Parent-teacher home visits part of district-union partnership aimed at closing the achievement gap for Springfield students

SPRINGFIELD – Parents of students at four of the city’s elementary schools will soon be visited by their children’s teachers as part of a union-school district partnership that supports educators’ efforts to close student achievement gaps.

Teachers from Edward P. Boland Elementary School, William N. DeBerry Elementary School, Hiram L. Dorman Elementary School and Sumner Avenue Elementary School will be visiting the homes of their students in an effort to elevate parental involvement and bridge the gap between school and home. Some parents have already been visited, and the program will now expand to all households for these four schools.

Parent-teacher home visits have proven to be extremely beneficial for students and their families. When parents and teachers communicate and establish trust, academic achievement follows. Today, the names of the four schools selected to participate in the first phase of the initiative were announced, and each was awarded $25,000 to fund the work.

The home-visit project is one component of the Springfield Collaboration for Change, a five-year initiative spearheaded by the Springfield Public Schools, the Springfield Education Association and community leaders. The district-union partnership officially launched earlier this year when Springfield was awarded $1.25 million from the NEA Foundation as part of its Closing the Achievement Gaps Initiative.

“We know home visits go a very long way in engaging parents who otherwise, and for a myriad of reasons, would not be prone to visit their child’s school to receive important regular updates on their progress,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Alan J. Ingram said. “It also strengthens the home-school relationship for parents who are already involved and engaged. It’s a strong step forward in our work to close the achievement gap.”

The initiative is focused on improving student achievement through strengthened labor-management collaboration, parental involvement and community engagement.

“We can make a difference for our students by having honest and open discussions about the challenges we face and focusing on our most pressing issues,” Springfield Education Association President Timothy Collins said. “Working collaboratively, teachers, administrators, parents and community members will help improve the lives of the children in our charge and close these persistent achievement gaps.”

Ingram recognized Collins for his efforts to make the project a success. “This kind of collaboration and partnership is crucial in our work to create a culture of educational excellence,” he said.

The four elementary schools chosen by the Springfield Collaboration for Change were selected competitively based on need and readiness to undertake collaborative  improvement measures. Coaching teams, each composed of a retired principal and a retired teacher, are assigned to each of the schools to work with a team of educators, as well as the entire school community, to develop and implement strategies to close the achievement gaps and advance academic achievement for all students.

“We are pleased with the progress that Springfield has made in developing a powerful structure and plan for coaching teams to bring instructional innovations to participating schools,”  said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “These innovations will be shared through professional learning communities in each school and adapted to include not only student performance and growth data, but teacher satisfaction data and perceptions about curriculum, instruction and leadership.”‪‪

The third leg of the initiative is aimed at building strong alliances between the city’s public schools and community organizations. It includes aligning services offered by community groups so that areas of need are met and Springfield students are given the help they need to succeed in school.  

The Pioneer Valley Project first brought the idea of a parent-teacher home-visit program in Springfield in 2006. It is currently partners with the district and the SEA to manage the program, which will now include the four collaboration schools announced today.