NY1 Exclusive: DOE to See if Summer Home Visits Can Increase Students' Performance

Students at six middle schools can expect their teachers to ring the doorbell sometime this summer as part of an experiment the Department of Education is conducting with home visits to see if they can boost parents' involvement and students' performance. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Early Wednesday morning, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña joined a middle-school math teacher and the head of an after-school program as they went to visit one of their soon-to-be sixth graders at his home in Williamsburg.

How'd the student feel when he heard they'd be coming?

"Very nervous," the student, Clayton Alejandro, said. "I thought they were going to ask me questions that I didn't understand."

The 12-year-old, though, said he soon realized the home visit wasn't a pop quiz but an attempt by the Department of Education to have schools reach out and get to know families better.

"At least he knows that if he has a question or concern, that he has two people he can actually walk up to, and that will support him and help him and guide him," said Helen Colon with the El Puente After-School Program at M.S. 50.

This summer, six middle schools are participating in a pilot program, attempting to visit every incoming sixth grader's family before the school year begins, or soon after.

"It's actually one of the most difficult things we have is trying to get the parents involved," said Jason Warren, a teacher at M.S. 50. "Whatever it may be, we try to get them involved in some fashion, and I think this program's making it a lot easier, making the parents feel a lot more comfortable coming to the school, approaching their child's teacher. They know who their child's teacher is."

The schools all volunteered and the educators get paid, with a total cost expected to be about $80,000. Teachers were trained according to a home-visit model first developed in California and now used in 15 states.

"We find that in the schools where it's executed well, that it's having great success, so our hope is to really increase the program," Fariña said.

The chancellor said as an educator, she believes there are many benefits to meeting families in their homes, a belief underscored by her own experiences as a young student, the child of parents who didn't speak English and didn't always feel welcome, or comfortable, in her schools.

Clayton has three older siblings, but his parents said this is the first time teachers came by their home. In Spanish, they said they're so happy they did.

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