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Giving kids a boost: What really matters to help kids learn
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Giving kids a boost: What really matters to help kids learn

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Thousands of students across the Learning Community’s 11 school districts are benefiting from programs that aim to improve results – and that’s good news for parents.

“The key to improving student success in schools is working with teachers and families in a much more intensive way,” said Learning Community CEO David Patton. “In just a few years, the data tells us to keep moving in this direction.”

He said instructional coaching for new teachers, family-school-community partnerships and parent education programs are all having a positive impact.

Coaching teachers

The Learning Community supports teacher-coaching programs that give teachers more tools and strategies to help kids. Evaluations show the greatest impact among new teachers who can become discouraged. Pairing them with a trusted coach helps them build skills and confidence to help students, especially during their first few years in the classroom.

Coaches – highly skilled educators selected for special training – work one-on-on with teachers on strategies and other areas that can positively impact how students learn. Four districts offer variations of the program: Bellevue, Omaha, Westside and Ralston. Instructional coaching began seven years ago and continues to improve, Patton said, which makes it easier for a young teacher to embrace new classroom ideas and teaching styles.

“We want to keep our teachers where they are needed the most,” Patton said. “That’s more likely when they feel empowered to meet the needs of their students.”

Connecting family, school and community

Cosmos Awortwi and his wife, Tiffany, do everything they can to help their children. Tiffany signed up for the Learning Community’s free parenting classes so they could set goals for their growing family. They have a 6-year-old son, Micah, and 1-year-old twins, Sarah and Sarai.

“Parenting, healthy eating. … I’ve taken so many classes, I’ve lost count,” Tiffany Awortwi said.

The Learning Community takes a two-generation approach to help families support their child’s learning, starting at birth.

Free family classes in north and South Omaha community centers include parenting, life skills and leadership. The courses help parents understand how their children grow and develop – and how to relate in the years to come. That way, parents can better help their children succeed in and out of school.

As parents become comfortable, they build stronger bonds in their local schools and community. Independent evaluators found that children of parents in the program have better attendance and do better in school than their peers.

“When parents take an active role in their child’s education, the data is crystal clear – children win in the classroom,” Patton said. “Across the broader educational community, we need to help families build on their strengths.”

Empowering parents

Even the most involved parents may struggle because they live paycheck to paycheck. Fears of losing a job or home are common, Patton said. The Learning Community offers a parent education program to help moms and dads get out of poverty through learning English, completing their GED and other classes to improve family stability.

Said Patton: “Workplace skills are an emerging focus for our parent educational programs. Matching up parent skills with the current gaps in our local workforce would benefit everyone, especially children. Across our communities, parents are realizing it is never too late to build a better life.”

Find out more about Learning Community programs for families, parents, teachers and students. Visit learningcommunityds.org

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