East New York

Schools chancellor unveils plans for ‘Parent University’

October 10, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
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Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza wants to teach parents a lesson.

At an Oct. 3 town hall in School District 19, the head of the city’s Department of Education revealed that school officials are looking to implement a “Parent University” program to help keep parents up to speed with what their kids are learning.

“I’m gonna let the cat out of the bag [that] we are designing the process to institute a parent university,” Carranza said at the forum, hosted by Community Education Council 19 in East New York.

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The “university,” the chancellor said, would serve as a “way for parents to continuously be educated about the things that they need to know” as well as a means of parent engagement — which he refers to as “parent empowerment.”

While the plan’s details are unclear, similar programs have already been implemented in states like South Dakota, Arizona and Indiana, as well as in some schools upstate.

“I think parents like the concept of the Parent University,” Lori Laughlin, state coordinator for the South Dakota Parent Resource Network in Sturgis, South Dakota, (not the actress implicated in the national college admissions scandal,) told Education World. “Far too often parents are told they need training, which infers that they are lacking skills or knowledge as parents.”

Peggy Senn, a parent education specialist for Mesa Public Schools in Arizona (where the program dates back decades), agreed. “Our goal is to provide a forum for education and dialogue that encourages empowerment for adults and youth,” she told Education World.

The Mesa program — started by a former superintendent in 1985 — continues to pack school auditoriums and currently services more than 4,000 parents a year. What began as a once-a-semester Saturday conference, Senn said, grew to include regularly scheduled evening classes.

But, according to a spotlight on Indiana Math and Science Academy, Parent University isn’t always limited to class-like programming.

Concept Schools reported in October 2018 that the Indianapolis charter school’s Parent University — now entering its third year — partners with school staff, community members and area organizations to offer activities and family events outside of its learning sessions (which have covered everything from school orientation and state assessments to homework and new technology).

When contacted for further comment, a DOE spokesperson would not add to what Carranza said, but assured there would be more to come on the topic.

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