Center involves parents in school

November 30, 1994|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Sun Staff Writer

Johnna Rice struggled to motivate her 6-year-old son, Daryl, for school this year after the problems he had understanding reading concepts in kindergarten.

But now when the first-grader at Running Brook Elementary School is out with his mother, he pronounces the sounds of letters or reads words he sees.

"There's a big difference," said Ms. Rice, a fifth-grade teacher at Running Brook in Columbia's Wilde Lake village. "He's motivated to read."

Ms. Rice attributes much of Daryl's progress to his participation since the beginning of the school year in a federally funded program known as Chapter 1, which aims to raise the performance of students from elementary schools with relatively high percentages of lower-income families.

Two weeks ago, the Howard public school system made it more convenient for students and their parents to receive more individualized instruction, opening its first Chapter 1 Family Education Center with staff and educational materials at Running Brook Elementary.

"I'm able to come in, get books and talk to people about meeting the needs of my child," said Ms. Rice, a Baltimore resident. "I'm able to meet the needs of my son because they have the necessary materials in this room."

Such programs and educational materials previously were rotated among schools for short intervals.

The Chapter 1 program is intended to increase parental involvement and help students with reading and math deficiencies at the 10 county elementary schools that have the highest percentages of free-lunch recipients. About 500 county families have participated in the Chapter 1 program this year, including a handful who have visited the new center so far.

The schools participating this year are Bryant Woods, Deep Run, Guilford, Laurel Woods, Longfellow, Phelps Luck, Running Brook, St. John's Lane, Swansfield and Talbott Springs. Any of their students are eligible to participate in Chapter 1 educational programs, regardless of family income.

Instructors at the center teach parents how to communicate and work better with their children and to assist them academically. The center also provides educational materials, such as workbooks and videos, for home use.

Instructors help the children through lessons and educational games tailored to individual needs, homework skills programs and exercises involving interaction with parents.

For example, the center offers a homework program featuring separate workshops for both parents and students. It is designed to foster support among parents and instruct them on improving their children's study skills and developing the students' abilities to organize, communicate and follow directions.

Janis George, the Howard school system's Chapter 1 family involvement liaison, said the center provides parents a centralized, one-stop outlet for educational resources. It also provides continuity.

"Parents get to see how we're teaching in the classroom, and students become teachers, showing parents how they use materials in the classroom," Ms. George said.

Students from the 10 schools are referred to the program on the basis of teacher evaluations and standardized test performance. Activities at the center will be guided by a Parent Advisory Council, composed of a representative from participating schools.

Jacqueline Thornton, a Chapter 1 instructional assistant and former advisory council member, said the program has helped many parents become more involved.

"A lot of times they feel very intimidated coming into school," she said. "This gives them the oomph to come in and feel comfortable and warm.

"Parents are interested. They just need to know how and what to do."

The center also will have programs for adults, such as basic computer training and resume writing. "We have to think about the family and provide some services for them," Ms. George said.

The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays and from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. For information, call (410) 313-7150.

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