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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Red Ribbon Week

Our kids have had a great time during Red Ribbon Week. Each day had a different theme:
  • Monday-Scarves or ties ("Tie down drugs")
  • Tuesday-Mismatched clothes ("Don' get mixed up with drugs")
  • Wednesday-Wear red (National "Wear Red" day)
  • Thursday-Crazy socks and sneakers ("Sock it to drugs"/"Don't let drugs sneak up on you")
  • Friday-Favorite team shirt ("Team up against drugs")
Thursday featured a visit by Devo and his partner, Ronny Jones. After many visits to Graham and surrounding schools to spread a message about staying drug free, Devo is officially retiring from active duty as a service dog.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Parental Involvement Plan

One of the requirements of No Child Left Behind is that every school in America that receives Title I funding must develop a Parental Involvement Plan. That plan appears below. Each year, we update our overall Title I Schoolwide Plan. A copy is available in the library for any person who wishes to read it.

Graham School Parental Involvement Plan

Annual Meeting:

During August, Graham School holds its PTO Open House. Because this meeting traditionally attracts a larger number of parents than any other meeting during the year, we hold our annual meeting in conjunction with PTO Open House. To insure the largest turnout possible, we notify parents and students and encourage them to come through a number of avenues: 1) publication of the date in the student handbook; 2) publication of the date on the school’s online calendar; 3) a note sent home in the Tuesday folder for each child; and 4) a series of reminders over the school intercom which the principal composes and communicates to the student body.

During the meeting, the principal discusses the following topics:

  • Brief history and meaning of the Title I program
  • Explanation of what is meant by being a “Schoolwide Project”
  • How Title I funds are used
  • Importance of parental involvement and an explanation of several practices which contribute greatly to student success
  • Explanation of vehicles for communication between home and school
  • School-parent compact
  • Parent survey
  • Schoolwide plan

Flexible Schedule of Meetings

The faculty at Graham School has a strong belief in the importance of parental involvement. The school places an emphasis on scheduling meetings at a time when parents can attend. In addition to the annual meeting, Graham holds Lightspan parent orientations at several points in the year, also at night. Most meetings, however, are those designed to focus on the needs of a particular child. Teachers schedule these individual meetings with parents before school, during the teacher’s planning time, or after school. In addition, teachers speak with parents over the phone during the evening hours for those parents who are unable to come to the school at any of the times mentioned.

Involvement of Parents in Planning, Review, and Improvement of Title I Program

Graham School believes in involving parents in all aspects of the Title I program. The school maintains a PTO Board. This body of parents also serves as an advisory committee in various areas of school life. This body helps shape long-term goals for the school, such as needs for playground improvement, as well as academic goals, such as establishing an author’s day. Members of the PTO Board serve on the district textbook committee and provide input on the parental involvement plan and Schoolwide Title I Plan.

The school sends a survey to all parents annually. This survey covers a number of topics including the types of programs parents would like to see, relationships between parents and faculty, and areas where parents would like to assist with aspects of school life. In addition, the PTO actively recruits parental assistance in various committees. This recruitment is done through a letter which goes home in the Tuesday folder as well as an open sign-up at PTO Open House.

Timely Information About the Title I Program, the Curriculum, and Academic Assessments Used

The annual PTO Open House is the vehicle through which the school informs parents specifically about the Title I program. The school, however, feels that if administered properly, the Title I program works seamlessly with all other programs in the school. A parent may not realize that a particular program or improvement was brought about through Title I dollars. Instead, the parent simply realizes that her child is receiving a quality education, and that quality education is brought about by a number of forces acting in harmony.

The student handbook and newsletters from classroom teachers provide parents with a wealth of information on the nature of the curriculum, specific topics, and how parents can help at home. Throughout the year, a good working relationship between the classroom teacher and the parent provides a constant stream of healthy communication. One way in which that relationship is fostered is through a classroom visit during the PTO Open House. Parents see the classroom in which their children learn, meet and talk with the teacher, and view work samples produced in those early days of school. Parent conferences are encouraged throughout the year. The office encourages parents to bring concerns, as well as praise, first to the teacher so that teacher and parent can work together.

At Graham School, students are assessed frequently, and results are reported to parents on a weekly basis. The Tuesday folder is a vehicle used schoolwide to bring home all work completed during the week. Parents see not only the grades earned, but also the exact work samples so they can gain a better understanding of their child’s strengths and areas for growth.

Submission of Parent Concerns on the Schoolwide Plan

The Title I Schoolwide Plan is updated annually. Input is gathered both formally and informally throughout the year. The Building Leadership Team supplemented by two parents (who represent the body of all parents) comprises the body which drafts the plan. Parent concerns and comments gathered through survey results, individual comments and concerns presented to the principal, to the teacher, or to the PTO Board are examined and evaluated for inclusion in the plan. A copy of the completed plan is available in the library and parents are invited to examine it. Parents' concerns about the content of the plan are reviewed and taken into consideration as the plan is updated for the next year. As appropriate, concerns are forwarded to the central office.

School-Parent Compacts

During the first month of school each year, Graham School sends a School-Parent Compact to all homes. The compact outlines the responsibilities the school will assume, those the parent should assume, and those the child should assume. The school realizes that for maximum learning to happen, each part of the “three-legged stool” must be functioning at its best.

Once signed, the compacts are filed in the office. Graham School wants, however, to keep the essence of that compact “front and center” through the year. For this reason, the school summarized the compact in a bulleted list. That short list is laminated onto an inside pocket of the Tuesday folder. As teachers prepare the folder and as parents examine it with their children, they receive a weekly reminder of the essential aspects of the compact.

Building Teachers’ and Parents’ Capacity for Strong Parental Involvement

Graham School believes that strong parent involvement is an essential component to a good school, the following plans are enacted to enhance the involvement of parents:

  • Discuss with parents the need for their involvement at the PTO Open House.
  • Actively recruit parents to become involved in various aspects of school life during the day. Examples include volunteering in classroom, assisting with the Accelerated Reader Store, assisting with book fairs, and assisting with the production of music programs.
  • The school maintains ongoing communication with parents through teacher newsletters, letters from the principal, information in Tuesday folders, information students write in their planners, and inclusions on the school’s website.
  • Graham has instituted Lightspan Achieve Now with funds secured through a CSR grant. At several points in the year, the school conducts a parent orientation to guide parents in how they can be involved with this learning tool at home.
  • The school has found that inviting parents for lunch is an easy and effective way to bring parents into the building during the school day. Parents are encouraged to come at any time and have lunch with their children.

Participation of LEP Parents, Parents With Disabilities, and Parents of Migratory Children

Graham School, to the extent possible, provides accommodations to parents with limited English proficiency, disabilities, and parents of migratory children. Currently, we have no LEP parents. Graham School is a handicapped-accessible building. An elevator and bathrooms which are handicapped-accessible provide an environment which welcomes those with physical disabilities. Because of the unique location of the school to the Alabama School for the Deaf and Blind, Graham routinely has students whose parents are hearing impaired. At larger gatherings, such as PTO Open House and Awards Day, the school secures an interpreter who translates the spoken word to American Sign Language. The school also secures an interpreter for any smaller meetings when a request for such services is made.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Graham Christmas Ornaments

We have at school hand-painted glass Christmas ornaments. On the front side is a depiction of Graham School. On the back, the words "Merry Christmas" are painted bordered by holly leaves. These ornaments are left from last year's Centennial Celebration.

If you would like to purchase an ornament, they are $10. Checks can be made payable to "Graham School."

Monday, October 10, 2005

Course of Study Draft...Opportunity for Public Comments

Part of the process of the adoption of any Course of Study in Alabama is making the draft available to the public and providing an opportunity for input. Revisions are made from that input before the document is presented to the Alabama State Board of Education for adoption.

This year, the Arts Education Course of Study is being drafted. Also, the Foreign Language Course of Study (which will now be called "Languages other than English") is being drafted. Of particular interest to those in our area is the proposed inclusion of American Sign Language as a language alongside Latin and Modern Languages.

The easiest way to examine these drafts is to download them from the Alabama State Department of Education website. You can go directly to the page where those drafts can be viewed here. You will see a list of links. The file names will be somewhat descriptive of the subject. For example, in arts education, you will see a link for music, another for dance, another for theater, and another for visual arts.

If you have comments, the easiest way to communicate those is to e-mail Mrs. Martha Donaldson at the Alabama State Department of Education. Her address is marthad@alsde.edu The deadline to submit public comments is October 31.