The School Day Begins and Ends at Home

05/19/2011 01:14 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2011

Yesterday, as many engaged parents and citizens went to the polls to elect a new School Board Member, I met with teachers, parents and community members to discuss the successful parent engagement initiatives spearheaded by the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

Education is something that I am very passionate about. Growing up in a single-family home didn't stop my mother from setting high expectations for me and my siblings. Riding the bus and working up to three jobs at a time didn't stop her from taking the time to read to us, encouraging us to realize our fullest potential, and supporting us every step of the way -- even when we stumbled. I can personally attest to the importance of a parent being invested -- perhaps even dogged, at times -- when it comes to their child's education.

That is why parent engagement is one of the core principles of my Partnership Schools, which currently serve 18,000 students at 21 schools in some of L.A.'s most historically underserved and at-risk neighborhoods. Our ideology is this: parents play a critical role in motivating their children to learn and achieve, and schools play an equally critical role in reaching out to families and the community. We must work in collaboration with parents and do a better job of engaging and empowering them to invest in their child's education.

The Partnership Schools have been an incubator of creative and innovative programs that support parents in their efforts to motivate their children to succeed in school. Our dedicated parent empowerment staff have created a Family Action Team at every school to assist in engaging every family and encourage them to play a role in their child's education. We have launched programs like "Donuts for Dads" at 99th Street Elementary School to bring positive male role models into our schools and promote literacy. We have also offered every 6th grader in the Partnership a desktop computer at home, and required parents to participate in technology and education workshops to ensure those home-learning centers are put to good use.

The Parent College, a monthly meeting open to all LAUSD families, is another important component of our parent empowerment strategy. The Parent College focuses on "The Three R's": rights, roles, and responsibilities. It seems simple, but sometimes busy parents just need more information and better access to the school curriculum to provide their children with the support they need.

These efforts have been unlike anything our city and school district has ever seen and I want to acknowledge the Partnership for LA Schools for raising the bar. Thanks to the hard work of my dedicated staff and volunteer parents, the Partnership has enrolled over 800 parents in the Parent College and visited the homes of over 7,000 families in door-to-door campaigns. And these efforts have had real results: over 8,000 parents have participated in events at our Partnership schools this school year alone.

Knowing that their parents and family members are there to support and motivate them, our students are showing more promise with each day. Now we are calling upon the LAUSD to set these high expectations across the district, so that more students -- and parents -- will have the opportunity to rise to the occasion.