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It’s the night of Rocketship Mosaic’s community meeting and Marcela Gomez is looking for advice on supporting her son Sebastian’s progress in reading.

Sebastian’s literacy teacher, Heidi Sandgren, fills her in on the work the class has been doing on “sight words,” common words that students should be able to immediately recognize by the end of the year. Each word is accompanied by a sentence and a gesture. For instance: “Can.” Then, while flexing a bicep, “I can lift this.”

Having students associate a key word with a movement is a proven practice for cementing the foundations of early literacy. Gomez now tracks which sight words Sebastian is learning each week, and practices them at their kitchen table after he’s completed his homework.

Opportunities to get updates and perhaps chat with a teacher or principal are a calendar item at many schools, but at Rocketship Mosaic, or RoMo, as it’s called, they happen every month, and upwards of eighty percent of parents routinely attend—a level of participation that’s practically unheard of around the country.

“Around that table, we’re all equals and we’re all here for one reason, to make the school the best for our kids”. – Joe Dam, Parent of RoMo Student
Principal Danny Etcheverry sees community meeting attendance as an outcome of the school’s work engaging parents, which starts before their children even enter the school. In August, teachers begin to build relationships with parents by visiting every student at home.

And once classes begin, RoMo remains in constant touch—emailing, texting, calling, and finding every opportunity to invite parents into the school. “I never have to call the school, because I’m always there,” says Gomez.

Rocketship Mosaic doesn’t just engage parents as co-educators, but also as leaders in the school. Bang Ngo, whose daughter Joy is in first grade, was recently appointed to RoMo’s School Site Council, which is composed of parents, teachers, and school leaders. “Around that table, we’re all equals and we’re all here for one reason, to make the school the best for our kids,” says Dam.

The Council works to identify the school’s priorities and make budgetary decisions. At its last meeting, parents brought forward teacher retention as a high-priority item and the council is working on setting up one-on-one meetings between parents and teachers.

“As an organization, we’ve made a conscious move away from the view that schools can ‘empower’ parents,” says Etcheverry. “Because that communicates to parents that somebody holds the power and it’s not them.”

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** Data for 2014-15. From California Department of Education (CDE) downloadable research files for 2014-15 at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/dd/.

On major initiatives, RoMo surveys its entire parent body. Last year, RoMo was one of many schools across California that received a new influx of funding targeted at high-need students as part of the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Every parent at the school received a survey asking how they thought the money would be best spent, and their response—overwhelmingly favoring an effort to keep class sizes small and support enrichment programs—shaped the school’s decisions.

RoMo is also deeply thoughtful about the part its parents play as advocates for the school and the charter school network. A Parent Organizing Committee, composed of about fifteen core leaders, meets with local political leaders on behalf of the school. “It’s a transformative leadership process,” says Rocketship Education Organizer Daiana Lambrecht. “We are going through a regular meeting and training process to develop parents so they really know what’s going on and know the strategy and how to leverage their power.”

RoMo has also developed a pipeline for parents to move into staff positions. Currently, a teacher, a para-educator, office manager, and assistant office manager are all parents of students at the school.

“When you look at who holds the most sway over the future of a child, it’s the parents,” says Etcheverry.

*Names of students and parents have been changed in some cases.

This article is part of our report, “How World-class Schools Deliver for All Students,” which includes our framework outlining six key practices that drive the success of the highest-performing schools. Explore the report to read more school profiles showing what these practices look like in action.

Innovate Public Schools

We are a nonprofit organization focused on ensuring that all students in California, including low-income students and students of color, receive an excellent education.

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