Multiple factors play into a student’s educational potential. In St. Louis, parents and educators believe home visits by teachers is one of those factors. Modeled after similar programs in California and Texas, HOME WORKS! is the non-profit that administers this program across multiple school districts in Missouri.
A New Wave of Teacher Home Visits
While not a new idea, increases in teacher participation, encouraging results from students and positive feedback from parents motivate the continued expansion of home visit programs by HOME WORKS!. These programs were developed with the intention of diminishing the teacher-parent divide, leveraging transparency when it comes to instructional methods, and fostering parent accountability for their student’s learning. Now, more than 30 schools in St. Louis annually send teachers out to student’s home to provide additional instruction.
The first teacher home visit sets the stage for following home visits. Teachers — who participate in home visits on a voluntary basis — focus on establishing a strong rapport with the student’s home environment, then emphasize academics in future meetings. While teachers must meet a 45 minute minimum, most surpass this amount to maximize the opportunity for students. The program does not target specific groups of students, either. Unlike other after-school programs which target truant or low-achieving students or emphasize early childhood education, HOME WORKS! focuses on addressing specific concerns that arise from all students when in the classroom.
Student Success After School
The extra meeting time may not happen everyday, but it gives parents, teachers, and students greater insight into the goals of the material. So far, the results have been positive. Preliminary research from the University of Missouri-St.Louis show that participation in home visits leads to better attendance, improved test scores, greater parental involvement and fewer suspensions and expulsions. External reports from a California home visit program cite similar results among its participants.
The outcome of home visits are not unlike the impact of traditional after-school programs offered across the nation. A study by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education notes that the most successful programs focus on providing holistic enrichment activities in social development and personal wellness alongside academics efforts. In addition, quality staffing and sustained programming are key to ensuring students benefit from these programs.
Statewide Expansion and the Question of Accessibility
Currently, a growing number of school districts across the U.S. work with non-profits like HOME WORKS! to implement home visits by teachers. HOME WORKS! staff Missouri note that while their program is relatively small, with about 30 schools in participation, they believe home visits give students the direction they need outside of the classroom. Leaders have hopes of operating the non-profit’s programs statewide within the next few years. Plus, with Common Core Standards being implemented in 45 states, it may be even more helpful to students to have home visits as they transition to a modified curriculum.
With home visits and traditional after-school programs alike comes the question of accessibility. In short, not all students can partake in these programs, since not all parents or teachers can take the time out of their personal schedules to participate. What’s more, annual programming for HOME WORKS! costs elementary schools $10,000, while high schools dole out upwards of $20,000. Given that student funding varies within state and school district lines, it’s clear that not every school that could benefit from home visits would be able to adopt such services.
The success of HOME WORKS! and similar programs reiterate the importance staff developing positive relationships with students to create a healthy learning environment. Home visits have already been proven to play a positive part in student’s learning. While not every student will have access to this program, it reminds us of the ongoing reform occurring in U.S. education. Education can be adapted to meet a student’s various and complex needs, and this flexibility may be the key to ensuring that all students have equal access to opportunity from K-12.
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