Parent Engagement Matters: Wisdom From AP John Addison

Parent engagement is the top priority at Adams Elementary School, and it shows.

The school truly believes that parents are the key to unlocking limitless learning. And one school leader in particular, goes out of his way to ensure every parent gets the information necessary for their student to succeed.

Assistant Principal John Addison has an unwavering passion for education, and he’s led several of the school’s parent engagement efforts. He’s made such an impact, he’s a 2019 Summit Learning Spotlight.

What is Summit Learning Spotlight?

Summit Learning Spotlight is an annual program that shares the stories and best practices of both schools and educators who partner with Summit Learning. Spotlight showcases exemplary models of personalized learning implementation and instruction.

The best part is members of the community — mentors, educators, parents, and more — personally nominate the schools or educators we spotlight.

Putting the Spotlight on Assistant Principal John Addison

John says it’s important to make parents feel like they’re part of the learning process. By getting the adults on the same page, it makes it easy for students to better understand that their education is tied to their future lives.

“When it comes to student success, no one has as much at stake as parents. We take that very seriously.”

So, what’s Adams Elementary’s secret to keeping parent’s engaged? John says it’s staying proactive. Here are some of the ways he and the folks at Adams keep parents active in their child’s learning:

Giving parents opportunities to participate

There are also plenty of opportunities for parents to participate at school. Yes, Adams Elementary has Literacy Nights, STEM Nights, etc. But they also invite families to eat lunch and visit classrooms every Friday.

Adams Elementary School families enjoying Friday lunch at school.

John and his colleagues use what they’ve learned from previous parent meetings to create the agenda for upcoming events. They build content around parents’ expressed concerns and questions; to really make them feel heard. They even give parents suggestions on what kinds of questions to ask their child to better support student success.

Overcoming a language barrier

John says the biggest roadblock he faces with parent engagement is a language barrier. With 80% of his students being Hispanic, there is a high percentage of Spanish-only households. When he noticed Spanish-speaking parents weren’t as active as they could be, he made sure to find a way to get them involved.

Now, Adams Elementary provides parents updates on student progress through text, email, and over the phone in both English and Spanish. It’s no different with parent conferences, either. The school always makes sure to offer a separate parent meeting for those who prefer receiving information in Spanish.

“We want parents here, and we want them involved. We want parents to feel comfortable asking questions, expressing concerns, and getting the answers they need no matter what language they speak. We almost always have 3 or 4 translators readily available,” John said.

Giving students a voice

One unique thing about Adams Elementary’s parent conferences are they’re all led by students. John says one of the biggest differences he’s seen in his students who use Summit Learning is they can easily communicate what they’re learning and why they’re learning it. By allowing the kids to take the lead, it builds confidence in both parent and students.

And although these are all Adams Elementary initiatives, John’s passion is an inspiration to all. He may be too humble to take credit for the difference he’s made in thousands of students’ lives, but his friends at Adams Elementary and Summit Learning have his back.

“I’m doing nothing more than preparing children for their future,” John said.

To John and everyone at Adams Elementary, keep shining bright like a spotlight.

Check out other inspiring Summit Learning Spotlight stories for more tips on how to keep parents engaged at your school.

About the author

Summit Learning
Summit Learning is a research–based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student–teacher relationships that prepare students for life after graduation. Created by teachers with experience in diverse classrooms, Summit Learning is grounded in decades of research about how children learn. With Summit Learning, students gain mastery of core subjects like math, history, English, and science, while also carefully developing the skills and habits of lifelong learners. Summit Learning is independently led and operated by the nonprofit, Gradient Learning.