Conference empowers parents with knowledge
Parents were empowered with a variety of resources to get involved in their children’s education.
Tom and Diann Cox braved the snowstorm on Jan. 21 to attend the Parent Leadership & Empowerment Conference. Armed with notebooks and pens, the Coxes and other Granite School District parents attended a variety of workshops.
The focus of the conference was to increase parent involvement in their child’s education.
“Parent involvement has repeatedly shown to be the most important factor in driving a student’s academic success,” said Board President Terry Bawden.
One of the three workshops the Coxes chose to attend was the Netsmartz internet safety class. They, like many families, struggle to regulate media use in their home, they said. Their children don’t have their own cell phones yet, but Diann Cox said she realized after attending the class that they still need to teach them responsible media use for when they do have their own devices.
The Cox family followed the suggestion by class instructor Ben Horseley to start having conversations about media no matter what stage children are in. Horseley emphasized the importance of communication and openness about family rules of media use.
Parents should know all passwords and accounts their children have and regularly check their child’s phone (with the child present) for activity and content, said Horseley. He suggested establishing rules like only using devices in a public area, setting aside one day of no electronics and having phones outside of the child’s room while charging at night.
Some classes provided parents with tools to stay involved with their children’s homework. Students in the district use online math programs: Math Digits (7th–8th graders) and Go Math! (k–6). Diann Cox said they were instructed in features of the program that they weren’t aware of before attending the class. The Coxes learned how to sign in and navigate around the website their seventh-grade daughter uses to do her math homework.
Selecting at-home reading materials was the topic covered by Cindy Moyle, an educational technology library media specialist. She guided parents to find level-appropriate books that will help a child progress in reading skills using resources such as the Granite District Library at granitemedia.org, onlinelibrary.utah.gov and granite.lib.overdrive.com. Parents can also use sites such as commonsensemedia.org and goodreads.com to preview books for content and quality.
Support for special circumstances
Support for parents struggling with non-academic factors that affect their child were covered in several breakout sessions. Topics addressed included prevention of sexual and substance abuse, bully prevention and mental health challenges.
One resource many parents may not be aware of is the SafeUT Crisis Text and Tip Line. It is a statewide service that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting. SafeUT can help anyone with emotional crises, bullying, relationship problems, mental health or suicide-related issues. The SafeUT app can be downloaded through Google Play or Apple App stores.
Testing and College Prep
Classes at the conference like College Prep, Understanding SAGE Results and Granite Benchmarks were intended to help parents understand testing and how grades affect their child.
Presenters guided parents to Granite District’s Parent Portal (http://portal.graniteschools.org) for access to grades, educational records and test results of their students. There, SAGE can be accessed shortly after testing is completed at the end of the school year. Robert Averett, director of student assessment for the district, introduced the SchoolCity website where parents have access to ongoing test results for their students.
“More information will be provided to parents as this capability comes online,” Averett said.
The Coxes said there is a lot of pressure when kids are preparing for college and a big push to get scholarships. They said they didn’t know what resources were available when their son graduated high school last year. Now that their daughter is a junior, they wanted to be more involved with her preparations.
Attending the College Prep class gave them information on the many resources available. Printable planning guides for high school and junior high students can be found at www.graniteschools.org/ccr/. Other online resources shared were www.stepuputah.com, www.utahfutures.org and www.uen.org/ccr/parent-toolkit/.
“We didn't feel overwhelmed,” Tom Cox said. “We were happy to get the additional information about what is available and where to find the help.”
Presenters advised the Coxes and other parents to insist on good attendance, talk to their student every day about schoolwork and help them be organized. Presenters invited parents to offer help when their students struggle, encourage their students to be involved in school and help their students set goals.
Superintendent Martin Bates said he hoped information presented at the conference would be educative and beneficial to parents who are striving to do what is best for their children.
“Your influence has a profound effect and will ultimately help shape your child’s future,” Bawden told parents.