Posted by Jerri Derlikowski on November 26th 2013
Bergman Elementary School is a small school that's big on parent engagement. You might describe the town as "in the sticks"-located 10 winding miles north of Harrison on Highway 7 passing through forested mountains. Yet the small community is a National Blue Ribbon Award winner with a long list of programs and strategies employed to insure success for Bergman's students.
Bergman sets out to make learning student-centered and connect parents in the process. In its application for the Blue Ribbon award, the school said "engaging families is crucial in the educational process." In addition to standard fall festivals and school athletic support activities, the school hosts monthly Literacy Nights that bring in crowds of parents. These events are geared to promote science, math, and literacy enrichment. The children's learning experience is communicated to parents by actually sharing it with them. Parents are surveyed at the end of these events to get their input.
The school also has long list of teacher communication strategies that many schools share, like newsletters for each grade, weekly homework folders, and teacher websites. In this school one difference is that parent feedback is actively sought rather than dreaded. In place of the traditional parent-teacher conferences, Bergman has student-led conferences twice a year. At these conferences, students assess their own strengths and weakness and create a plan to improve. Parents have been positive about the process and enjoy seeing students take ownership of their own achievement.
Bergman has provided resources, energy, and leadership to work closely with family and community members to ensure the success of their efforts to increase student achievement. The results are hard to argue. Students from low-income families and students with learning disabilities are experiencing success. Too often data for whole school enrollment overlooks failures to raise achievement for all students. But not in Bergman. The economically disadvantaged students improved from 74 percent proficiency in third grade literacy in 2009 to 94 percent proficiency in 2012. Students with disabilities improved from 43 percent to 73 percent for the same time period. In 2012 the school achieved 100 percent student proficiency or better in third grade mathematics. Bergman is on the state's list of achieving schools. There is a lot of literature about the value of parental engagement in the education process. Bergman is a great Arkansas example of how effective it can be.