Friday, October 25, 2013

Parent U Promotes Choices

Hundreds of Spring Branch ISD parents, staff and interested residents gathered at Spring Woods High School on Thursday, Oct. 24, for the Parent U Choice Fair & Evening of Learning for Elementary and Middle School Parents.

This year’s information and insight-packed Parent U sessions began at 4 p.m. with a first-ever Choice Fair, where families learned about educational options ranging from elementary and middle school Dual Language programs to charter programs and schools.

Elementary and middle school parents spoke directly to program and school officials during the open-air fair. As a special part of this year’s Choice Fair, a British professor and researcher who is affiliated with the group Bilingualism Matters, spoke to about 50 of the district’s Dual Language program parents about the results of scientific research into raising bilingual children.

In short, the benefits of bilingualism far outweigh alleged concerns, said Professor Jason Rothman with the University of Reading. A New York City native, Rothman is a researcher in the School of Psychological & Clinical Languages at the London-based university.

More than half of the world’s population currently speaks or understands two or more languages, he said. “Being bilingual is odd only in the Western world,” he said. “Research shows that children have no problem being bilingual.”

In addition, scientists have found strong cognitive and social benefits to bilingual ability and training, including a measurable increase in creativity and a reduction involving early onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s in older adults. Rothman spoke in small group sessions during the evening program, too.

The Parent U evening program for elementary and middle school parents included three separate sessions with learning and research presented by 60 educators, community experts and special outside speakers. All involved in designing and organizing the program rated it a success, based on immediate feedback. Community Relations Officer Linda Buchman said that many parents left excited about the next Parent U. “When are you going to do this again?"

There were so many great sessions, and I didn’t get to go to all the ones I was so interested in,” she recalls one parent saying. “People find Parent U both informational and enjoyable. We know the effort it takes, but those attending have no idea how much [is involved],” Community Relation’s Pat Waldrop said.

Learning tracks focused on four areas:

• Higher Education and SBISD’s T-2-4 goal to double the number of graduates who earn either a technical, two-year or four-year degree
• Academic Success for Children
• The Whole Child, including child growth and development, and parent and wellness issues
• Choice Options in SBISD focused on understanding choices, programs and opportunities

Field reports from the event included high praise from presenters, too. “You know, when you are passionate about what you do, you can talk about it all night!” exclaimed retired Memorial High School counselor Wendy Andreen. She led a session on using middle school to identify student interest and strengths and match them to district classes and programs.

Several campus parent groups were bused to the Parent U program through a first-ever, special grant-based opportunity through the ACE after-school program. The program included Spanish language sessions for SBISD parents. Spring Woods High Principal Jennifer Parker joined students and staff in proudly showing off their high school. The school team provided student volunteers and a genuine Spring Woods High School "Tiger" experience.


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