City officials celebrate Jefferson Middle School Academy's success in family engagement on Jan. 3. (Courtesy of JATrojans)
City officials celebrate Jefferson Middle School Academy's success in family engagement on Jan. 3. (Courtesy of JATrojans)

City officials looked to highlight the positive in D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) at one well-performing middle school amid a recent attendance scandal that has loomed over the system.

As part of the Every Day Counts campaign, Mayor Muriel Bowser celebrated Jefferson Middle School Academy’s success in creating a strong school community on Wednesday, Jan. 3.

“We know that when students feel loved, challenged, and prepared, they are more likely to attend school every day,” Bowser said during the event at the Southwest school. “Ensuring this is the case for every student in every school isn’t easy and it won’t happen overnight, but we have educators across all eight wards working with families to get us there. I applaud the teachers, administrators and staff at Jefferson and at schools across the District who are going above and beyond to engage families and set our students up for success.”

Last month, the middle school was announced as the winner of the 2018 DCPS Standing Ovation prize for Family Engagement. The mayor highlighted the school’s work in building positive and collaborative relationships with students and families through home visits, student-led conferences and more.

Jefferson started making home visits during the 2012-2013 school year, each year expanding their program. Now, the visits are a required part of Jefferson’s model and all members of the staff, including operations and student support team members, are required to do home visits.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Jefferson visited 186 families, and survey data shows that the family engagement efforts are changing how students perceive school.

Last year, on the annual DCPS student satisfaction survey, 96 percent of students either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement “My family is welcome at my school,” an increase of five percent over the previous year.

DCPS home visits are supported by the Flamboyan Foundation.

In teams of two, teachers and staff visit families at home or in a location of the family’s choosing and focus on getting to know the family and child.

During the 2016-2017 school year, more than 11,000 DCPS families in FEP schools received a home visit from their child’s teacher.

“When families feel welcome at school, that’s going to lead to kids wanting to come to school and learn,” said DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson. “The engagement happening at Jefferson is what I want to see across our public schools: more resources for families, home visits, social and emotional supports, and an overall commitment to creating a welcoming environment.”

Sarafina Wright –Washington Informer Staff Writer

Sarafina Wright is a staff writer at the Washington Informer where she covers business, community events, education, health and politics. She also serves as the editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge, the Informer’s...

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