The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

December 30, 2013

Teachers find home visits help in the classroom

ST. LOUIS (AP) — In days gone by, a knock on the door by a teacher or school official used to mean a child was in trouble. Not anymore, at least for parents and students at Clay Elementary School.

The urban public school is one of more than 30 in the St. Louis area that sends teachers on home visits several times a year. Unlike home visit programs that focus on truants and troublemakers, or efforts aimed exclusively at early childhood, the newer wave seeks to narrow the teacher-parent divide while providing glimpses at the factors that shape student learning before and after the school bells ring.

"I wish they had this when I had children in school," said Elmira Warren, a teacher's aide at Clay who has made home visits to her students and their parents. "I was fearful of what the teachers thought, and of not knowing enough."

The nonprofit HOME WORKS! program is modeled after one in Sacramento, Calif., that over the past decade has since spread to more than 300 schools in 13 states, with active programs in Washington, Denver, Seattle and St. Paul, Minn. Program leaders say participation leads to better attendance, higher test scores, greater parental involvement and fewer suspensions and expulsions, citing preliminary research of the newer program by the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a series of external reviews in Sacramento over the past decade. Participation is voluntary, and teachers are paid for their time.

"We've figured out a way for people to sit down outside the regular school and have the most important conversation that needs to happen," said Carrie Rose, executive director of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project in the California capital.

The K-12 program began in 1999 as a faith-based community effort but quickly found support not only in the Sacramento school district but also with local teachers unions. The National Education Association has also endorsed teacher home visits, citing a "critical mass of research evidence" connecting high student achievement with involved parents.

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