Parents as partners: making a difference in education

For decades the Anoka Hennepin School District has been a strong proponent of parent involvement in all pre K-12 programming. The research in this area is consistent, positive and convincing: families have a major influence on their children’s achievement in school and through life.

Dr. Mary E. Wolverton

Dr. Mary E. Wolverton

I experienced the parent volunteer role many years ago when our oldest son entered kindergarten at Ramsey Elementary. The experience was life changing. As a parent, I gained a deeper understanding of our son’s educational experience that year. Even more critical, was the development of engagement opportunities with all members of the Ramsey Elementary community. Throughout the years of our sons’ experiences in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, it was valuable for both of them as they recognized our strong collaborative effort as parents with the school community and for us in being a part of our children’s education.

The Anoka-Hennepin School District’s Volunteer Services Department has supported our schools and families with collaborative opportunities for volunteering. This school year, we are particularly excited about a new volunteer opportunity. Linda Rodgers, parent involvement coordinator, and

Sue Archbold, volunteer services supervisor, partnered with the elementary curriculum department to develop a new program, K-Skillbuilders. The program specifically focuses on developing foundational literacy and math skills at the kindergarten level.

Over 110 community members, parents, grandparents, business leaders and retirees gathered at the Anoka-Hennepin’s Educational Service Center last week to learn how to make the most of their time volunteering in elementary schools. They learned about a variety of activities for them to practice with students one-on-one in the classroom.

“The activities that volunteers will be working on with the kindergarten students align with the elementary school curriculum,” said Archbold. “We hope that this training will strengthen the time that our volunteers have with the students and we will see increased achievement as the students move on in school.”

Activities include reading aloud, tracing the alphabet, sorting and finding letters, listening to sounds, counting and building number recognition.

These activities reinforce the skills that classroom teachers have already introduced to kindergarteners through lesson plans. The benefit is that the trained volunteers will be able to respond to students’ individual needs as requested by the classroom teacher. One parent volunteer who participated in the training noted, “Volunteering is an opportunity for me to get to know the teachers and the lessons and learn how to better support my own children at home.”

Another goal of K-Skillbuilder is to evaluate the program from both teachers and volunteers. Doing so should help us expand this program to each grade level in our elementary schools.

Parallel to this volunteer opportunity, our schools also provide structures for families to be involved outside the school day. Our elementary family engagement nights, build on a variety of ways to take part in student engagement.  Research supports that the most accurate predictor of student’s achievement is not income or social status, but the extent to which the student’s family is able to create home environments that encourage learning, creating high expectations for their children’s achievement and becoming involved in their children’s education.

As a parent, volunteer experiences were invaluable for strengthening my connections to our student’s education. As a district, we are very proud and appreciative of our community volunteers and the positive impact for our students.

To learn more about volunteering please visit www.anoka.k12.mn.us/parentinvolvement  or call 763-506-1282.

Dr. Mary E. Wolverton is the associate superintendent of elementary schools for the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

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