In an effort to encourage more parents to get involved with their students’ education, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is rolling out a pilot program in conjunction with Walgreens that would give parents gift cards in exchange for attending parent-teacher conferences and picking up their child’s report card.

The Huffington Post explains:

As part of a pilot program launched at 70 public schools, Chicago parents will be given $25 Walgreens “Balance Rewards” cardsin exchange for picking up their child’s report cards and attending parent-teacher conferences, according to a press release from the city.

The program is being viewed as a way to incentivize parents to stay more involved in their children’s academic lives. All of the schools selected to participate have had continual difficulty engaging parents.

The public-private partnership appears to be a win-win for both the schools and for Walgreens, which just launched its first loyalty card in an attempt to attract shoppers with discounts, the Chicago Tribune reports. With over 150 stores in Chicago alone, Walgreen’s CEO Greg Wasson said he only hopes that the pilot program will expand to more schools.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who thought up the program, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he envisions the program will close some of the communication gaps that now exist between many public school students and their parents. The city’s schools plan to track and analyze the data to see how effective it is in promoting parent-teacher involvement.

Parent involvement is integral to a child’s academic success. When I was in the classroom, I’d often be amazed (and dismayed) at the low parent turnout during Back to School Night and at parent conferences. While I’d have a handful of parents show up, they were usually there to talk about students who were already doing well in my class.

Predictably, many are skeptical of the CPS initiative and wonder why parents need incentives to show up for their children (or if the program is merely a temporary fix). However, CPS officials are hoping the pilot program works.

Beth Swanson, Mayor Emanuel’s deputy chief of staff for education, said in a statement: “This is about our educators and CPS leadership working to be innovative and creative in order to increase parent involvement in their child’s education, period.”

What do you think of Chicago’s pilot program to increase parent involvement in schools?


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