Professional Learning

Carol Sharp: A View on Home Visits

September 16, 2002

Carol Sharp is the principal of Susan B. Anthony Elementary School in Sacramento, California, one of the first schools in the state to launch a home visit program. An experienced educator, Sharp was recognized as a principal of the year for the 2001-02 school year.

1. How did the Home Visit Project get started?

One day a community organizer came to my door and said, "May I help you?" and I said, "Well, there's one thing I need. I don't know how to get my parents involved. We've tried everything. I've had meetings where I only have two parents come." So we sat down and we asked the question: "If you're a teacher, what do you want the parent to know about the learning plan for the child?" And we asked the parents, "What would you like for the teacher to do for your child?" and "Would you like them to come and visit?" So, that first year was a planning time and we did a lot of talking about how we could make a better connection with the community. That was the beginning of the pilot for the home visit project.

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2. How did teachers react to the idea of conducting home visits?

When I presented this to the staff, the majority of the staff were passionate about going into the homes. They realized we needed to have a training so that we were all on the same page. There were some fears. There's always fear of the unknown. And so we had to explain those fears to each other and examine them and say, "Let's be honest about what we can do and what we can't do." One of the things I do know is that it really helped my staff examine in their hearts what it is to be a teacher -- how far are you going to go to step out there into the community and support that student, not just only at the school but within the community.

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3. What happens during a home visit? What kind of preparation do teachers receive?

There are many different levels of training. The beginning level instructs teachers how to go into the homes, which questions to ask, and how to present material in a gentle way. The second visit is a tool-kit visit where you sit down with the parent and bring them things that they can use to work with their child -- it's actually an inservice with the parent. If it's a brand new student and a brand new parent, we start with that first protocol. But if we've already had a connection, then we go to the next one.

Part of the training has to do with how parents work with a child at home. What kinds of things can they do as a parent that will help your student? And then we also examine how we can improve at school. We ask the parents, "What can we do better? What can we do better for your child?"

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4. What effect have home visits had on student behavior and academic achievement?

When you go from 140 suspensions four or five years ago, down to three, that's dynamic. When you go to an attendance rate of 97.4 percent, that's dynamic. And when you have students that have, I'm proud to say, jumped 214 points on the API scale in that amount of time, you know something's happening here. And I attribute it not only to the staff's efforts and my efforts, but to the community's efforts -- the support that's here from our parents.

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5. How have home visits changed the way students, teachers, and parents interact?

I see students that really believe in themselves. I see parents that call me with questions on academics now. I see parents that come by to check and see how their students are doing. I see teachers who go and visit the homes and really find a way to connect with the student and the parent. And I think this program supports the student learning in a very positive way and helps with those connections and relationships.

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