OCEAN CITY — Erica Schaffer has two children in the district, but she was still excited to hear about a new parent and student workshop being offered for her preschooler this week.
“I thought it was great for the parents, especially parents who this is their first year going into the school system,” said Schaffer, 41, of Ocean City. “I’m floored with the levels these children are working at. I always say first grade is the new fourth grade.”
Schaffer was one of several parents on Tuesday who attended the Ocean City School District’s first Raider Ready workshop designed to prepare parents and students for the transition to kindergarten.
In the past few years, schools throughout the area have been offering workshops and programs for parents outside the standard parent-teacher conferences to help parents get more involved in their students’ learning experience.
Stephen Santilli, assistant superintendent in Egg Harbor Township, said these parent workshops are an offshoot of Ed Camp, a professional development training program for educators.
“One of the hardest things for us to do in our current society is to get face-to-face interaction with parents,” said Santilli, who sits on the board for Parent Camp USA and organizes Ed Camps in South Jersey.
Santilli said back-to-school nights are good, but the workshops and other programs offer more.
“That professional development is going to provide the opportunity for them to get resources they otherwise might not know how to obtain,” he said.
Ocean City’s Raider Ready program, which will continue with another five sessions through the remainder of the year, helps parents learn about the ways their students are being introduced to reading and math, said Primary School Principal Cathleen Smith.
“We talked about working in addition and subtraction at the elementary level,” said Smith. “Sorting can really transition a student to all kinds of math.”
Ocean City Superintendent Kathleen Taylor said the idea for Raider Ready came from the idea that schools often help parents and students prepare for college, but not for when they first begin school.
“We’re moving beyond just practice your spelling words at home,” Taylor said. “Homework has changed, expectations have changed and what we’re having students do and learn is changing. This Raider Ready is helping parents help their child transition into the school.”
Hamilton Township School District also held a parent engagement workshop this week to give ideas to parents on how to help their child with reading, said interim Director of Curriculum Roxann Bryant.
“The workshop is set up for parents to bring their children and work with the teachers and the children to get an idea of what interventions the teachers are using to assist their children in getting on grade level,” Bryant said.
She said the more supportive and aware parents are of what’s going on in the classroom, the better they are at helping their students be successful from home.
“Any partnership between parent, school and community can only help children be successful,” Bryant said.