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Researchers Find Training Sessions For Parents Can Help Bridge Students' Achievement Gap

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Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center say they have found a simple program of weekly training sessions for families can address one of the most complicated issues in education: the achievement gap between students from different socio-economic backgrounds. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

NYU Langone Medical Center researchers have set up a program, called ParentCorps, consisting of 13 weekly training sessions offered for free to pre-K parents in low-income public schools. As one such session, parents are learning what to do when their preschoolers interrupt phone conversations.

It's helpful, but not just for the parents. In a large study over five years, researchers have discovered that giving parents these simple tips on how to manage behavior can significantly boost students' reading, writing and math scores for years to come.

"We can take an entire population of families and help them to help their children promote their social and emotional skills that this translates into success in the classroom," says Laurie Miller Brotman of the NYU Child Studies Center.

Over five years, NYU has been studying how the children do academically compared to students at similar schools that did not have the program. They say the difference the significant.

"We're trying to help schools choose an evidence-based program that is showing to work," says Brotman.

Officials at schools that have participated in the study say they love the program.

"This home-school connection, it's the only program I know that works this way. And we find it so rewarding and so effective," says Loren Borgese, an assistant principal of P.S. 115 in Brooklyn.

A key piece is making it as easy as possible for parents. That includes providing classes for the students and siblings and serving a hot meal to everybody. Parents are always welcomed enthusiastically, even if they're late or have missed previous sessions.

"Me and my wife don't really talk much about what we expect from each other as a parent but with this group, with this ParentCorps, I actually got to know what she expects out of me as a father, even as a husband," said Jose Benitez, a participating parent.

Teachers also participate, so everybody is on the same page.

"We had like a family setting, the parents were very involved and we were able to communicate better with the parents," says Murray Copeland-Morris, an assistant teacher at P.S. 208 in Brooklyn.

Besides consistency and collaboration, the main focus is on encouragement.

"You try to pull the positive out of that child and praise them for the good," says Copeland-Morris.

While the study is ongoing, researchers and educators say they're now intent on spreading what they know works to more schools.

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