When parents gather for Back-to-School Night, they typically don't have enough time to receive a personalized update on their students’ progress. That’s why Fairfax High School Principal Scott Brabrand decided he needed to round 'em up again.
Brabrand initiated “Rebel Roundup” last fall, and the response was wonderful, he said.
“It’s an opportunity for parents and teachers to connect and discuss their son or daughter’s academic achievements,” he said.
At least 500 parents showed up last fall to meet with teachers in the school’s field house, for a one-on-one conversation about each child’s successes and shortcomings, said Clai Jorgensen, a Parent Teacher Student Association member and parent. The school sponsored its spring semester roundup, Tuesday, March 5, and parents showed up at dawn for the chance to get a second update about their children’s progress.
“Grades speak for themselves,” said Ruth Pegeron, whose daughter, Amanda, is a sophomore at Fairfax High. “This helps you understand their behaviors and how they engage with others in the classroom.”
Teachers set up tables in the field house according to subject. PTSA members and Fairfax High staff provided parents with a course description catalogue and helped them find their way around the large gymnasium. The conversations are short if other parents are waiting in line for the same teacher, but if there is no line, a parent might get a lengthy one-on-one session. City Councilmember Patrice Winter, a parent of two Fairfax High School students, attended both Rebel Roundups, and said that while the conversations are generally short, they are very helpful.
“It’s enough time to get a sense of any problems,” she said, as she rushed into the school in the sub-freezing temperatures around 8 a.m.
Brabrand said he realized that the countywide back-to-school nights do not allow for a lot of personal interaction, and that kind of interaction is “very valuable” to students, parents and teachers. At back-to-school night, parents gather in a group setting to listen to teachers’ short presentations about the class, and the parents often leave with a lot of unanswered questions, said Michele Campbell, a Spanish teacher and the foreign language department chair.
“[Rebel Roundup] is one-on-one; I like the alone time,” she said.
The personal connections, said Brabrand, are what equal a strong school. The school conducted a survey among parents after the first Rebel Roundup last fall, and Brabrand said about 80 percent of those surveyed gave the experience a four or a five, on a scale of one-to-five. It was enough motivation to fit in another roundup in the spring, since Brabrand said it gives parents another chance to check in with teachers while enough time remains to make a difference before the end of the school year.
“We know that increased communication and parental involvement can increase academic achievement,” said Brabrand.
The morning hours, from 7:20-9:30 a.m. were chosen because it seemed more likely that parents could make it then, he said. The school’s start time was pushed back three hours, and students enjoyed shorter classes throughout the day as a result. Jorgensen said that it’s “a wonderful idea,” especially for parents who don’t usually get the opportunity to get involved because of busy work schedules.
“I personally think it’s a great idea,” she said.