To enhance urban recovery, bring “Learning Leaders” back to school

Parents Return to School (Photo: Ed Reed / Majoral Photo)


The two nonprofits I headed were shut down for very different reasons. First, September 11thminds The fund closed in 2004, devoting all of its funds and found that there were many other organizations to continue funding and providing services to the 9/11 victims. It was the right thing to do, though, and it probably had to happen more often.

But sometimes a nonprofit is forced to shut down despite doing a unique, valuable, and effective job. That’s what happened with another organization I led, Training Leaders, which closed five months ago this month.

The oldest and largest volunteer organization of public school parents in the country, tragically, was forced to close down because it failed to find the support it needed to run its business. Now more than ever we need parents in schools to teach children after a long time and stress due to COVID-19 outside the classroom in reading, math and social-emotional skills. The new principal and rector of schools should lead the way in bringing education leaders back to our schools as soon as possible.

Founded in 1956 as a NYC School Volunteer Program, Learning Leaders has grown from a small section of home-staying mothers in Manhattan to a citywide corps of experienced parents who volunteer to work with students on their educational skills with comprehensive support. cooperation of directors and teachers of the city.

At its highest point, there were approximately 15,000 Volunteers Learning Leaders, most of whom were parents volunteering at their children’s schools, in all districts, at all income levels and ethnic groups.

I was the Executive Director of Education Leaders from 1998-2002 (I took the initiative to change the name to adequately reflect the role and pride of the parent volunteers). Before I go on September 11thminds The Foundation, we have contracted with a reputable research organization, Arete Corporation, to assess the impact of education leaders on the schools in which they worked and on the educational activities of volunteer children.

The research went far beyond anecdotal and subjective; it conducted a randomized telephone survey of 2,000+ parent volunteers, as well as academic records (provided by the Department of Education and Parental Consent) of 7,000+ volunteer children and a blind sample similar in size to other children’s records in the same schools. The report’s findings, “Parent Volunteers Make a Difference,” were unanimous:

“The bottom line … is that learning leaders are getting closer to ‘work.’ …. and better parent-teacher communication… This is not just volunteering, but more specifically, volunteering as learning leaders, which brings these benefits to public schools, parents and their children ”.

The Arete report highlights a number of advantages of the Learning Leaders program, including more time parents spend on homework and reading with their children, better school attendance and grades in reading and math, and lower absenteeism in schools with large corps of parent volunteers.

The training leaders were the winners – students, schools, parents. About 95% of parents surveyed said they were very positive about their experience; 4% said somewhat positively. There was no negative response. Many parent volunteers were encouraged to continue their education and / or become staff in schools. It was not a pilot program; about 300,000 students were enrolled each year. Why on earth is such a popular and vital program allowed to be closed?

The answer is a set of factors. It was difficult to recruit new board members and other individual supporters to take on significant financial responsibilities for the education of the local population. Foundations that were generous and important supporters of LL eventually moved on to other priorities. The de Blasio administration, for reasons I do not fully understand, did not consider study leaders a priority and refrained from requesting or allocating private funding for it through the Mayor’s Fund to promote New York or increase relatively small distributions ($ 400,000). from the Department of Education.

Therefore, the board reluctantly and unfortunately decided to stop the operation, use the remaining funds to re-employ the staff, and donate its training materials to NY Cares, hoping that it would allow them to develop a new volunteer program. school uses. (NY Cares has volunteer programs in some Bronx and Queens schools, but has no plans to expand the city’s efforts.)

There is no disagreement that the full and strong return of our public schools is important for the recovery of the city and the future of children. We need all hands. Parental involvement is often cited positively, but learning leaders were not the only simple thing. It has been a real force for academic achievement, and with support and encouragement it can be further enhanced.

Mayor Adams and Chancellor Banks, read the Aret Report and find a way to bring back the learning leaders! Its entire budget was less than $ 3 million a year; this level of private and public co-financing can be found if you prioritize it.

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