(WASHINGTON, DC) –Today, as part of the Every Day Counts! campaign, Mayor Bowser celebrated Jefferson Middle School Academy’s success in creating a strong school community that welcomes students and families. Last month, the middle school was announced as the winner of the 2018 DC Public Schools (DCPS) Standing Ovation prize for Family Engagement. At today’s event, the Mayor highlighted the school’s work in building positive and collaborative relationships with students and families through home visits, student-led conferences, and more.
“We know that when students feel loved, challenged, and prepared, they are more likely to attend school every day. Ensuring this is the case for every student in every school isn’t easy and it won’t happen overnight, but we have educators across all eight wards working with families to get us there,” said Mayor Bowser. “I applaud the teachers, administrators, and staff at Jefferson and at schools across the District who are going above and beyond to engage families and set our students up for success.”
Jefferson started making home visits during the 2012-2013 school year, and each year, they have continued to expand their program. Now, home visits are a required part of Jefferson’s model and all members of the staff, including operations and student support team members, are required to do home visits. During the 2016-2017 school year, Jefferson visited 186 families, and survey data shows that the family engagement efforts are changing how students perceive school. Last year, on the annual DCPS student satisfaction survey, 96 percent of students either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement “My family is welcome at my school,” an increase of five percent over the previous year.
“When families feel welcome at school, that’s going to lead to kids wanting to come to school and learn,” said DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson. “The engagement happening at Jefferson is what I want to see across our public schools: more resources for families, home visits, social and emotional supports, and an overall commitment to creating a welcoming environment.”
DCPS Home Visits and the Family Engagement Partnership
Supported by the Flamboyan Foundation, DCPS’s Family Engagement Partnership (FEP) helps school leaders and teachers engage families in ways that benefit student learning. Participating schools have seen significant academic growth, along with more active and engaged school communities. One of the most popular family engagement strategies is the use of home visits. In teams of two, teachers and staff visit families at home or in a location of the family’s choosing and focus on getting to know the family and child. During the visits, teachers and families share their hopes, dreams, and expectations for the student. During the 2016-2017 school year, more than 11,000 DCPS families in FEP schools received a home visit from their child’s teacher.
A parent of a sixth grade student at Jefferson spoke highly of the school’s efforts, explaining: “The amount of fear I had prior to my daughter leaving elementary school to attend middle school was massive; yet after meeting with her teachers and principal, my anxiety dissipated. Jefferson Academy has shown me that they enjoy learning about the child and family to build on what is needed to ensure all students have a productive learning experience and environment.”
A Johns Hopkins University study found that families and teachers believe FEP activities are helpful in improving student and school outcomes and that participation in FEP activities was positively associated with parents’ confidence to help their children in school as well as parents’ perceptions of schvools and teachers. Researchers also found that students who received a home visit missed 24 percent fewer days of school than those who do not, and that students who received a visit were 1.5 times more likely to read on or above grade level by the end of the school year.
Every Day Counts!
To build on the success of Mayor Bowser’s Kids Ride Free on Metrorail initiative, the Bowser Administration launched Every Day Counts!, a citywide initiative to increase attendance at the District’s public schools. More than 18,000 students – one in four – in the District of Columbia are chronically absent, meaning they miss 10 percent or more of all school days. By sixth grade, missing 10 percent of the school year is strongly linked to dropping out of high school. Through the Every Day Counts! initiative, the Administration is spreading awareness about the importance of attending school every day, increasing coordination across public agencies and stakeholders, investing in data-driven strategies to increase attendance rates, and rewarding students and schools that improve attendance throughout the school year.