The Benefits of Family Empowerment Nights | #teachforamerica | #kids

How the Program Got Its Start 

The relationship between charter and public schools can be an uneasy, and sometimes competitive, one. 

But Movement and Ashley Park had a bit of an edge when it came to building a collegial, cooperative relationship: Tim Hurley (Greater Delta ‘02), executive director of education at the Movement Foundation, had previously known Meaghan (the principal at Ashley Park) during his time as executive director for Teach For America Charlotte-Piedmont Triad. 

And both Tim and Meaghan knew Greg of SchermCo, who’d been working separately with both schools, and eventually helped build and coordinate the family empowerment nights program. 

TFA connections helped the project get off the ground, Meaghan recalls, since she felt comfortable—not adversarial—toward the charter school. As a result, she was able to smoothly collaborate with the principal at Movement to build successful, meaningful events. 

Powerful Moments of Connection 

For parents, the window into the school day can be opaque: queries about their kids’ days often get a one-word answer (“fine”) in response, Melinda points out. “I wonder to myself sometimes like, ‘Do you do anything at school?’” she says. 

So for  her—and her children—the opportunity to be at the school, to walk through the classrooms, to see what’s hanging on the bullet boards, is exciting. 

That’s true for Lisa, too. Her son was eager for her to visit his classroom and point out where he sat, she says. Lisa also appreciated the opportunity to meet the kids her son mentioned (along with their parents). 

Kids are joyful about introducing their parents to their teachers, Meaghan recalls. And teachers got a lot out of it too, building and deepening relationships with parents, as well as having an opportunity to chat with each other, she says. 

“That kind of human connection outside of traditional bell schedules doesn’t happen often enough,” Meaghan says. 

The metrics point to tangible results of the involvement.

For instance, students at Movement whose families attended two or more empowerment nights have lower levels of chronic absenteeism, Greg notes. And, there may be academic benefits as well, especially with regular attendance of the events—the percentage of Movement students scoring 70 and above in literacy and math is higher among those whose family attended two or more family nights.

Greg continues to expand the family empowerment nights—this year, he hopes to have seven schools holding similar programs. And empowering parents, as well as knitting a close relationship between parents, teachers, and students, will lead to stronger communities, he believes. 

The events created a real space to seek feedback, Greg says. And attendees had a strong sense of what they—and their community—wants and needs, he points out. “ The more that we listen to people who are close to the challenge, the more they have the solution,” Greg says.  

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