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TRIAD Helps Start Parent Center at New Caney School

Thanks to the new Kings Manor Elementary Parent Center, parents of English as a Second Language students at the school are becoming more active and the center is credited with dramatic increases in achievement scores.

Kings Manor is located at 21111 Royal Crossing Drive in Montgomery County, just off Highway 59, in the New Caney school district.

The parent center was developed as a result of a Sam Houston State University program called TRIAD. That program was established to assist rural schools in improving the education of students whose first language is not English. The center grew out of research for the TRIAD project.

"TRIAD is funded by a major federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education and aims to improve reading levels for English Language Learners through a comprehensive school improvement program," said Rebecca Bustamante, a visiting professor at SHSU who teaches in the TRIAD program and in the Educational Leadership and Counseling Department.

"It's called TRIAD because the project involves the school principal, the English language specialist and the regular classroom teacher, three key people involved in improving the academic achievement of English Language Learners," said Bustamante. "TRIAD is a large program with several cohorts of graduate-level students."

Consuelo Malecek, one of three English as a Second Language teachers at Kings Manor, and other students in an Action Research Methods class did the foundational data collection to create the parent center.

The parent center project is supported by grants from Wal-Mart and the Omaha Woodmen Life Insurance Society. The Mexican Consulate also provided numerous educational materials.

After lining up funding, Malecek contacted ProLiteracy America and asked for volunteers to help with conversational English classes. They now provide a class from 9-11 a.m. Fridays, and the Region VI Education Service Center Adult Literacy Program has classes on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

There are 35 parents taking those classes, Malecek said, and a waiting list of others who would like to do so when space becomes available.

The last steps in getting the program started involved meetings with the parents, and this, she said, increased their awareness of their role as parents in the school.

"They had an advisory board, where parents were actually stakeholders and they were involved in the process of creating the parent center and they had direct input, which was really key, and the enthusiasm about the program itself really helped," said Bustamante.

"Also, they did a needs assessment and they tried to create programs that directly addressed the needs and desires of the parents."

Malecek said, "I basically did the research in the spring. It took one full semester to plan and one semester of implementation in the fall. We opened Jan. 20 of 2005 but on a trial basis to see how interested parents were. Once we saw there was a strong interest, teachers were assigned for the fall."

The center now offers a resources library for parents, English as a Second Language, General Educational Development (GED) and parenting classes, translation, résumé assistance, Internet access, and opportunities for socialization.

The center was created from an available room that now has five computers, materials supplied by parents as well as the school, and a child play area where parents can interact with their children. There is also an international social aspect, as parents often bring snacks common to the various countries represented.  

Malecek and Bustamante cite several beneficial effects of the new program.

"The greatest positive results I have seen are how the teachers have come to appreciate the involvement of the parents," said Malecek. "They help with all the award ceremonies; they volunteer their time for the cafeteria, baby showers, and wedding showers. I have seen student test results go up as a result of greater parent involvement. Their achievement scores have really soared."

A wide variety of languages, religions and cultures are represented in the parent center, but the parents have one thing in common: an interest in their child's success. Along with Spanish, some parents who come to the center speak Urdu, a language of Pakistan, and Russian.

"I believe that all schools need a place that parents can call their own. They want to be involved, but they need someone to facilitate their integration. This did not take any (public school) money and I think this could be done anywhere," said Malecek.

Penny Peacock, Kings Manor principal, said that her school has continuously sought to increase parental involvement, and that the family center is helping do that. There are also eight Spanish-speaking staff members who routinely work with parents to make them feel comfortable and to meet their needs.

Project TRIAD was created by Beverly Irby, chair of the Educational Leadership and Counseling Department, and Genevieve Brown, dean of the College of Education at Sam Houston State University

The Kings Manor Elementary Parent Center is one of several school improvement projects that have come about as a result of the TRIAD Program.


SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
Jan. 24, 2006
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