Engaging Families Through APTT

Engaging Families Through APTT

Have you ever been faced with the challenge of increasing parent engagement in student learning? Have you ever thought “If I could only make parents understand how important their support in learning is”?  Well, then APTT is something well-worth learning about.

APTT is an acronym for the Academic Parent Teacher Team program developed by WestEd. The purpose of APTT is to increase student learning support at home.  Don’t let the “parent” in Academic Parent Teacher Team fool you, the goal of APTT is to build support for the student from the whole family.

The New Mexico Public Education Department sponsored the pilot program in six schools in the state in the second semester of the 2016-17 school year. The APTT model consists of 4 meetings throughout the year: team meeting 1 in early fall, an individual meeting in late fall, team meeting 2 in winter, and team meeting 3 in spring.  Each team meeting follows an agenda of team building, teaching foundational grade level skills, sharing data, model and practice activities, and goal setting.  The individual meeting is a chance to discuss student progress, much like a traditional conference.  The PowerPoint presentations for all of the team meetings are provided for you by WestEd.

My elementary school was selected as one of the six schools to pilot the program.  There were five people on the school leadership team: the principal, counselor, a kindergarten teacher, a fifth-grade teacher, and a Title 1 district coach.  We attended a two-day kick-off meeting, along with the other 5 schools in the pilot program, in Albuquerque.  There we were able to prepare and plan for the implementation of the program.

Since we were starting the meetings later in the year, we held an initial team meeting and a final team meeting, skipping the individual meeting and the second team meeting. At my school, participation in the initial roll-out of the program was voluntary.  Three kindergarten classes, a first-grade class, a second-grade class, and the departmentalized 5th grade participated in the program.  Each teacher decided on a learning goal that could be assessed and tracked from the first meeting to the last meeting.  Teachers also had to decide on supporting activities for the learning goal.  Teachers had the option to choose one or two goals and a total of two activities. At the meetings, parents participated in an ice-breaker or team building activity, they were provided with class data along with a confidential student number for individual student data, given materials for the activities modeled and practiced in the meeting, they made a commitment to working with their student at home, and they set goals for their students.

I had 58% of parents attend the first meeting and 63% of parents attend the second meeting. I had some parents not attend the second meeting that attend the first, and some parents who were unable to attend the first meeting who attended the second meeting. My decided learning goal was high frequency words. Those students whose parents attended both meetings showed increases of no less than double the number of words from the first meeting to the second meeting. Students from every ability group were represented. Some students had over three times the number of words growth.

Feedback from parents was overwhelmingly positive. They enjoyed talking to the other parents, valued the information they received, especially the ability to see how their student compared to the rest of the class, and they appreciated having the materials to take home, ready to use. Many reported that their students looked forward to playing the games and activities at home and kept the parents committed to practicing the skills.

Feedback from teachers who participated in the initial roll-out has also been positive. Teachers felt that they were able to communicate with families on a much deeper level than traditional conferences. They also liked the fact that they were giving the parents the tools they needed to support their students at home. My school plans on continuing APTT for the 17-18 school year, with the expectation of school-wide participation. We will be able to implement the program in its entirety, all three team meetings and the individual meeting.

When I started writing this post, I had to decide what I was going to include. There is so much to write about: the process, the outstanding support, the meetings, student achievement, parent feedback, and it’s all so positive! This post only begins to break the surface. In my teaching career, there have only been two systems, programs, methods, what have you, that I have supported this strongly. I am excited to see what next year holds for APTT and my school. If you are looking for a way to engage families, create a partnership with parents/families, and increase student learning, APTT should be at the top of your list. Academic Parent Teacher Teams give the parents the data, the knowledge, and the tools to successfully bridge the distance between school and home, and support student learning.

Please see the APTT_Brochure for additional information.  You can also reach out to our Family Outreach Coordinator  Gloria Ruiz at Gloria.Ruiz@state.nm.us with any further inquiries.

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