Some 250 par­ents of stu­dents in the Boston Public Schools returned to class on Sat­urday at North­eastern, car­rying books, taking notes and attending sem­i­nars and workshops.

The uni­ver­sity hosted the second ses­sion of Parent Uni­ver­sity, a free, year­long edu­ca­tion and training pro­gram devel­oped by the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to help par­ents sup­port their children’s’ aca­d­emic achieve­ment. The adult learners attended ses­sions on a wide range of topics, including algebra, the MCAS, K-​​8 sci­ence, self-​​esteem, plan­ning for col­lege and keeping com­mu­ni­ca­tion open with their teens.

In addi­tion to pro­viding space and vol­un­teer staff, North­eastern part­nered with the BPS to develop the cur­riculum. Community-​​based orga­ni­za­tions pro­vided a variety of work­shops, often in both Eng­lish and Spanish.

For par­ents, the all-​​day pro­gram is a potent tool for learning how to teach, mentor and advo­cate for their chil­dren as they climb the aca­d­emic ladder from ele­men­tary school to college.

The pro­gram is about edu­cating, empow­ering and preparing par­ents from all over Boston by giving them as many oppor­tu­ni­ties as pos­sible,” said pro­gram vol­un­teer Craig Martin, a fifth-​​grade teacher at the Nathan Hale Ele­men­tary School in Roxbury.

Par­ents said that what they learned would pay off immediately—whether by helping them assist a child with math home­work or strongly encourage a teen to go to college.

A sem­inar on preparing her daughter for col­lege gave Brockton mother Natasha Riley the vocab­u­lary to talk with her teen about the impor­tance of earning a degree.

When she gets out of high school, she’s going straight to col­lege,” Riley said. “I wish my daughter was here, too. She would have really enjoyed it.”

A crash course on math­e­mat­ical problem solving gave Rox­bury parent Shateara Battle more cre­ative strate­gies for teaching basic math skills to her five-​​year-​​old son.

He’s already on an advanced path in math,” she said. “The class taught us quick-​​thinking tech­niques to improve his skills.”

Alice Levine, who teaches classes for par­ents through the BPS, led the sem­inar on math­e­mat­ical problem solving. Pen-​​and-​​paper methods are a thing of the past, she said, so par­ents used building blocks and tooth picks to famil­iarize them­selves with new strate­gies for solving problems.

All chil­dren are now expected to be strong problem-​​solvers,” she said. “You have to approach math prob­lems as a puzzle.”

Boston Public Schools Super­in­ten­dent Carol Johnson addressed par­ents over a sit-​​down lunch in the Curry Stu­dent Center Ball­room. Par­ents are a child’s best advo­cate and pro­grams like Parent Uni­ver­sity give them the where­withal to become leaders in their children’s’ schools, she said.

You need to have the tools and knowl­edge so you can lead at your school,” she said. “You have a right to ask ques­tions so your chil­dren get the best education.”

She called upon the par­ents in the room to help the school system achieve its goals of closing the achieve­ment gap, improving MCAS scores and ensuring that all stu­dents are ready for col­lege upon graduation.

We can’t do this alone,” she said. “We really do need your help.”

The pro­gram, orga­nized by the BPS’ Office of Family & Stu­dent Engage­ment, includes three full-​​day Sat­urday ses­sions during the school year, inter­spersed with shorter ses­sions at schools, libraries and com­mu­nity cen­ters. The Uni­ver­sity of Mass­a­chu­setts Boston hosted the first day­long ses­sion in October. The final day­long ses­sion will take place in May.

Free of charge to par­ents, the BPS is funding Parent Uni­ver­sity through a com­bi­na­tion of fed­eral stim­ulus grants and pri­vate gifts.