Last fall, Kentwood Public School (KPS) launched a two-year Parent Academy pilot to provide language and educational programming to the parents of the 1,800+ English language learner (ELL) students in the district. With a two-year $110,000 grant from the Steelcase Foundation, KPS hopes to provide its diverse parent population sessions on learning English, school procedures, becoming a citizen, and navigating their new community, with the end goal of providing these parents the tools they need to best advocate for their children.
In the first year of the pilot, the Parent Academy hosted 20 adults for 24 hours of English-language instruction over six weeks. Each session provided child care, transportation, and a meal for participants, removing potential barriers for participation. 16 adults participated in a concurrent session that focused more closely on learning English and incorporated other topics when appropriate.
Early results for students whose parents attended the Academy are positive. Improvements in World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) scores increased by an average of 40.3 points for participating students, compared to 19 points for students whose parents did not attend. In addition, disciplinary actions reduced, attendance increased, and several parents attended conferences for the first time after attending the Academy.
In year two, the Academy will focus more exclusively on English language learning, and work to better partner with local businesses to build community among Academy participants. We’re hopeful the Kentwood Parent Academy continues to build the skillset of ELL parents, giving them the tools to best navigate and advocate for their child in school.