage parents more effectively so they become involved in their children’s education from that very first day of school. The organization has plenty of research to back up their efforts. Studies have shown the parental involvement has a direct impact on the success of children in school.

“I’ve been doing research on family engagement for about 16 years now,” Karen Mapp, director of the Education Policy and Management Program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, told Time. “There’s 40 years of research that indicates a pretty positive relationship between families being engaged in their children’s education and positive effects of students in terms of their academic achievement.”

What the Parent Academy Offers

The Parent Academy offers a wide range of classes for parents and members of the community. Classes are broken down into categories like Health and Wellness, Help Your Child Learn and Parenting Skills. Online workshops are also available through the academy. Workshops might include topics like, “The Home-School Connection” or “Parenting in the New Millennium.” In addition, both classes and workshops provide information on nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices, since these can be key factors to academic success, especially among low-income families.

In addition to general topics on health, education and parenting, the Parent Academy offers specific classes in topics that might be of particular interest to some parents. These might include topics like drug prevention, attention deficit disorder and emergency preparation. There are also classes designed to equip parents to help students with their homework load, teaching reading, math and writing skills to parents that they can impart to their students. For struggling parents, there is also help available for them, with personal development classes in citizenship, GED attainment and financial management.

How the Academy Works

Parents are allowed to take as many classes from the Parent Academy as they like. The courses are also open to members of the community, although parents of children in Miami-Dade schools receive priority in registration. Registration for the classes is handled directly by the Parent Academy website, although additional information and contact information for the academy may also be found at individual school websites. While classes are primarily designed for adults, the academy also offers family learning opportunities throughout the year that are appropriate for the entire family.

Helping parents engage in their children’s school is a trend that is slowly sweeping the country. As more research is reported about the benefits of parental engagement, it is likely public schools will see more support networks like the Parent Academy in the future.

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