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Parental involvement improving at NYC schools: stats

More city parents are getting involved in their children’s education, new statistics show.

Family engagement is widely regarded as a key to successful schools, but the city has struggled with it for years, despite spending millions of dollars to promote it.

Now schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña says data indicate more parents took part in their children’s schooling, for the school year that ended in June. She credits a number of new investments and an overhaul of the city’s family outreach efforts.

“The more parents know about their schools, the more they can help out,” she said.

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Roughly 38,000 additional city parents attended parent-teacher conferences in 2016-17 year, compared with the previous school year, according to city records. That’s a gain of almost 2%, from 1.98 million to 2.02 million.

In addition, 66,000 more parents attended school-based workshops in 2016-17 compared with the previous year, about a 6% increase, from 1.04 million to 1.1 million.

The workshops, often held at schools, may be staffed by teachers and cover topics including financial literacy and parenting techniques.

Likewise, the number of face-to-face meetings of schools’ parent coordinators with parents rose by 44,000, or 2.8%, from 1.59 million to 1.64 million.

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Parent coordinators talk with current and prospective parents on matters including classes, schedules and extracurricular activities.

Officials also said the number of phone calls returned by parent coordinators rose by 413,000 last year, up nearly 7%, from 6.1 million to 6.47 million.

Last year’s gains come after years of growth on many of those measures, with particularly sharp improvements in 2015 and 2016 amid a number of changes to boost family involvement in schools.

The city has the largest school system in the country, with 1.1 million students. About 100,000 of those students attend charter schools and are not included in this data.

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As part of the 2014 teachers contract, the city set aside more time for parent-teacher conferences, including some meetings where students are present.

In 2015, Fariña began to reorganize the public schools’ Division of Family and Community Engagement, which spends more than $3 million a year on parent outreach. Last year, the city rolled out new training programs for the 1,400 parent coordinators who are charged with getting families involved in their kids’ education.

“It all leads to increased academic achievement,” Fariña said. “We’re really more invested on a deep level, it’s not just on a superficial level.”

But critics including Mona Davids, president of the NYC Parents Union, disagree with Fariña’s upbeat assessment.

“We still have a supermajority of NYC students who can’t read, write or do math on grade level,” Davids said. “Patting yourself on the back for statistics that don’t account for real student learning is nothing to be proud of.”

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