Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Critical Issues in School Reform


S T O R I E S  O F  P U B L I C  E N G A G E M E N T
The Patrick O'Hearn School
with Activities and Resources

I. About the Program | II. On-Line Activities | III. Viewer Activities | IV. Resources

Over the past several years, researchers have begun to notice a fundamental shift in the actions of Americans on behalf of their children and their public schools. The collaborative constituencies that come from the efforts of educators, parents, and the public working together for change and improvement in schools are part of the movement called public engagement. These purposeful efforts can start in the school, the district, or the community.

The story of the O'Hearn School and the issues that it raises will be useful for administrators, board of education members, teachers, parents, and community members -- anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of public engagement and the positive benefits that can result for school improvement and student achievement.

This video can be used to:

  • Provide an example of a school in which public engagement has been successfully used to develop and implement innovative programs and strong parent/educator interactions.
  • Help viewers understand the roles of parents, teachers, and administrators in a collaborative process in which all parties are involved in decision making and program development.
  • Raise questions about the important roles that parents play in their child's education and the valuable information about their child that they can contribute to the learning process.
  • Discuss the flexible interchange of roles and responsibilities when principals, teachers, and parents choose to work together.

The Patrick O'Hearn School, Boston, Massachusetts

The Patrick O'Hearn School offers an example of the effective use of public engagement at the school level. The video profiles the unique partnerships that exist among the principal, teachers, parents, and students at O'Hearn. The presentation about O'Hearn is followed by discussions among two parents, an administrator, and a teacher and among a group of experienced public engagement practitioners.

O'Hearn is a K-5 public elementary school of 250 students, located in the Dorchester section of Boston. The school draws students from neighborhoods across the city as part of Boston's school-choice plan. O'Hearn serves a diverse group of families of multiple ethnicities and economic backgrounds. Over 65 percent of O'Hearn's students qualify for free or reduced lunch. O'Hearn is also an inclusion school, integrating large numbers of children with exceptionalities and learning disabilities in its programs.

Nine years ago a new principal began working with the faculty to determine new directions to raise student achievement. After a school evaluation process, the faculty decided that O'Hearn parents needed to play a greater role in the learning of their children. They were determined to develop a "parent-friendly" school, one in which parents would play an active role in student learning and in managing the school in partnership with teachers. With the establishment of a working group of teachers and parents, the creation of a parent center, and the adoption of a reading contract program, O'Hearn parents began to learn new roles of active participation in their children's learning and in the school.

Today O'Hearn parents are fully involved in the education of their children. Over 95 percent attend parent-teacher conferences. Fully 100 percent of children and their parents participate in the school's reading contract program. Parents and teachers are equal members of curriculum and school site councils, and parents participate in everything from textbook and materials selection to teacher selection and program development.

O'Hearn uses a broad range of assessment and accountability devices to determine student success. Student achievement has shown steady improvement, and O'Hearn ranked highest of any Boston school in recent Massachusetts statewide performance tests.


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