“All programs of school, family and community partnerships are about equity.” -Joyce Epstein, 2019, p2.
This module focuses on models of family and community engagement that are used in schools today. The module highlights family and community engagement from the perspective of parents as partners in the education of their children.
Topics in this module include:
- Ohio’s origins of public education
- The “common good” and its relation to public schooling
- Benefits and challenges to family and community engagement
- The importance of getting to know your families
- Mindsets about families
- Perspectives on family and community engagement
- Planning for engagement
This module aligns with Ohio’s Leadership Development Framework in the following areas:
- Area 4: Community Engagement Process
- Area 6: Board Development and Governance Process
To help orient to this work, users of this module might ask themselves:
- What do families want for their children?
- What do communities want for their graduates?
Module users must work to discover specific answers to these questions, because specific answers are local (Clark-Louque et al., 2020). But in the abstract, families want children to be treated well and lead fulfilling lives (Hart Research Associates, 2017). And communities want their graduates to contribute to the social, political, and economic well-being of communities (Clark-Louque et al, 2020). With these important aspirations in view, shouldn’t all educators engage all families and communities well?
Note: remember that in the national context the term “community schools” refers to full-service schools with a community engagement mission—not to charter schools.
Ever since the Nation at Risk report was released in 1983, discussion about the purpose of schooling has shifted—toward promoting economic productivity (workforce preparation) and away from fostering the political engagement of future citizens (citizenship preparation). Is there still a place for citizenship preparation in your local community? Which groups in your community might support the citizenship-preparation perspective? Why? Which groups in your community might oppose the citizenship-preparation perspective? Why?
How are the family and community engagement efforts in your district connected? Is their level of connection productive for the district? Why or why not? Is their level of connection productive for families? Why or why not? Is their level of connection productive for the community at large? Why or why not?
What policies in your district influence how educators interact with parents and other community members? Do these policies benefit everyone involved (i.e., students, educators, parents, and community members)? If not, how might the policies be changed to make them benefit everyone?
Nearly all the experts on engagement stress an equity outlook. And yet, American society has grown more inequitable (the rich, richer; the poor, poorer; and the middle shrunken) in recent decades. If one agrees with the experts and acknowledges the growing inequity, what are the implications for family and community engagement in the US? In Ohio? In your district? How do your leadership teams address equity issues in the schools and community? Are changes needed to help your district’s leadership teams address equity issues in more productive ways? If so, what changes are needed?
Devote a BLT session to discussing family engagement. Base the discussion both on your team members’ prior experiences with family engagement and on what you’ve learned from this module. First, make sure your principal and superintendent endorse this use of BLT time. In the discussion, consider how a new or modified family engagement initiative might augment the impact of an instructional strategy or intervention method your team is already using. Consider using the Statewide Center’s BLT-oriented Family Engagement Needs Assessment to structure the conversation.
This is an activity for a teacher or a TBT, but it could be expanded to include all TBTs in a school. If home visits are not a common practice that you use, plan a few home visits with parents whom you do not already know. The focus of the visit should be primarily social rather than academic. The point is to get to know one another a little. Afterwards, discuss the experience with TBT colleagues.
Devote an entire TBT or BLT session to a discussion of community engagement (as opposed to family engagement). The charge is simple, but the activity will require preparation. First, secure the agreement of the principal as well as TBT or BLT colleagues. Then prepare the team for the discussion by providing a short reading or a couple of short videos. Then plan the meeting, using such questions as these: (a) What’s going on in the community with implications for reading instruction? (b) What opportunities for connecting to the community do district parapros provide? (c) What STEM-related field trips might be arranged in partnership with a community organization? (d) What significant community problems might students help to address (e.g., through service learning projects, inquiry projects, and so on)?
Conduct a survey of families’ experiences with engagement efforts. This activity might be planned as a DLT project in order to focus on parent involvement across some (or all) district schools. The activity, however, could be adapted as a BLT project to focus on parent involvement at one school only.
One plan for developing and administering the survey and analyzing survey results is presented in the table below.
Purpose To secure a representative view of parents’ experience of engagement with the school. Survey development The survey should be short (10 or 15 items, with one or two open-ended questions that allow parents to comment in their own words). Using questions from a published survey or from a survey previously used in other districts might be easier than trying to make up questions on your own. Make modifications to questions to fit with particular characteristics of your school or district, but be careful when modifying questions. Sample survey items
The items that appear below come from existing instruments.
- How well have you been treated when visiting the school? (not well, OK, really well)
- How comfortable are you when talking with teachers? (very uncomfortable, uncomfortable, comfortable)
- How often have you been visited at home by a teacher? (never, once or twice, regularly)
- How often have you been asked to suggest things that the school should teach? (never, once, sometimes)
- How often have you been contacted when things are going well with your children? (rarely or never, once or twice, often)
- How often have you been given activities to do at home with your child or children? (never, sometimes, often)
- For meetings at school, how often has on-site childcare been provided? (never, sometimes, always)
- How often have you been invited to visit your child’s (or children’s) classrooms? (never, sometimes, often)
- How often have you attended a workshop for parents given at school? (never, once, several times)
- What advice would you give the school about involving parents (particularly you, your family, and your friends)?
Data collection The term representative means that most of the parents (at least 80%) of students who attend the school need to complete a survey! That goal is the major challenge, but perhaps more importantly it is an opportunity for engagement with every parent! You’ll need multiple ways to collect data (e.g., home visits, social events in the community, email contact). And you’ll need a list of all parents in order to see which parents need additional encouragement to respond. Keep clearly in mind that some (or many) parents may have reasonable doubts about providing feedback about the school. But many (perhaps most) will be glad just to be asked. Personal contact will be very helpful. Data analysis There’s a lot you can do with a survey like this. One thing to consider is an analysis related to equity. In this light, give careful attention to responses from families living in poverty or those from other marginalized groups. Again, an 80% response rate is a minimum: try to get the remaining 20% because they have information vital to improving family and community engagement. Reporting An extended project like this requires a good report. It serves as a record of the effort; a focus of discussion for the DLT or BLT; and feedback about family engagement to district leaders, the school board, or the community in general. It must include feasible ideas (recommendations) for improvement (three to five ideas are plenty to get a DLT, BLT, school board, or community discussion started).
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For more information, visit the Credit Corner. If you’re seeking credit for the Gifted Education Professional Development Course or the Culturally Responsive Practices Program courses, you can find that information on the course overview pages.