We have been completely overwhelmed with bad news this week. The shooting of another unarmed Black teenager by police…the suicide of comedian Robin Williams…continued violence in Iraq. And it’s only Tuesday. While there is much to rant about, I wanted to pause for a rave. Some good news right here in the Inland Empire.
On Saturday over 500 African-American parents, students, and educators enthusiastically ushered in the new school year with the 2nd HOPE Conference in Moreno Valley. HOPE is an acronym for hanging on to positive expectations, and I can proudly say that the idea for the conference, organized by the Moreno Valley Unified School District’s African-American Parent Advisory Group, came from a group of parents and educators who joined us on the Footsteps to Freedom Underground Railroad Study Tour three years ago. When the group returned from the tour that year they were charged with creating something that would make a difference for the students – their students – as well as the community at large. What they conceived was the hugely successful HOPE Conference last year.
Supported by the Moreno Valley Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Judy White, the HOPE Conference, now an annual event is designed to empower not only the student-but also the entire family-to utilize the educational resources that are available in the district. And “…to partner with parents, families, community organizations, businesses and educators to ensure that African-American students are able to maximize their potential.”
Break-out Sessions included: Vocabulary – The Secret of Success; Bully-proof Your Child; College Opportunity Programs; A Parent’s Guide to Special Education; Effective Strategies for Working with Schools; Why Middle School Matters, and Academic Excellence in High School.
The HOPE Conference is a brilliant strategy to promote student achievement in the district.
According to Center for Public Education’s report on parental involvement and student achievement, what works for student achievement is when a true partnership exists between schools and families. The center cites A New Wave of Evidence, a Southwest Educational Development Laboratory report, which synthesizes from 51 studies to reach conclusions about the effect of parent involvement on student learning. The study found that students with involved parents, no matter their income or background, are more likely to:
• Earn higher grades and test scores
• Enroll in higher-level programs
• Pass their classes and earn credits
• Attend school regularly
• Have better social skills
• Graduate and attend college or pursue some post-secondary education
Moreno Valley Unified School District’s African-American Parent Advisory Group has been so successful that San Bernardino Unified School District sent an eager group of parents on the Footsteps to Freedom Underground Railroad Study Tour this year. And I just heard from tour participant Gwen Rodgers that she was selected San Bernardino’s African-American Parent Advisory Group chair and they already have 50 parents in the organization. It’s nice to hear some good news for a change, especially on a day like today.