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Parents’ Guide to Child Development and School Success


This booklet was developed by the Pennsylvania Parent Information and Resource Center (PA PIRC). PA PIRC helps parents take a leading role in their children’s learning. PA PIRC provides families with information about school readiness and student success and helps schools welcome families and community members as active and effective partners in student achievement. Parent Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs) were established to serve the important role of supplying parents with information about programs and services available to them under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorized in 2001 and known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). PIRCs help to implement successful and effective parental involvement policies, programs and activities that lead to improvement in student achievement. For more information please contact: PA PIRC Director 275 Grandview Avenue, Suite 200 Camp Hill, PA 17011 (717) 763-1661 PA PIRC is housed at the Center for Schools and Communities. The Center for Schools and Communities is a division of the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, a public education service agency. The Center provides training, technical assistance, resources, grant administration and program evaluation to programs serving children, families and communities in Pennsylvania.

This work may be reproduced and redistributed, in whole or in part, without alteration and without prior written permission, solely by educational institutions for nonprofit administrative or educational purposes provided all copies contain the following statement: “This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of the Pennsylvania Parent Information and Resource Center.” No other use is permitted without the express prior written permission of the Pennsylvania Parent Information and Resource Center. For permission, contact


Helping Your Children Succeed: Birth through School Years

This booklet contains information about the important role parents and caregivers play in the success of their children and in the success of their local schools. It is important that parents are involved with their children from birth and stay involved throughout their children’s schooling. Parents are their children’s first (and perhaps most influential) teachers. They can help their children be ready for school, be successful in school, and prepare for college and careers in countless ways. It is also important that parents understand how best to work with teachers when their children are in school and to know about the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Pennsylvania Accountability System.


All parents can contribute to their children’s success. There are many things that parents can do to prepare children to be ready for school.


Supporting Your Children’s Early Learning and Success in School

Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. From the moment a baby enters the world, he is taking in messages that will prepare him to talk, read, think, manage emotions and develop the confidence to be ready for school. The learning opportunities that parents provide, how they set an example by reading, and their involvement in a child’s development and education affect how successful he will be in school. Children’s development and education during the first five years of life are critical to preparing them to be ready for school. Everything children do, see, hear, feel and taste adds to their understanding of themselves and the world around them. Talking with children, reading to them, providing experiences that allow them to think creatively, giving them opportunities to exercise their muscles, planning play time with other children and guiding them in handling their emotions are all important ways parents can help children be ready for school.

Once children enter school, they are more likely to achieve and succeed if their families are involved within the school and the community. Contacting the school with questions, supporting learning at home, attending school events, volunteering, meeting other parents and learning about community resources are all ways that parents can become involved. This book provides some tips about how to help children be prepared for school, be successful in school and be prepared for college and a career.


Reading is one of the most important things that parents can do with their children. Learning language is an important milestone on the road to reading. Once in school, children learn to read and develop comprehension skills that are essential in understanding history, science, mathematics and much more, but it all begins when children are babies.


Language and Literacy

Birth-Preschool Reading to a baby, even a newborn, is very important. Researchers say that children must have thousands of experiences with print and must listen to words read to them before they are ready to read by themselves. Ages one and two are important years for language development. First, children will begin understanding more of what they hear and then they will begin to say words themselves. They will point to and name familiar objects and people. Vocabulary increases dramatically during the preschool years as children have a wide range of experiences. Children must be able to say words in order to read them.1 The number of words in children’s vocabulary influences their school success. Older preschool children will begin to distinguish print from pictures, pretend to read a book, tell simple stories by looking at pictures and start to recognize letters in their own names.

School-Aged Reading aloud is important to school success. Continue to read with your child and listen to your child read books. Tell them stories and make your own books. Children who read even ten minutes a day outside of school experience substantially higher rates of vocabulary growth between second and fifth grade than children who do little or no reading. The number of words in vocabulary influences school success. The importance of vocabulary knowledge to school success, in general, and reading comprehension, in particular, is widely documented. Vocabulary knowledge is defined as a child’s ability to recognize a word in print and understand its meaning. Talk about books your child is reading, as well as those you are reading. Talk about words and ideas in books, including magazines, comic books and textbooks. This sends the message that reading is important.

Copyright Š 2005 Parents as Teachers National Center, Inc. Reprinted with permission.



Children of all ages need opportunities to develop thinking skills such as number sense, reading comprehension, problem solving, comparing, analyzing, synthesizing, reasoning and evaluating. There are many ways that you can help your children develop these skills during play and other daily activities.


Critical Thinking Skills

Birth-Preschool Young children are driven by curiosity and love to experiment with cause and effect. Provide blocks, toys and common household items such as socks, towels or plastic containers with different shapes, colors, sizes and textures and have your child sort them in different ways such as all one color or size.

Engage in musical experiences together such as listening, singing and moving to music. Music creates connections in the brain that later help your child to solve math problems and learn languages.

Preschool children begin showing an awareness of number concepts by holding up fingers to show their age and imitating the counting of objects. Help your child practice counting toys, household items and things that he sees in your neighborhood.

School-Aged Encourage your child to use pictures, charts and drawings to help her organize what she is learning.

Expect counting errors. By school entrance, children can typically count to 20 by memory, but they may not count accurately. Ask your child to pass out objects such as napkins on the table. This encourages him to count each individual item. This skill is important for learning math.

Talk with your child and use words that encourage comparison. Examples of words are longer, shorter, bigger, smaller, more, less.

Ask your child questions when discussing what she is reading or studying. Some examples include the following: Does this make sense? Who else expressed those ideas? Are there other ways you could solve the problem? How else might the story have ended? Where can you find more information on this topic? Talk with your child about the credibility of various information sources. Is the information taken from a source that is generally considered to have the correct information? Is the information accurate?


Encourage healthy habits by making sure your children have regular sleeping times, develop nutritious eating habits and engage in vigorous physical activity. These are important to school success. Many childhood problems can be managed or prevented by regular visits to a family doctor or health clinic.


Physical Health and Development

Birth-Preschool Help your baby learn about his body. Newborns can focus on a caregiver’s face within 12-15 inches from their eyes. Babies like to look at themselves in mirrors. Point to various body parts like eyes, ears, nose and feet to teach your baby about his body; by the time he is a toddler he should be able to locate and name body parts. Good nutrition is important to the development of healthy bodies and healthy brains. Give your child a variety of healthy foods at mealtime and for snacks and he will not be as likely to turn to higher calorie foods like candy, chips and soda that have little nutritional value.

Something to Think About: Early Intervention You know your child best. If you have concerns about your child’s learning and development, contact CONNECT at (800) 692-7288 for information and referral. If your child has specialized learning or development needs, you will be part of the team that outlines a plan to build on your child’s strengths and address needs.

Immunizations protect children from many dangerous diseases such as measles and mumps. Work with your health care provider to be sure your child’s immunizations are up to date. Help your child learn good hygiene by teaching him to wash his hands when dirty and always before meals. According to Kids Health® good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses, from the common cold to more serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchitis, influenza, hepatitis A and most types of infectious diarrhea. Teach him to brush his teeth in the morning, after meals and before bedtime. Adequate sleep is important for healthy development. Children’s bodies grow at night while they are sleeping. The brain uses sleep time to organize information that it gathered during the day. Develop consistent bedtime routines and sleep schedules. Take your child for regular check-ups. Your child’s doctor can identify and act on concerns about general health, vision, hearing, cognitive, socialemotional, motor and language development.


School-Aged Good nutrition is important for the healthy development of children. Provide food choices that include all food groups. Children who enjoy physical activity early in life are more likely to become active adults. Provide time for physical activity and time to relax. Quiet times are a great way to reduce stress. Cleanliness is important for good health. Make sure to continue to monitor your child’s hygiene habits. Start teaching your child as a toddler and introduce her to more advanced hygiene as she grows and develops as a young teen. Adequate sleep is important for all children. Make sure that your child gets the amount of sleep each night that is recommended for her age. Pre-teens need 10 hours of sleep each night. Teenagers need a minimum of 9 ¼ hours of sleep. Adults, in comparison, need 8 ¼ hours of sleep nightly. During the teen years, children’s sleeping schedules change as a result of changes in their body clocks. Teens tend to want to stay up later at night and sleep later in the morning.


Safe Kids Pennsylvania provides information and prevention tips on injury risks to children. The leading causes of injury to children are motor vehicle crashes, drowning, fires and burns, poisoning, suffocation and falls. For more information contact: Safe Kids Pennsylvania 275 Grandview Avenue, Suite 200 Camp Hill, PA 17011 (800) 683-5100


Resilience is the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress. Resilient children can overcome difficult circumstances and go on to lead healthy, successful lives.


Social and Emotional Development / Resilience

Social and emotional well-being is important to school readiness and school success. Nurturing and trusting relationships contribute to healthy social-emotional development, development of healthy self concepts and the ability to relate and interact with adults and other children. Unfortunately, children are not immune to hurt and trauma. Life’s circumstances, such as divorce or death of a loved one, can create significant stress in a child’s life. It is important for parents to teach their children how to cope with these and other sad or negative situations that they will perhaps experience from time to time while growing up. Such bouncing back is described as resilience.

Resilience is the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress. Families can play a key role in nurturing resilience by providing structure and care, and encouraging their children’s participation in family life. The American Psychological Association (APA) Resilience Guide for Parents and Teens© emphasizes that parents can play a significant role in their children’s ability to develop resilience by: • Discussing with their children how to make friends and help others. • Helping their children maintain a positive attitude, focus their attention on things other than those that worry them, set reasonable goals for themselves and move towards those goals one step at a time. • Teaching their children the importance of good nutrition, exercise and rest. • Emphasizing that change is a part of living – that new goals can replace goals that might have become unattainable. Resilient children can overcome difficult circumstances and go on to lead healthy, successful lives.


Birth-Preschool Even newborn babies can show discomfort, pleasure, hunger and a desire to be held or comforted. By learning to recognize the cues of your child, you will be better able to respond to her needs. As your child grows, help her use language to verbalize her needs, likes and dislikes. As an older preschooler she can be encouraged to express her ideas or opinions. Children need opportunities to practice before they can dress themselves, bathe themselves or feed themselves. Allow your child to pick up finger foods before giving her a spoon and wean her from bottles to sippy cups before giving her open cups. Give your child time to put on her own clothes, practice using closures such as buttons, zippers, Velcro and tie shoes. Become familiar with how your child responds to change, so that you can help caregivers, doctors and teachers understand how your child approaches new situations. Some children take change in stride and are able to adjust to changes rapidly and with ease. Other children are very sensitive to change and require careful explanation and support to adjust to changes in schedule, in food, clothing and even their beds. These differences are noticeable from birth.


Very young children will start to show a preference for primary caregivers around 6-8 months and by 13-14 months will start to show some anxiety when in unfamiliar places or with people they don’t recognize. In most cases, natural curiosity will win out. Give your child time to approach new caregivers and situations in her own way. During the preschool years, your child will begin to show preferences for certain types of activities, and the way she likes to approach them. Allow your child to select activities and materials that interest her and allow her to carry out her own tasks. Encourage your child to try new things but don’t force her to do so. When children have secure and nurturing relationships they become more independent, less easily frustrated and able to show concern, care, sympathy and kindness to others. Hold your child, talk to her and cuddle her. If you become frustrated with her, find someone to help you so that you don’t take your frustrations out on your child. Around the age of three, children become more interested in interacting with other children their age. They will be more able to share, take turns and let someone else go first. Playing simple board games, practicing taking turns, and providing opportunities for supervised play with other children will help your child develop social skills.

Preschoolers are learning about their feelings and other’s feelings. Help your child recognize, label and express her feelings safely and appropriately. School-Aged Friendships are important to the social development of your children. Get to know your child’s friends and their families. As your child becomes older she will experience more peer pressure. It is important to talk with her about your expectations regarding behavior and the choices she makes. She should understand house rules as well as consequences for disobeying rules. Provide your child with opportunities to make decisions. It is hard to let go, but this is an important step to becoming independent. Talk to your child about how to list pros and cons of choices and decisions to be made. This will help them along the way to maturity.

Adolescence Children experience significant growth and change during their adolescent years. The outward changes are easy to see. Children’s height, weight and hormonal changes are usually quite noticeable. During this time children are experiencing significant emotional development as well. Because the areas of their brains that govern impulse control are still maturing, you may notice that your children don’t always make thoughtful decisions, understand the consequences of their actions, resist peer pressure or think long term. Teens don’t always make wise decisions because the part of their brain that controls their ability to choose between good and bad actions is still developing. You should expect your teens to make mistakes in judgment and be prepared to discuss with them the consequence of their actions. It is important that you maintain a hands-on involvement in your children’s lives during this period, even if it may appear that they do not want this. You should take added steps during this stage to talk to your children, establish firm but fair rules and communicate your expectations regarding matters such as school work and behavior. It is important during this time that you also help your children make connections between their schooling and success beyond high school.


Children typically want to please their parents. Clear and realistic expectations for positive behavior and academic success set the stage for high performance. Children tend to follow their parents’ example. When parents show children that they care about education, children will care more about school and doing their best.


Setting High Expectations

Birth-Preschool Infants are constantly observing the world around them, listening intently and watching children and adults. Toddlers and preschoolers will attempt to imitate adult actions and words in pretend play. Teach your child what you expect through your words and actions. Being able to follow directions is important for school readiness. A child’s ability to understand what you want him to do increases gradually; as a toddler and preschooler, your child can learn to follow simple one-step directions. First show him what you want him to do and then ask him to complete simple tasks such as “close the door,” “put this paper in the trash can,” then move onto tasks with multiple steps such as “pick up your toys and put them in the toy box.” Children learn values from their families, culture and other significant adults. Your child will learn from watching you as you show honesty, courtesy and self-control and as you observe family traditions. Preschoolers are learning to manage their behaviors and emotions. Self-control, independence, problem solving and attention are important skills to learn before entering school. When your

child becomes frustrated or angry, talk with him about his feelings. Tell stories and read books with him in which the characters learn to manage their feelings. Help him think of acceptable ways to handle behaviors and emotions. As children develop an awareness and understanding of values that are important to their families, they develop the building blocks of moral development. When your child is faced with decisions such as whether or not to hit another child, talk with him, help him to think about the consequences of his actions and to understand how others may feel or react to his behaviors. School-Aged Children need to learn how to work by themselves as well as in a group in order to be successful in school. You can help your child become skillful by working in both settings. For example, you can assign your child chores to complete around the house that strengthen his ability to focus on the completion of a task all by himself. By helping you bake cookies or plan a birthday party your child can learn how people can work together. Encourage your child to act responsibly. Talk with him about how you expect him to behave, complete assignments and always do his best.


Respect your child and expect him to show you and others respect. Discuss with your child the importance of doing his best, being courteous, being on time, making an effort and maintaining a good attitude, all of which contribute to school success. Setting goals helps children succeed. Set goals with your child that encourage him to stretch himself in pursuit of success, but do not overwhelm him. College and career planning are important. Discuss possible careers with your child. Support his career interests by providing him opportunities to learn first-hand about a number of different career opportunities. Do not force a specific trade or course of study. Instead, be sure he has enough experiences to keep his options open. Encourage volunteer and work experience that allows your child to test out his interests. Take him on field trips to local colleges as early


as when he reaches middle school. This is a great way for you to help him understand how his current schooling is connected to his life beyond high school. Math is important for school success. Help your child understand the importance of math in elementary school. In addition, encourage her to take algebra in 8th or 9th grade. Algebra is considered to be a course that is a “gatekeeper for success.� By taking algebra he will be prepared to take more advanced math and science classes that in turn, can help him to get into college or other further schooling and get a well-paying job.

People with more education make more money Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2009 people who finished high school earned almost $175 more every week compared to those who dropped out. People who completed an associate’s degree made $125 more every week compared to high school graduates. But diplomas and degrees are not the only ways to get a higher paycheck. Apprenticeships and on the job training also tend to increase an individual’s pay. There are also jobs such as electrician, welder or boilermaker that require long-term training and have salaries similar to positions requiring college degrees. It pays to stay in school and go to college or get additional specialized training.


Children will learn with each new experience. You can provide a balance of positive, enriching experiences and quiet times that support learning.


Expanding Horizons

Birth-Preschool Show excitement about learning by providing interesting opportunities for your child such as visiting a zoo, museum, park, library or taking a walk in your neighborhood. Talk to your child about new things he is learning to do. Your interest will communicate to him that you care about him and value education. School-Aged Express curiosity about school subjects and encourage your child to talk about what he is learning.

seasonal fairs or events in your community. These provide many interesting topics for conversation before, during and after the visit. When your child is in the middle and upper grades, emphasize the connection between her current school work and potential for success beyond high school. Encourage your child to be prepared to go to college or technical training. Find out if your child’s high school offers Advanced Placement courses, the International Baccalaureate Program or dual enrollment classes that give college credit in your child’s high school.

Expose your child to a variety of art and musical styles, sports and games, and potential hobbies. Family trips or vacations provide opportunities to learn together. If you can’t travel, visit local places of interest, historical sites and free or inexpensive


Routines provide security and comfort to children regardless of their age. Children need to learn how to manage their time so that they can complete homework, chores and have time for play and other activities.


Organization and Study Skills

Birth-Preschool Encourage your child to manage her time. When she is very young, plan time for active play such as blocks, dress-up, climbing, running, jumping and throwing, as well as quiet times for reading, drawing and puzzles. As she reaches preschool age help her to choose both active and quiet activities.

The ability to follow routines is important to learn before entering school. Develop consistent daily routines and schedules for eating, sleeping and playing. Help your child recognize and understand that routines may be different at home than they are at Grandparents,’ at preschool or at someone else’s house.

As your child is able, encourage her to help you with household tasks. Toddlers can help fold laundry and put it in the laundry basket or pick up their toys and put them in a toy basket. Older preschoolers can set and clear the table, put away laundry or organize toys and books on shelves. Involving your child in simple household tasks will help her develop the skills to organize and manage her own spaces as she enters school.

School-Aged Provide a daily routine that includes time to eat, play, work, study, read and talk with your child about their learning and social experiences. Provide time to review homework and talk about school and activities with your child.

Preschool children need consistent rules. Rules help children know what they can expect day to day. It is not necessary to have a lot of rules but it is important to talk with your child about family rules and expectations so that she can follow them.


Establish a special place and time for homework and study. Make sure that the area has good lighting and is free from distractions. Keep supplies such as paper, pencils, pens, a dictionary and a computer nearby. If you don’t have a computer or Internet access, determine how to use the facilities in local libraries, community center and/or at school to complete assignments and extend your child’s learning. Help your child manage school work and organize priorities. At homework time, have him do the harder work first when he is most alert. Help your child keep track of assignments and due dates. At the secondary level, it is often better to provide guidance regarding resources he might use to complete his homework assignments as opposed to directly helping him complete the work.

Note: Limit the time your child watches television, plays computer and video games, and uses the Internet and telephone.


Send a note or call the school when you have questions about your child’s grades or learning. Make sure that your child is prepared for the school day by setting aside time to put everything he needs for school in a backpack or bag. This includes homework, clothes for physical education class, musical instruments, etc.



Protect Your Child Online

Monitor your child’s activity on the Internet. You should especially guard against your child being victimized (or victimizing others) in three areas that are becoming increasingly problematic: cyberbullying, sexting and harassment. The Center for Safe Schools defines each of these as follows: • Cyberbullying: the willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of the internet email, instant messaging, chat rooms, pager, cell phones or other forms of information technology to deliberately hurt, taunt, ridicule, threaten or intimidate someone. • Sexting: the sharing of explicit, sexually related content through text or picture messages. • Harassment: the intent to annoy or alarm another person by repeatedly committing acts that serve no legitimate purpose.

Talk to your children regularly about their online activity. Monitor their use of cell phones and computers. If you find your child is the victim of cyberbullying, inform your school’s principal immediately. You can also prevent cyberbullying by emphasizing to your child that this form of harassment is wrong and hurtful. You must also be aware of the fact that child sexual predators monitor the Internet as a means of contacting potential victims. According to the FBI, children online during the evening hours have the greatest risk of being contacted by a predator. You should talk openly with your children about the dangers of computer-sex offenders. You should also find out your children’s favorite online destinations. For more information about protecting kids online, visit or call the Center for Safe Schools at (717) 763-1661.

As the Center for Safe Schools indicates, “risky digital activity, like cyberbullying, sexting and harassment are activities which have the potential to subject youth to long-term negative consequences. School policies, Pennsylvania civil and criminal laws may all be implicated in these unlawful behaviors.”


When family members, school staff and community organization representatives work together, the result is the healthy development of children.


Family, School and Community Involvement

Your relationships with community groups, daycare providers and teachers are important to your child’s success. When you are involved with the community and school, you learn from other parents, and you get to know your community and the activities and supports that are available to you and your child. When family members, school staff and community organization representatives work together, the result is the healthy development of children. We now know that high performing schools have identified the expectations and goals that the families, school and community share.1 This leads to higher student achievement. Talk to other parents, teachers and administrators at your child’s school, and members of various community groups to find out how they are working together to support student achievement. Make it one of your goals to become involved.

• Learn about community resources that can provide services, supports and learning or volunteer opportunities for you and your family. • Become familiar with nearby parks and other cultural and recreational facilities. • Find out about free services in your community, such as story hour at the library, fire safety workshops, community wellness, family support, child safety or youth development fairs. • Attend day care, preschool, or school open houses, plays, sports events and special programs. • Join with other parents in parent organizations such as the PTA or PTO, booster clubs or support and learning groups.

Below are some ways that you can become more involved in your community and with your child’s school. • Get to know your child’s friends and their families and continue this practice throughout childhood and teen years. • Get to know your neighbors and your neighborhood.

Henderson, A. and Mapp, K. (2002). A New Wave of Evidence. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.



• Volunteer at your child’s daycare, preschool or school and with organizations in your community. • Participate in activities that help your child, the schools and the community understand and appreciate your own culture as well as the cultures of others and recognize the diversity that exists among children and families in your community. • Become informed about economic and political issues in your community. Talk with your child about them. Register to vote and take your child with you to the polling place when you go to vote. Get Involved Family, school and community partnerships may take the form of action teams that are working with individual schools to support students to higher levels of achievement. Examples are working on school improvement plans; solving a specific issue such as illegal drug use; eliminating violence in homes, at school or in the community; or bringing people together to figure out how to construct an accessible playground. The partnerships may be smaller in scope. For example, one

Henderson, A. and Mapp, K. (2002). A New Wave of Evidence. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.



community service such as a counseling or health clinic could work with one school building to provide services to students and their families. Another partnership might involve strengthening the communication network among after school providers, school staff and families. Partnerships work best when all members are prepared (and feel supported) to do the work, when the work is focused on students, and when the partners advocate and create an environment where all are welcomed.2 What Parents, Schools and Communities Can Do Together Parents, schools and communities are important to school success and student achievement. Review the standards below and think about how you can help develop a partnership that includes the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Standard 1: Welcoming all families into the school community Families are active participants in the life of the school, and feel welcomed, valued and connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class.

Standard 2: Communicating effectively Families and school staff engage in regular, twoway, meaningful communication about student learning. Standard 3: Supporting student success Families and school staff continuously collaborate to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school and have regular opportunities to strengthen their knowledge and skills to do so effectively. Standard 4: Speaking up for every child Families are empowered to be advocates for their own and other children, to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success. Standard 5: Sharing power Families and school staff are equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices and programs. Standard 6: Collaborating with community Families and school staff collaborate with community members to connect students, families, and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services and civic participation.



Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 and Pennsylvania’s Accountability System The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 2001 also known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is a federal law to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education and that all students reach proficiency on assessments. ESEA/NCLB has several requirements that include: holding schools accountable for student achievement, using programs that are evidencebased, hiring highly qualified teachers and involving parents in their children’s learning. Schools and school districts must report how well they are meeting the requirements of the law. You should review your district, school and child’s report that tells you how well the school and school district are doing toward meeting these goals. There are ten titles or sections of ESEA/NCLB. Title I describes the regulations that apply to most of the federal funds that schools receive for academic programs and for parental involvement.

Parent involvement has always been a centerpiece of Title I. The regulations and funds specifically focus on schools that serve a higher percentage of low income families.

Funds are allocated to schools based on a formula for either school-wide services or targeted assistance. Nearly all districts in Pennsylvania receive some Title I funds.

ESEA/NCLB Title I statute defines parental involvement as the participation of parents in regular, two-way and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities ensuring that:

The funds should be used to provide extra help to low achieving students to catch up and keep up with academics such as enrichment in English and math.

• Parents play an integral role in assisting their child’s learning;


• Parents are encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s education; and • Parents are full partners in their child’s education. The regulations require that parents are involved in planning for and deciding how the funds are spent. The funds can be used to pay for parent involvement activities, services and training. Local education agencies (LEAs) or schools have requirements regarding parental involvement under the ESEA/NCLB law. These are to: • Include parents in the development of state and local plans for school improvement; • Develop a local parental involvement policy; • Set aside funds for parental involvement activities; and • Develop school-parent compacts.

Pennsylvania’s Accountability System The Pennsylvania Accountability System is the plan that Pennsylvania’s Department of Education developed to comply with ESEA/NCLB. It measures school improvement and student achievement. The system: • Applies to all schools and students • Is based on PA standards and content expectations; • Sets a goal to have 100% of students proficient or above; • Uses a valid, reliable assessment system; and • Provides for rewards, assistance and consequences. It uses: • PSSA tests for grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 in reading, math, science; • Participation rates in testing (how many students actually take the test); and • Attendance rates for grades K-8, or graduation rates for grades 9-12. Annually, schools use the results of how well students performed on the PSSA’s attendance and graduation rates, as well as information about qualified teachers and school safety to create a school report card.


Standards Aligned System The Standards Aligned System (SAS) is a comprehensive approach to support student achievement across the Commonwealth. The system connects the six components of curriculum and instruction that make up the instructional process and support student academic success at all grade levels and in each subject area. The six components are as follows:

The Standards Aligned System was developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education as a means of ensuring that students in all classrooms across the Commonwealth are provided the best educational environment possible in order to achieve academic success.

1. Clear, High Standards that establish what all students need to know and be able to accomplish. 2. Fair Assessments aligned with the Standards. 3. Curriculum Frameworks specifying the Big Ideas, Concepts, and Competencies in each subject area and at each grade level. 4. Instruction (aligned with Standards) that identifies the strategies that are best suited to help students achieve the expected academic performance. 5. Materials and Resources that address the Standards. 6. Interventions (safety nets) that ensure that all students meet the Standards.



Key terms used in the Education System

Academic Content Standards identify what a student should know and be able to do at various grade levels. Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measures progress of schools toward meeting Pennsylvania’s goals for academic content standards, attendance (grades K-8) or graduation rate (grades 9-12) and student participation in the PSSA. School building and school district reports provide information about AYP status. Child Care Information Services (CCIS) are state agencies in localities across Pennsylvania that provide families with information on quality child care and personalized child care referrals to child care providers based on their specific needs or preferences. CCIS also administers the Child Care Works subsidized child care program across the state. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is Pennsylvania’s program to provide health insurance to all uninsured children and teens that are not eligible for or enrolled in Medical Assistance.

Curriculum refers to the academic content standards, instructional methods and materials used to teach children at each grade level. School districts can design curriculum and instruction to ensure that students meet or exceed the standards’ expectations. Early Intervention (EI) services are provided to children ages birth through five who have been identified through assessment as having health risks, developmental delays and/or behavioral concerns. Evidence-Based Programs are teaching methods and programs that have been proven by research to produce positive results. Highly Qualified Teachers are teachers that have obtained full state certification as a teacher (including certification obtained through alternative routes to certification) or passed the state teacher licensing examination, and hold a license to teach in Pennsylvania. Parents have the right to know about the qualifications for those individuals teaching their children.


Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and Gifted Individualized Education Plans (GIEP) detailed descriptions of the educational goals, assessment methods, behavioral management plan and educational performance of a student requiring special education services. They are prepared by teachers and educational specialists, along with family members. Keystone Stars is an initiative of the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) to improve, support and recognize the continuous quality improvement efforts of early learning programs in Pennsylvania. Learning Support Services are services provided to children having unique learning styles, developmental disabilities, special needs, behavioral or mental health conditions that make learning difficult. It is possible that children who show many talents and learn very quickly may also have difficulties. Parents have a right to ask for assessments of their children. The results of the testing may provide access to a range of learning support services.


Local Education Agency (LEA) is a government agency which supervises the provision of instruction or educational services to members of a community. The term “LEA” is most often used in reference to a public school district. Pennsylvania Accountability System describes the state’s implementation of ESEA/ NCLB. It applies to all public schools and districts (and charter schools). It uses standardized tests to determine if children are proficient in meeting academic standards. It requires schools to examine student testing results for achievement gaps for low income, minority and special education students. It includes targets for schools to meet for student attendance, graduation rates and participation in testing. Rewards and consequences are part of the PA Accountability System. Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) is the statewide standardized test in mathematics, reading, writing and science. It is based on the Pennsylvania Academic Content Standards. Results are available for each student, and for each school and district. Schools compile results for all students and for groups of students by race, English language learners and special education students.

Proficiency refers to how well students demonstrate their understanding of the academic content standards on standardized assessments or tests. Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS) is a system that compares the yearly academic growth that each student is expected to achieve based on her previous three years of achievement data. It is also known as the “growth model.” Educators use it as a means of determining whether each child is growing at the expected level and whether all children’s educational needs are being met adequately and equitably. Contact your school principal for more information on how your school uses PVAAS data. Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtII) is a strategy designed to identify students at academic or behavioral risk at as early a time as possible. RtII allows educators to identify and address student academic and behavioral difficulties prior to student failure. The strategy uses a threelevel (or tier) approach to addressing student academic and/or behavioral needs with each level (or tier) implementing increasingly intense actions.

The ultimate goal of RtII is to improve student achievement using research based interventions matched to the instructional need and level of the student. In the future, RtII may be considered as an alternative means of identifying students with learning disabilities. School Choice affords parents the right to choose which school their child attends. It is offered to children who attend schools in Improvement or Corrective Action status. Choice is also available to children attending schools that are listed as “persistently dangerous” or to children who have been victims of violent crimes on school grounds. School Compacts are written school-parent agreements developed with parents for all children participating in Title I, Part A activities, services and programs. The school compact is part of the school’s written parental involvement policy developed by the school and parents. The compact must outline how parents, the entire school staff and students will share the responsibility for improved student academic achievement and the means by which the school and parents will build and develop a partnership to help children achieve the state’s high standards.


Supplemental Education Services (SES) are additional academic instruction and learning opportunities designed to increase the academic achievement of students. These services may include tutoring and after-school programs. Districts are required to provide annual notice about available services and approved service providers. Title I regulations describe how federal education funds can be used to improve the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. The regulations require parent involvement in creating school compacts. Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program serves to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating and referrals to health care. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is responsible for administering the WIC Program at the national and regional levels.



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This publication as produced in whole or in part with funds from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement, Parental Information and Resource Center program, under Grant #84.310A. The content herein does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Education, any other agency of the U.S. government, or any other source.


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