Everyone Have a SIP!
The beginning of school brings with it one of the most important projects of the year. It’s something that puts stress into the hearts of educators and puzzled looks onto the faces of parents - the creation of the School Improvement Plan. A daunting task, the SIP is, unfortunately, often ignored as an avenue to family engagement.
“A school improvement plan is a road map that sets out the changes a school needs to make to improve the level of student achievement, and shows how and when these changes will be made.”
** Most school councils, and parents, would agree that the educators in their school are the experts in determining academic goals and how they will be achieved. However, it is the parents who are the experts in how those goals could be supported at home. But where do parents belong in the process?
In Ontario, and many other jurisdictions, the Ministry of Education requires parents to be involved in creating the SIP. In most cases, this has meant that the Principal brings the completed document to a School Council meeting. But that is not seeking “the advice of school councils…in the development of SIPs” *. And it is overlooking a great resource for Councils and staff looking to develop parent engagement activities.
School Councils should appoint a committee of interested parents who will meet on their own. Principals must keep the committee up-to-date on the staffs’ progress with the SIP, advising them of goals as they are determined - including action plans and timelines. The committee may then begin the task of creating parent engagement activities to complement SIP goals. (of course, any suggestions must be approved by the council since they will be responsible for assisting in their implementation.)
The parent work on SIPs is not easy. First, there is a relatively short timeline. Then, it requires collaboration with the school staff, research into best practices of other parent groups, surveying parents for ideas, and consideration of how best to build the capacity of their community to support learning at home. To work effectively, it also means training and skill development for the committee members. It may also require the council to fund the creation and delivery of supports for teachers and families.
All things considered, a little “sip” of home-school partnership is a wonderful way to improve student achievement!
*** School Improvement Plan: A Handbook, Ontario Ministry of Education