Site Navigation Menu National Policy Forum for Family, School, and Community Engagement Home Agenda Presenter Bios Forum Highlights and Videos Resources

Forum Highlights and Videos

Highlights: About the Forum | Panel 1 | Panel 2 | Panel 3 | Panel 4 | Closing Session

Panel 1: What does family and community engagement look like in a new era of education reform?

Loading the player ...

Transcript of the video: It starts with local leadership –- principals working in conjunction with faculty, with parents, and community leaders.  That local leadership in broad terms worked on two strands of activity.  One big strand was reconnecting schools to parents and community.  And in many of these contexts there had been a disconnect that occurred and so strengthening those ties. Second big connection -- going out to strengthen the professional capacities of staff, the knowledge and skills of teachers, their capacities to work together.	Third essential support – gathering all of these adults together, focusing on trying to –- to promote a student centered learning climate at its most basic level, order and safety -– at a deeper level, collective support for more serious academic work on the part of all students and the kind of environment to make all that happen.	And then, finally, the last of the five essential supports this idea of the instructional guidance system, a rich curriculum, ambitious assessments, ambitious academic work, and how faculty learn to take all of this on.	These five essential supports come together -– they operate as a system.  We argued and compiled a great deal of evidence that takes sustained attention to all five of the supports to improve.  I think there’s a bumper sticker from the work -– it’s there is no one silver bullet.  By analogy, it’s kind of –- it can be thought of as like baking a cake.  Which ingredient matters most?  Sugar, flour, eggs, baking powder?  It’s kind of a silly question.  Leave out the flour or you leave out the eggs, and it’s just not a cake. -- Anthony S. Bryk, President, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

To secure its proper place in education reform, family and community engagement must first be seen as one of the essential ingredients of that reform, and not a peripheral issue or an add-on patchwork of programs. Family and community engagement is a necessary piece of a reform strategy that includes other supports such as strong principal leadership, professional development, a student-centered learning climate, and instructional guidance. These elements of school reform are so interwoven that trying to separate the effects of family and community engagement from the effects of other school reform elements ignores the fact that each of these essential ingredients is part of a system of mutual dependencies, in which the effectiveness of one depends on the strength of the others.
Watch the video that accompanies the above text.

Loading the player ...
Transcript of the video: Let’s not start out on the policy area, but let’s start with what are these individuals experiencing as they come into schools, as they experience the school context, as there are disconnects between maybe what they were taught in their teacher education program and what they have to do.  And you can’t really get improvement unless you understand deeply what individuals who are engaged in this work are actually experiencing; and that’s very much, I think, the spirit of a lot of the work on parent and community work is that you have to start there, rather than starting with the solutions and sort of imposing them down on the problems. -- Anthony S. Bryk, President, The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching

In addition to including family and community engagement as a necessary component of school reform strategies, policymakers should adopt a people-centered approach to designing family and community engagement initiatives. Only then can policymakers understand the issues students and families face, and work with them to jointly design solutions that engage families as equal partners.
Watch the video that accompanies the above text.

Loading the player ...
Transcript of the video: And what we’ve tried to do in Iowa -– what I think has worked well -– is exactly what you said, that there has got to be an ongoing conversation between educators and parents where they are equal partners in that conversation.  And equal partners does not mean they do the same things, but they have different things that they do; but they are at the table as partners.  And that’s the –- that’s the process we’ve tried to put in place. And what has seemed important to us –- and how it seems to work -– is that it has to be an ongoing conversation.  It has to last a long time.  And it’s a tough conversation to start because there’s a lot of institutional rules to change and practices that have happened.	So we think the way this works is that at that school building level  the conversation has to start with the administrator and the teachers because they hold the keys and the power.  And if they will open the door and start the conversation and bring parents in and engage them in that –- that meaningful -– acknowledge that they’re not doing the same things, but they’re in it together and find a way to sustain that conversation over time and to start looking at –- starting with safe topics but moving towards other topics saying what do we believe about these things; what’s the school role; what’s the parent role; what’s the student role; what can we expect from each other; and how do we hold each other accountable. -- Ron Mirr, President of RM Consulting

Engaging families as part of the solution illustrates the importance of shared responsibility in systemic family and community engagement. Families are more likely to develop active partnerships with school staff in promoting student learning when they feel their involvement is valued and needed, and when their input has been solicited in the development of engagement strategies. Yet equal partnership does not mean that everyone has the same role to play.
Watch the video that accompanies the above text.

Loading the player ...
Transcript of the video: So, there’s a relationship that’s building around shared responsibility with information that is accessible, comprehensible, and actionable that is shared with that family.  So they see what this shared responsibility space looks like. Then zoom in.  I’m amazed at some of the stuff that technology now allows.  It means, for example, in -– there’s a pilot going on in Washington now where there’s hand-held devices and teachers are putting information in on a regular basis about how kids are doing and are able to then analyze that and come up with individualized learning plans. So I see leveraging that kind of information.  So there’s a parent dimension to that so they’re getting information on a fairly regular basis on how the young person’s doing and things they can do to support that learning and development.	-- Heather Weiss, Founder and Director of Harvard Family Research

Data sharing has emerged as a key strategy to help inform families of their student’s and school’s performance, empowering parents to have meaningful conversations with school staff about what needs to happen to help their student improve. Data-driven conversations represent another example of shared responsibility, in which parents and school staff are equal partners who play different roles in supporting student success.
Watch the video that accompanies the above text.

Loading the player ...
Transcript of the video: If we could look at kind of an extended accountability model where we had data around how well are communities supporting those schools -– how involved are they -– and not so much grading those communities A to F, but taking that data and engaging the community based organizations, the business and faith-based organizations and saying, look, this is where you’re coming out, and these are the impacts that are having on your local community school.  That could be a very productive conversation; and I think drawing on the research in a practitioner way. -- Arthur VanderVeen, Chief Executive Officer at the Office of Innovation at the New York City Department of Education

Data sharing can thus serve as a cornerstone of shared engagement. School staff need to recognize the contributions families make to student learning, solicit parents’ input in problem-solving, and work with families to design the complementary roles that families and school staff play in promoting student achievement. Arthur VanderVeen, Chief Executive Officer at the Office of Innovation at the New York City Department of Education, also noted that the “engagement around the solution”—in other words, joint efforts to understand the problem area and ways to address it—is what creates lasting change.
Watch the video that accompanies the above text.

Loading the player ...
Transcript of the video: And so we work very closely with the Iowa Department of Education.  We work with a group called School Administrators of Iowa.  We also work with the Iowa Association of School Boards to really give that message to their constituent groups. And what has happened over the last few years is that they’ve been very successful at promoting parent engagement.  It’s a viable strategy –- one of many – to improve student learning.  And then those constituent members, those school board members from the local districts and the administrators -– we don’t find them saying, convince us that this is a good thing to do.  What we find them saying to us is, what should we do.  We believe you, but we don’t know what to do.  We know how to teach reading.  We know how to teach math.  We don’t know what to do -– what works with parent engagement. -- Ron Mirr, President of RM Consulting

Capacity building is another critical part of advancing systemic family and community engagement. Without appropriate infrastructure or other mechanisms to drive and sustain this engagement, family and community engagement strategies tend to devolve into a loosely connected patchwork of services and activities rather than serving as a cornerstone of education reform. Capacity building needs to happen at multiple levels: on the national/state level to help build support for family engagement, and on the local level with the practitioners who will actually implement family engagement strategies as part of their work.
Watch the video that accompanies the above text.

Loading the player ...
Transcript of the video: As we think about what we do in Iowa, when you ask the question how should evaluations be designed, the thing that comes to my mind is that as I look at classroom teachers and what they do with evaluation, before No Child Left Behind they weren’t so good at engaging in that conversation; but now, I think, if you go in any elementary classroom, teachers understand what makes a good reading program, what indicators are of success with reading, and they know in their own day-to-day personal practice these are things I need to do, and these are things I can check to see if it worked. And I’d like to see the same thing happen with parent engagement, that the classroom teacher, supported by the building administrator, understood, this is what it looks like in my room.  This is what it looks like in what I do, and I know what I can look for and decide is this going the way I want it to go; and if not, there are changes I can make. So, whatever evaluation is designed, it has to go all the way down so that on that day-to-day level the people who have to do the work, it means something to them.  It’s simple enough that they can do it.  It’s focused. And I would love it if it could be a conversation like the reading because they can very clearly say, here are the five things.  Here’s where we are.  Here’s how I group.  Here’s how I make adjustments.  And so it needs to -—some of this evaluation has to be at that other –- those day-to-day practitioners can do it, and master it, and can use it to make their practice better. -- Ron Mirr, President of RM Consulting

Effective capacity building involves disseminating information on best practices, providing technical assistance to help schools/districts adapt such practices to address their particular contexts, and guiding evaluation efforts to assess whether family and community engagement strategies are having the desired effects. As such, family and community engagement initiatives also need concrete indicators of success. School staff, for instance, need assistance in developing a set of indicators to determine whether their attempts to engage families and make family engagement a core part of their instructional practice are effective.
Watch the video that accompanies the above text.

Highlights: About the Forum | Panel 1 | Panel 2 | Panel 3 | Panel 4 | Closing Session




Share |
This policy forum is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education's Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of this policy forum does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education.