Forum Highlights and Videos
Panel 4: What are the opportunities for engaging families in turning around low-performing schools?
The relationships between families and schools in under-resourced, low-performing areas are often fraught with tension and mistrust. Rebuilding positive connections between families and the schools that serve their students is a necessary component of successful turnaround efforts, yet families often complain that they are not involved in reform efforts until after decisions have been made about how to transform a low-performing school—decisions that do not always take into account local families’ needs and concerns.
Attending to families’ and communities’ strengths and capacities, as well as their needs and concerns—all of which affect a school’s functioning—help to ensure that proposed turnaround strategies are actually addressing the complex issues that contributed to the school’s chronic low performance. And just as importantly, rather than simply notifying parents about what direction turnaround efforts will take, parents need to be engaged from the beginning in decision making around instruction, staffing, and how the school is organized. The more that parents are involved in these critical components of education reform initiatives, the more likely they are to feel a sense of ownership over the school and efforts to improve student achievement.
There is also a need to increase parents’ capacity for advocacy so they’re empowered to understand and demand the change their student’s school needs. Informed, targeted, and meaningful family engagement constitutes a vital component of successful education reform efforts. Returning to the cake-baking metaphor from the beginning of these video highlights, Antonia Hernández, President and Chief Executive Officer at the California Community Foundation, argued that the establishment of meaningful parent engagement is the “flour” of that education reform cake.