National Policy Forum for Family, School, and Community Engagement: Event Recap

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On Tuesday, more than 150 people representing families, communities, state and local governments, philanthropy, federal agencies, practitioners, and support organizations joined the U.S. Department of Education at the National Policy Forum for Family, School, and Community Engagement. At the heart of the forum was discussion around systemic family and community engagement strategies that serve to promote student success.

While schools are striving to prepare our students for the 21st century, many are doing so without aligned parent and community engagement practices. To tackle this challenge, Tuesday’s forum asked four key questions:

  1. What does the future of family and community engagement look like?
  2. How can federal, state, and local policies work together to create systemic family engagement?
  3. How can student performance data be used to connect families and schools in a significant way?
  4. What roles can families play in transforming low-performing schools?

Each question was explored by a panel that addressed relevant research, shared knowledge of effective practices, and discussed opportunities to integrate and sustain engagement across education reform priorities and the various levels of government.

Discussed at length were the policy levers that can be tapped to encourage and sustain meaningful partnerships with parents and communities to support student learning. These levers included: training and professional development for school staff; capacity building to help entities develop, implement, and evaluate initiatives; encouraging the blending of resources in creative ways; sharing best practices via learning communities; scaling effective practices; and using the federal government’s leadership role to develop a common family engagement framework and accountability system to ensure that state and local family engagement goals are being met.

Under President Obama’s Blueprint for Reform, funding for parent engagement under the Title I program will double to a total of $270 million. At the same time, states will be allowed to use another $145 million to expand district-level, evidence-based parental involvement practices. The program will allow districts to use best practices that raise student achievement.

In a working paper distributed to Forum attendees, six best practices were shared including:

  • The Poway School District, CA: helps parents set “family goals” to reinforce learning goals developed by students and their teachers.
  • The New Visions for Public Schools, NY: makes parents key partners in helping their ninth graders meet four core college readiness benchmarks through parent workshops, publications, and the College Readiness Tracker.
  • The University of Kansas Medical Center’s Project EAGLE Community Programs, KS: provides families with children four years old or younger with routine child screenings and guidance on how to meet their child’s developmental needs using a Response to Intervention approach to early identification and support of children with learning and behavioral needs.
  • The Boston Unified School District, MA: includes in its curriculum development a tool to help parents understand the content areas their children need to master and practice tips for the home, and has a blueprint for professional development and assessment of school progress in family engagement.
  • The Creighton Elementary School District, AZ: implements parent-teacher teams to review student performance data, learn how to set parent-student academic goals, interpret benchmark assessment data and quarterly assessments, and understand a student’s standing in relation to the entire class.
  • The Washoe County School District, NV: works with the state’s Parent Information and Resource Center and Parent Involvement Facilitators to teach parents about graduation requirements and train them to use the online student data system to help keep their children on track in terms of attendance, grades, and credit accumulation.

The Forum’s rich discussions will influence the Department’s family, school, and community engagement work. In the near future, we will be releasing a publication outlining the Forum’s highlights and resulting next steps; and the pre-meeting working paper will also be finalized and released.

Are you engaging parents in a systemic and meaningful way? Share your best practices by posting a comment (below) or sending an email to [email protected].

Anna Hinton