Klea Scharberg

Parent and Family Engagement Roundup

Learning does not begin or end in school. In fact, the learning and development that does—or does not—happen outside of school is often as much or more important than formal learning. In September we looked at schools engaging parents and families to inform, complement, reinforce, and accelerate educators' efforts to educate the whole child. Meaningful involvement and connections between families and educators create partnerships that are critical to ensuring that each child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.

Listen to the Whole Child Podcast with guests Heidi Rosenberg, research analyst at the Harvard Family Research Project; Sheila Jackson, director of the Department of School Improvement at the Comer School Development Program Office and Regional Training Center for Prince George's County (Md.); and Trise Moore, Family and Community Partnership director for Federal Way Public Schools in Washington State.

Ask yourself the best (and tough) question of what we, as members of the education community, can do to make the often dysfunctional experience that is back-to-school night better. What if back-to-school night was centered on problem solving and featured a community conversation about how to keep each student healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged?

Decide if we, as educators, are ready for a new role for parents, defined by today's mothers and fathers and the times in which we live.

See examples of family and community partnership practices in Washington State, specifically a parent language program, leadership and mentoring opportunities, and a four-year advisory program that helps students plan for life beyond graduation.

Look beyond traditional boundaries to develop real partnerships with families and promote learning opportunities for all, as the community of Lambeth in the United Kingdom has. In this video, hear testimonies from educators and parents about how family learning is breaking down barriers and improving confidence and achievement.

Remember that engagement is best when it is led by learning, focused on students, and based on strong relationships between educators and families. With this foundation, new technologies can improve, reinforce, and support engagement and communication.

Plan your strategy to involve parents and family members using a combination of formal and informal, structured and unstructured events and meetings around a central and shared interest in ethical issues that guide behavior and choices.

Leverage parents, families, and community members as partners in an important part of school identity—curriculum and instruction—through participation in project-based learning activities.

Learn about the federal government's position on improving school accountability and the importance of parental engagement in education. Do you think schools should answer to Capitol Hill or to local parents?

Support systemic change through strategic dialogue and family engagement as a catalyst for closing the achievement gap. The documentary On the Same Page—Families and Schools as Partners from Every Person Influences Children, the New York State PTA, and the New York State Parental Information and Resource Centers describes the research on why efforts to engage parents in their children's education is so important.

Find information on creating and supporting meaningful partnerships between home and school from whole child partners the Association for Middle Level Education; Coalition for Community Schools; GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education; National Education Association; National Parent Teacher Association; and National School Boards Association.

Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

What do you think is the most powerful way a family can be engaged in the education process?

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