Home Visits

“Why Should We Fear Visiting Students’ Homes?,” by Jay Matthews, The Washington Post, 3/23/15

The effect is less misbehavior, fewer missed assignments, and gratified parents.

Charters and even some regular public schools have begun to reject the traditional view that parent contacts should be confined to the phone or meetings at school….

Schools often say they are trying to involve parents, but that usually translates into stiff, arms-length gestures such as sending notes home or holding back-to-school nights….

D.C. home-visiting teachers are trained and paid with funds from the D.C. public schools and the Flamboyan Foundation. Using a model developed by educators in Sacramento, the teachers visit in pairs after school or on weekends. They don’t do surprise visits. They don’t make assumptions about kids or parents. They don’t take notes. They listen more than talk.

The idea is to visit every family.

“Picking a certain group of students to visit could make home visits seem like a bad thing, and that is not the case,” said [history and reading support teacher] Kristen Whitaker…2015 Family Teacher of the Year, an award sponsored by Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning….

The teachers don’t discuss how the students are doing in class. They prefer to listen to what the parents and students think of the school and what they want from it. But the effect on her classroom, Whitaker said, has been apparent. There is less misbehavior, and…fewer missed assignments. “My students knew I had a direct connection to their parent or guardian,” she said. “A kid knows I can call his or her guardian on my phone in an instant.”

The teachers are paid $34 a visit, plus some extra for teacher leaders at each school. Vincent Baxter, D.C. schools deputy chief of family engagement, said that 21 city schools have the program and that more will get it soon. Studies by Johns Hopkins University and Mathematica Policy Research are underway to see whether the D.C. home visits raise achievement.

Very few other public schools are trying this. Principals say they fear what might happen to teachers visiting certain neighborhoods. Yet it appears, at least in the case of Whitaker and the other [D.C.] teachers, that what the visitors find is nothing more than gratified parents willing to help them create better lives for their children.

Jay Mathews is an education columnist and blogger for The Washington Post.


See also in ClassWise: “4 Tips: Better Parent Conferences”

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