Getting to a 98 percent passing rate

Guest post by DOE Director of Faith and Community Outreach Joyce Hobson

You always hear a lot about how parents should be involved with their children’s education, but how do you measure the effectiveness of involvement?

Tired of sitting in formal, tense parent-teacher conferences, Ms. Donna Harla of Landmark Middle School in Duval County has figured out one way.

Through the Parent Collaboration Program she created, teachers designate 30 minutes every Friday for parents to stop by the classroom. The initiative avoids lengthy scheduling processes between parents, teachers and administrators and increases parents’ access to their child’s education, which allows relationships to build.

Since the initiation of the program in 2008, she has seen a 98 percent passing rate amongst her students.

This is just one of the many efforts going on around the state to increase the communication between parents and teachers. It is the little things – knowing what is going on at the schools, talking about homework policies and lesson plans, meeting other students and teachers in the school, becoming a familiar face – that break down communication barriers.

Does your student’s school have any parental involvement programs? Do you volunteer in your child’s class or attend events? How do you show your support for your student? Please feel free to share!

You can “count” on it – even at home!

Guest post by Teresa Sweet, Curriculum & Instruction bureau chief

Math teacher Stephanie Thetford of Fort Walton Beach High School knows that her students can be successful when they have a rigorous curriculum, confidence in their skills and strong family support. These were just a few of the many reasons she was selected as a finalist for the Department of Education/Macy’s Teacher of the Year award. She has recognized that having success in math serves as a gateway to a career in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math), which are some of the most in-demand, high-paying careers around. And she takes every opportunity to encourage her students to dream big when it comes to finding the right career path. 

Fostering a love for math and encouraging early childhood development are two areas where teachers like Ms. Thetford excel. She is a proud champion of instilling necessary math skills to all of her students and takes every opportunity to foster a deep passion for the sometimes difficult subject. To help families take simple, easy steps to support learning math every day, the Department of Education offers a wide array of tips. Encourage the use of math in your home by following a few of the tips noted below. With just a few household items, you too can make this subject exciting for your child:  

  • Use measuring cups and empty containers to explore fractions and estimations. Fill the items with different materials such as water and discuss what happens if you add ½ cup of water to ¼ cup of water [equals ¾ cup]. Sand and/or beans are other materials you can use to fill the containers. 
  • Use clean-up time as an opportunity to teach counting, addition and subtraction by counting the number of toys they pick up. You can also practice patterns by asking them to pick up one black block, then one blue block, and keep repeating different colors/patterns/items. 
  • Help your children estimate how much longer a car ride is by using distance and speed. If you have 60 miles left and you are driving 60 miles per hour, then you have one hour left [60 minutes]. If you have 30 miles left and are driving 60 miles per hour, you have ½ hour left [30 minutes].
  •  Come up with hypothetical situations involving math and numbers for your child to figure out. For example, a man went to a store and bought a $5 box of nails, a $25 hammer and $1,250 lawnmower. The store was having a 25 percent discount on all of the items. He then used a $10-off coupon. How much did his purchase cost? [answer: ((5+25+1,250) * 0.75) – 10 = 950] 

The most important thing to share is to encourage your child to tackle any problem. Try not to discourage your child’s efforts or comment negatively about your personal experiences with math. Many teachers, including Ms. Thetford make themselves available before or after school to ensure that children obtain the necessary help and support to be successful. Be sure your child takes advantage of these types of opportunities.

We’d also like to congratulate Ms. Thetford for being named a Teacher of the Year finalist. We wish her the best of luck as the winner will be announced next week!