Home Visits Aim to Keep Students From Floundering in High School
By Kim Minugh, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
Jul. 24–As she recited Hiram Johnson High School’s graduation requirements, counselor Shelia Sadqe looked up at the freshman sitting in front of her.
“Are there any classes you struggle with?”
Before Chris Hunt could answer, his mom chimed in: “All of them. Every one of them.”
It isn’t the material he has trouble with, Nickiea Tate clarified, it’s the motivation.
“He ain’t doing (the work),” she said.
Gently but firmly, Sadqe cautioned the 14-year-old that what he does in high school will affect his chances to get into college — he says that’s in his plan — and his entire life.
Tate summed the message up more bluntly: “Playtime is over,” she said sternly. “It’s time to get busy.”
Sadqe will deliver that message to dozens of Hiram Johnson’s incoming freshmen this summer as part of the Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project.
Begun in 1998 by the Sacramento City Unified School District, its teachers union and Sacramento Area Congregations Together, the program encourages relationships between educators and parents by going into students’ homes.
This summer, the focus is on easing the transition between eighth and ninth grades, and educators are visiting the homes of hundreds of incoming freshmen at Hiram Johnson and Luther Burbank high schools. If they can make a connection early, educators say, there’s less chance the students will flounder as they begin a sometimes daunting stage of their education.
“That’s a moment in time where you can really set the tone for the rest of the experience,” said Alli Swan, a Sacramento ACT organizer.
Startling dropout data released last week by the California Department of Education shows that roughly one in four high school students dropped out in the 2006-07 school year. At Hiram Johnson High School, where the estimated dropout rate was 35.4 percent, students stand a 1-in-3 chance of not finishing. Luther Burbank’s dropout rate was 27.3 percent.
Research has shown the critical role parents can play in a child’s academic success, so parents and schools need to work together now more than ever, said Carrie Rose, executive director of the Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project.
“Nobody can do it alone these days,” she said.
Ana Del Toro welcomed two visitors into her home this week to discuss her son Martin, who will be a freshman at Luther Burbank this fall.
Her daughter has been at the school for two years, but Del Toro said she still had misgivings about sending her son. She wasn’t sure if it was the best school for him — until a counselor and parent adviser took the time to reach out, easing her mind in the process.
Now, she says in Spanish, she would recommend the school.
The Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project — which developed into a nonprofit organization — provides training and resources to school districts setting up their own home visit projects.
It has been a model for districts state and nationwide, but it works most directly with Sacramento City Unified.
During the home visit at Hunt’s house, his mother appeared to be a willing partner. Tate dropped out of high school after getting pregnant with Hunt; she never returned.
“That’s one of my major regrets of my life,” Tate said. It’s motivation for her to “stay on his neck” to make sure her son’s on a different path.
“You’ve got to get it for you, or you’ve got to get it for me,” she told Hunt during Sadqe’s visit. “Either way, you’re going to get it.”
Sadqe’s visit was about more than just inviting Hunt’s family to get involved in his education. The visit also was to let Hunt know who else on campus and in the community is there for him. She and colleague Natasha Johnson told him about tutoring that will be available on campus and mentoring programs off campus.
And they reminded him that he’ll come to high school already knowing two adults who care.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need help,” Johnson told Hunt.
Sadqe and Johnson wrapped up their 30-minute visit to the Oak Park home by putting in a final plug for Hiram Johnson’s freshmen orientation in August.
Then Sadqe smiled warmly at the budding Johnson Warrior.
“Welcome to Hiram Johnson High School,” she said. “We look forward to seeing you in September.”
To see more of The Sacramento Bee, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sacbee.com/.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
For reprints, email email@example.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.