By Seth Coleman
As schools throughout the district administer various tests this spring designed to measure student growth, Beecher Hills Elementary School hopes a new initiative implemented this year will boost test scores the way it has improved parental involvement.
The Academic Parent-Teacher Team (APTT) concept is an innovative program designed to build and enhance school-family partnerships. APTT operates from the premise that schools function best when families and teachers work collaboratively to help maximize student learning in the classroom and at home. The program was created by WestEd, a non-profit youth education group that is a longtime partner of Atlanta Public Schools.
The Georgia Department of Education has partnered with WestEd to train and support Title I schools in the APTT concept. Beecher Hills is one of just 33 schools statewide, and the only Atlanta Public School, implementing the APTT concept. This summer, Beecher Hills teachers will train teachers at Heritage Academy Elementary on using the APTT concept, which will be implemented at that school starting in the fall.
The APTT model supplements the efforts of traditional parent conferences with whole-class meetings where parents learn exactly where their child is in comparison to academic standards, where their child needs to be by the end of the school year, and how they can help support their child’s learning outside of the classroom.
Additionally, at the beginning of the school year, grade-level teams select a critical, grade-specific standard and then focus their quarterly APTT meetings on concepts that will help students master the standard. During the APTT meetings, parents sit in their child’s chair in the classroom and participate in the same learning activities. Also, parents are shown how their child is progressing in class compared to the other students.
“It lets parents see exactly what their children are learning and how they are learning,” said Beecher Hills Principal Crystal Jones, who noted that parental involvement has grown exponentially with the implementation of APTT. Last year, about 30 percent of the school’s parents participated regularly in school activities. This year that number has increased to over 70 percent.
While parents are in the classrooms during APTT meetings, students rotate through various activity stations set up throughout the school. The stations feature arts and crafts, snacks, movies and a play room featuring various physical activities, such as a bounce house and jump rope station.
“The kids love it because all of the activities are a lot of fun,” Jones said. “The parents love it because they can experience what their child is learning and see the progress their child is making. We think it has made a difference in our school and we hope our test scores reflect that.”