A common hurdle for many caregivers is a lack of information about high school choices and post-secondary paths. Any caregiver might find themselves stymied by the current setup of high schools. Schools are constantly in flux and each year might offer different opportunities to students. Parents who work outside of traditional working hours, speak languages other than English, or have experience with schooling systems that are very different from that of the United States system might find the system particularly cumbersome and difficult to navigate. Education Opens Doors believes that supporting students means supporting caregivers and looks forward to engaging in a new parent-centered curriculum to assist with this issue. Consider the following experience highlighting why supporting both students and caregivers is so important.
“Education Opens Doors believes that supporting students means supporting caregivers and looks forward to engaging in a new parent-centered curriculum to assist with this issue.”
As a senior, Greg walked into his counselor’s office. There was a mistake on his schedule, he’d be placed in JV swimming and he was not meant to be there. As he sat across from his counselor, she mentioned to him that he was on the minimum graduation plan. Though he was ranked in the top 4% of his graduating class and hoped to attend college, he didn’t realize that the minimum graduation plan made him ineligible for many scholarships and grants. His counselor mentioned FAFSA. He’d never heard of it. This meeting turned out to be fortuitous. His counselor fixed his schedule. Varsity swimming. Night classes added to his schedule at the local community college that would help him to graduate with the credits he needed to qualify for the higher graduation plan. A list of college scholarships and the documents needed to apply. He left as a student with a plan that made him eligible to achieve his dream, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. As a first-generation student, he simply lacked some of the information he needed to achieve his goals. No one in his family had attended high school in the United States and though they supported his aspirations and believed that he was destined for success, they didn’t have the information that would help Greg. While this is a true story and ultimately one of success, it could easily have been a story of missed opportunities if not for a scheduling mistake.
“Providing both students and caregivers with reliable information at the time that they need it most is crucial.”
We see from this experience and dozens of others like it in Dallas ISD, that students have dozens of nuanced decisions to make about everything from electives to industry-based certifications to career and technical programs. Providing both students and caregivers with reliable information at the time that they need it most is crucial. Research indicates that caregivers feel prepared to support their students when they are engaged in a positive relationship with educational institutions. Providing information is one way to help caregivers feel prepared. As EOD seeks to support students, we have learned that true support looks like supporting caregivers as well. Our Parent University content hopes to play an impactful role in familiarizing parents with the nuances of the high school system while supporting an open dialogue between parents, students and schools.
“As EOD seeks to support students, we have learned that true support looks like supporting caregivers as well.”
Why create content specifically for parents, as opposed to more content solely for students? While Greg’s story may seem anecdotal, research points to the positive impact of involved, informed parents. Research shows that while some forms of parental involvement had a minor impact on grades, a supportive home in which families discussed college and held high expectations made a significant impact. This was particularly true of parents engaging in these topics during the middle school years and this finding was true when controlling for a myriad of factors such as family size and home language. Additional research has found that parents, when provided a curriculum about interacting with the education system, had a noted shift in their understanding of the significance of the role they could play in their student’s education. This led to parent’s becoming more involved in their child’s schooling during key decision-making years. This is a central part of EOD’s mission – to encourage parents, through knowledge, to feel prepared to assist their students. Finally, youth.gov noted in its extensive literature review that “involving families in strength-based decision-making processes … increases families’ comfort with communicating their own problem-solving strategies and exploring new strategies that may benefit themselves and their children.” By working collaboratively with families, EOD hopes to aid students in approaching their life decisions in a thoughtful and informed way. Supporting parents is an essential component of supporting students.
“Why create content specifically for parents, as opposed to more content solely for students?”
Through the creation of a parent-centered curriculum known as Parent University, EOD plans to provide researched, nuanced information about the technicalities of the school system including discussions of things like endorsements, electives and dual enrollment courses. The curriculum is offered both via written information but also through auditory support. We hope that busy parents can find this more accessible and that they can approach this information as they engage in their day-to-day tasks. Caregivers will also have the opportunity to work through modules that provide information, reflective activities and supportive guided student-centered conversation starters. In the end, we hope that parents feel confident about partnering with their student’s school to create a plan that meets the needs and goals of their students.
“Through the creation of a parent-centered curriculum known as Parent University, EOD plans to provide researched, nuanced information about the technicalities of the school system including discussions of things like endorsements, electives and dual enrollment courses.”
By playing a role in providing information to caregivers, EOD hopes that students find themselves surrounded by caregivers who are equipped to provide them with informed support. When students feel supported, they can confidently make decisions that best suit their goals and aspirations.