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New Ky. Group Seeks Stronger Parent Role in Schools

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The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a Kentucky citizens' group that helped build support for the 1990 overhaul of the state's public schools, is launching a new program to train and motivate parents to become more involved in education.

The Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership is being planned in cooperation with the Kentucky Congress of Parents and Teachers and the Association of Older Kentuckians.

The institute, expected to begin working with parents next spring, is intended to equip them to take strong roles in their children's educations and advocate for better schools in their communities.

The Prichard Committee has focused since 1994 on increasing parents' involvement in education, on the theory that teachers and administrators alone cannot bring about higher levels of learning.

Robert F. Sexton, the executive director of the Lexington-based group, hopes the expanded training will help parents ask challenging questions about reform in their local schools and foster discussions about academic standards throughout the state.

"The institute is the next step," he said in announcing the program. "It concentrates most of our energies on getting parents back into their children's education."

The institute will invite selected parents to training sessions and then require them to design and carry out a project in their community. The participants then will report back to the larger group.

"It's hoped that they can identify the kinds of things their own communities need--such as starting a PTA where there is none, or organizing a parent room at their school," said Alice H. Davis, the committee's communications director. "They will have to do something and promise that this will take place."

Curriculum in the Works

The training will start with 50 to 100 parents, at an estimated cost of $500 a person. Ms. Davis said organizers are hoping that local businesses will sponsor parents who are active in their communities to go through the training.

The sessions likely will be conducted throughout the state through the Prichard Committee's regional committees.

The curriculum for the program, which is now being developed, is expected to cover practical information on school issues like discipline, tracking, and school-based decisionmaking. Broader issues, such as parents' roles in setting academic standards and in discussing education policy, also will be covered.

In addition, participants will be trained in organizing meetings, building consensus, and resolving disputes.

Organizers hope graduates of the institute will form a network of regional volunteers who can help motivate parents to take greater roles in their schools and communities.

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