Published Online: November 5, 1997

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A Los Angeles foundation hopes to advance parents' involvement in schools with a five-year, $4.8 million grant to schools in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.

The goal of the Parents as Learning Partners project, financed by the Weingart Foundation, is to create "a contemporary model" of parental involvement.

The project involves a total of three high schools in the Los Angeles and Long Beach Unified school districts and their feeder schools. The "school families" enroll 31,600 students, many of them from low-income families, at 29 schools. The school clusters are part of the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project, or LAAMP, which has given them financial support for improvement efforts.

Boosting parent involvement is one of LAAMP's strategic priorities, but a survey conducted recently in conjunction with the grant shows it won't be easy.

The poll at the 29 schools turned up sharp differences between teachers and parents. Three-quarters of the parents surveyed thought their children were performing at grade level, for example, while only 28 percent of teachers agreed.

The schools plan to improve communication between home and school by using new technologies, training teachers in working with parents, and conducting learning activities for parents and children together.

The cluster of schools affiliated with Francis Polytechnic High School in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, for example, plans to help students and their parents make the transition from one level of schooling to the next with school-readiness programs, tours of secondary school campuses, and field trips to local colleges.

Parents also will participate in workshops to learn more about grade-level content and performance standards.

The two school systems have committed to using the results to improve parent involvement in other future "school families."

A leading Kentucky school reform organization has received $1 million from the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts to help parents in the state play a more active role in schools.

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence must match every dollar of the grant with $2 raised from other sources. The money will help support the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership, which this fall began hosting two-day sessions to train parents to be effective volunteers in public schools.

The institute is co-sponsored by the Kentucky PTA and the Association of Older Kentuckians.

--ANN BRADLEY abradley@epe.org

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