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'Report cards' rate role of Mom and Dad

Buffalo students, teachers and administrators are shouldering lots of responsibility in the intense effort to boost academic achievement in city schools.

Now, one school has launched "parent report cards" to make sure those efforts are being reinforced at home.

Parents of pupils attending Highgate Heights Elementary recently received 20-question checklists asking -- among other things -- whether they talk to their children about school every day, monitor their homework, attend parent conferences, limit television viewing and make sure their youngsters eat well and get enough sleep.

Scores of 10 or below indicate parents need to become more involved. Scores of 11 through 15 reflect a resonable level of involvement, and higher scores show that parents are very involved. Parents grade themselves and are not asked to report the scores.

"It's a way to get the dialogue going and to get parents to focus on what they can do to help their children," said Barbara Robertson, who is active in the Highgate Heights parent organization and is an officer of the District Parent Coordinating Council. "We want to get parents to the table."

Parents received the report cards during recent parent-teacher conferences, along with their children's traditional report cards, said Will Keresztes, Highgate Heights principal. The school, located at 600 Highgate Ave., enrolls 700 pupils in prekindergarten through eighth grade.

"We were saying, 'Here's the instrument we use to measure your child, and here's another instrument you can use to measure yourself,' " Keresztes said.

The report cards support greater parent involvement as long as they emphasize self-assessment and the school does not do the grading, said Catherine F. Battaglia, a community superintendent for the school system.

"The overall intention here is to paint a picture of what good parental involvement is all about," she said.

The report cards state that school officials "are available to assist you in building a strong partnership between home and school" but do not ask parents to return the cards.

Keresztes, however, said parents may be asked later this year to voluntarily report their scores so school officials have data to test certain assumptions.

Does parent involvement, for example, tail off as children get older? And is parent involvement highest in the grades where pupil performance is best?

Highgate Heights, the first city public school to require pupil uniforms, prides itself on innovation and school spirit.

But Keresztes sees plenty of room for improvement. "Kids have to come to school prepared to learn and be productive students," he said. "You can never be satisfied because there's never enough parent involvement."


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