Family Engagement

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Over the next year, Sosne Kondé Policy Solutions will be compiling articles, studies, and other information about effective programs that support family engagement.  This may include such topics as:

  • Family Engagement
  • Parent Involvement
  • Skill Building
  • Academic Parent Teacher Teams
  • Home Visits
  • Family Literacy

Stay tuned!

May 2015 – FAMILY ENGAGEMENT WITH ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS

The Center for American Progress released “The Case for the Two-Generational Approach for Educating English Language Learners (ELLs),” a study that proposes ways to help ELLs by engaging and helping their families:

  • Adopting the community school model to provide critical wraparound services for students and families;
  • Implementing extended learning time to ensure that students have additional instruction critical to help them learn English while learning their curricula;
  • Prioritizing family engagement at school to help parents become better advocates for their children;
  • Creating workforce-development programs with English as a second language, or ESL, classes and wraparound services; and
  • Prioritizing ELL training for teachers.

Read the report or the Education Week summary.

March 22, 2016 – ESSA MAY PROVIDE VOICE FOR PARENTS

The newly revised education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), may be an opportunity to expand parental and community impact on states’ academic goals, plans for school improvement, and other areas of policy.  Because ESSA shifts significant responsibility over accountability and other matters to states and districts, there’s renewed hope that parent, community, civil rights, and other groups will have more sway over what has been, in many cases, a narrower decisionmaking process.  Like No Child Left Behind (LCLB), ESSA also requires districts to set aside at least 1% of their Title I funds, which are aimed at helping disadvantaged children, to involve parents in the school community (although the wording to describe those activities has changed under ESSA).  Under Title IV of the new law, ESSA also authorizes federal grants to Statewide Family Engagement Centers.  Those are a new iteration of the Parental Information and Resource Centers that were federally funded under NCLB, but which parent-advocates hope will play a bigger role, even though federal money for them is not guaranteed.  Read more about the parental involvement aspects of ESSA here.

Spring 2016 – NATIONAL CENTER ON FAMILY LEARNING – RESOURCES

This National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) brief describes its signature “Family Learning Initiative,” which was created with seed money from Toyota.  The initiative supports 15 community partners’ abilities to address educational needs and provide opportunities for families — particularly low-income, ethnically diverse families — to learn in the context of their own communities, using technology, and when on the go. The brief also highlights the importance of the two-generational approach to literacy, “For more than a decade, the number of adults who cannot read has plateaued at around 32 million (HuffPost Books, 2014). According to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, 67% of children are not proficient readers by the end of third grade (Smith, 2015). Given the high stakes attached to acquiring multiple literacies in order to access basic societal functions in the 21st Century, a two-generation approach to build stronger communities is more necessary now than ever before.” NCFL has a plethora of resources for families, researchers, teachers, and others, including the Learn To Earn Toolkit. Wonderopolis, Developing Early Literacy Report, and Family Engagement Brief.   In 2013, the National Center for Family Literacy (its previous name) conducted a meta-analysis of high performing family literacy programs.

August 25, 2016 – EDUCATION WEEK SITE ON PARENT ENGAGEMENT

This page is updated regularly with news on parent engagement initiatives.

August 25, 2016 – PARTNERING WITH PARENTS – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE QUESTIONS

The new book, Partnering With Parents To Ask The Right Questions: A Powerful Strategy For Strengthening School-Family Partnerships (ASCD, 2016), helps to build capacity for parents to ask the right questions and navigate the school system to help their children.

August 29, 2016 – PARENT INVOLVEMENT IS HAVING AN EFFECT

Good news!  According to recent studies, the gaps between rich and poor students are shrinking in children’s early reading and math, as well as their school readiness.  The gap has narrowed, “despite the fact that the underlying conditions – growing income inequality and residential segregation—have continued unabated,” commented Sean F. Reardon of Stanford University.  Why?  Increased parent involvement is having the desired effect!  Read more here.

September 15, 2016 – PARENT ENGAGEMENT MUST BE PERSONAL

Educators know that family support is vital to a student’s success.  Studies show a strong and powerful correlation between parent involvement and their child’s grades, graduation rate, test scores, and social skills. Teachers themselves rate family support in education as the most important factor in a student’s success, ahead of their own teaching skill, according to a recent survey.  The U.S Department of Education released a framework, “A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships“, suggesting that programs should provide several opportunity conditions to establish effective family-school partnerships. One of these conditions is the opportunity to build trusting relationships.   Real world education requires real world interaction between teachers and parents. That is why programs such as “The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project” have been so successful. They are building trust and respect, instilling cultural competency and increasing personal and professional capacity for all involved.  However, with the growth of technology and communication applications, parent-teachers relationships have been limiting the personal connections, noted here.  Instead, technology should be used to start the relationship or set up the meeting, but sustained, personal interactions are still the most effective.

September 26, 2016 – NATIONAL PTA PROVIDES FAMILY ENGAGEMENT IDEAS

With the start of a new school year, the National PTA Executive Director puts forth suggestions to schools to maximize their parental involvement.  Read more on his post and for additional resources from the PTA on family engagement, such as their Parents’ Guides to Student Success.

October 6, 2016 – IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY ENGAGEMENT FOR STUDENTS LIVING IN POVERTY 

In his discussion on the impact of poverty on students, parents, and schools, this Education Week writer summarized the best selling book, Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, by John Hattie,

One of the ways this influence is manifested is that schooling introduces a language and set of cultural norms with which many parents, particularly those from lower SES families, are not familiar (p. 63). Clinton, Hattie and Dixon (2007) “found major consequences when teaching parents the language of schooling.”

Hattie is referring to the Flaxmere Project, which was a five year, five school study completed in New Zealand that included the lowest SES schools in the country. According to Hattie, “The Flaxmere Project involved a series of innovations related to improving home-school relations within and between these five schools.” One of the innovations was to hire former teachers as home-school liaisons, and those liaisons taught parents:

  • The language of schooling
  • How to assist their children to attend and engage in learning
  • Learn how to speak with teachers and school personnel

According to Hattie,

“The Flaxmere study found that, when children started school 98% of the parents considered that education was very or extremely important to their children’s future. Two-thirds of these parents expected their children to attain diplomas and degrees. By the time they left elementary school, these aspirations had been dowsed and parents mainly wanted their children to get a job (Clinton et al., 2007).”

The author suggests that schools hire a “home-school liaison” to help engage parents, and also that teachers address the way they talk with parents.  Recommendations include:

  • Drop the Education Lingo – Teach the parents what the words or acronyms mean or we have to drop the educational lingo and acronyms to better engage the parents.
  • Adjust expectations – Focus on helping students exceed the expectations they or their parents have for themselves, which means that we do have to have higher expectations for them, regardless of what family they come from.
  • Provide adequate resources – Make sure that schools have adequate resources to add at least a year’s growth for a year’s input NO matter where the child starts, and ensure that teachers, parents and students know how to use them.
  • Respect the contributions from home – Teach the parents the language of learning so we are all working together to encourage and help students exceed what they think is their potential. Parental involvement has an effect size of .51, so we should make sure that we are talking with them about learning instead of talking at them about behavior.

Read the rest of the article here.

November 14, 2016 – LEARNING PATHWAYS

The Harvard Family Research Project “New Directions in Family Engagement” blog post describes how learning occurs on a continuum of “learning pathways,” beginning at birth and extending through early childhood programs, K-12 schools, family engagement, after-school programs, tutoring, mentoring, and programs in museums and libraries.  Examples of communities that have come together to provide innovative pathways include the Neighborhood Literacy Initiative, IDEABOOK:  Libraries for Families, STEM pathways, the New Orleans EdNavigator, and the Cambridge one-pager on afterschool opportunities.

November 30, 2016 – TEXTING PARENTS ABOUT ABSENTEEISM

A recent study showed the texts to parents did NOT help raise absentee rates. The research organization MDRC teamed up with New Visions for Public Schools, which provides coaching and other supports to a chain of 70 schools in New York City, to see if texts could improve attendance.  But the experiment found that attendance wasn’t any better than for a control group of students whose parents did not receive texts, MDRC reported.  For more details, read here.

December 1, 2016 – PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT INFOGRAPHICS BY CHILD TRENDS

Based on a report updated on September 2013 on the importance of parental involvement, Child Trends just released infographics on the same topic – “It Matters: Parent Involvement in School.”  The report details the parental involvement indicators on children and youth as well as the what works to make progress.

January 1, 2017 – GLOBAL FAMILY RESEARCH PROJECT 

Effective January 1, 2017, the Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project.  It still provides valuable resources about family involvement in schools.

January 6, 2017 – MISSOURI TEACHERS SEE ACADEMIC GAINS AFTER HOME VISITS

During 2014-15, 340 teachers underwent training and conducted 3,645 home visits in St. Louis area program Home Works! Typically, in the first visit, teachers build a relationship with the parents and learn more about the students’ home environment. In the second visit, teachers speak to the parents about the students’ academic performance and offer suggestions about how the family can enhance learning at home.  Independent researchers examined that year’s school records for about 3,000 students attending four school districts in and around St. Louis, which included a diverse pool of students in urban, suburban, and rural areas. The researchers compared students in the Home Works! program—who are performing below grade level—to similar, matched samples of students who are not in the program.

  • Students who received one home visit scored 5 % higher on state standardized tests, and were 13 % less likely to miss two weeks or more of school compared to students receiving no visits.
  • Students who received two home visits scored 7 % higher on state tests, and were 25 % less likely to be chronically absent.
  • Suspensions decreased from 50 to 20/year after the home visits
  • Homework completion increased from 50% to 96% in one school, and 30% versus 87% for one middle school homework assignment (one teacher can conducted the home visits; the other had not).

For more details, read the article.

February 1, 2017 – SCHOLASTIC KIDS & FAMILY READING REPORT

Scholastic published its annual Kids and Family Reading Report, 2017.

February 7, 2017 – IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL NETWORKS FOR LOW-INCOME FATHERS

According to a report from New America, based on research on social capital and responsible fatherhood, social networks can emotional, financial, in-kind, and housing support.

February 14, 2017 – FAMILY ENGAGEMENT CAN DECREASE ABSENTEEISM – ONE POSTCARD AT A TIME

According to a new report from the Regional Educational Laboratory Program, a single postcard to parents or guardians can decrease student absenteeism.

February 17, 2017 – HOME VISITS WITH A STEM FOCUS

The college of education at Sacramento State University conducts training in home visits for math and science teacher candidates to promote STEM fields for students.  Read more.

February 22, 2017 – FAMILY ENGAGEMENT MODEL – FEDERAL WAY, WASHINGTON

Trise Moore, Director of Equity and Family Engagement, Federal Way Public Schools, Washington (23,000 students) has set up a model program for family engagement (one of the six promising practices noted by Harvard Family Research Project), and now recognized by Education Week as a “Leader to Learn From.”  She started by teaching parents how to advocate for their children, convening conversations with “affinity groups,” collaborating with new partners, and starting and growing a family liaison program.  She wrote a handbook on how to navigate the district’s bureaucracy with an accompanying booklet for teachers.  Read more.

February 22, 2017 – PARENT-TEACHER COMMUNICATIONS 

A new study by researchers at the University of Missouri shows that professional development programs for teachers can improve how parents and teachers communicate. What’s more, having teachers rate parents’ involvement in the early stages of students’ schooling can be an accurate indicator of their future success. Read more.

March 8, 2017 – GETTING PARENTS INVOLVED IN TALKING ABOUT STEM

When parents of high schoolers are given guidance on how to talk about the importance of science and math, their children are more likely to score well on a STEM standardized test and, years later, pursue a STEM career, according to a recent study from the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Read more.

March/April 2017- PARENTING PROGRAMS THAT BUILD PARENTS’ SOCIAL SUPPORTS & PARENT-CHILD INTERACTIONS LEAD TO BETTER OUTCOMES FOR CHILDREN 

According to a report published the March/April issues of the Child Development journal, early-childhood programs that focus on building low-income parents’ social supports and making their interactions with their children more positive can improve the long-term outcomes for children in poverty.  The authors analyzed early-childhood health programs that incorporate home visits by health professionals to work with families, including Family Check-Up, and the Positive Parenting Program. The researchers found programs that help parents build up their own skills and social networks can help mitigate stress from poverty in children.

April 4, 2017 – DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS TOOLS TARGET PARENT-ENGAGEMENT MANDATE

ESSA, like the No Child Left Behind Act before it, requires districts to set aside 1 percent of the Title I funding they receive for disadvantaged students to pay for parent- and family-engagement initiatives and distribute at least 90% of that funding directly to schools.  But ESSA, which became law in 2015, also mandates that districts conduct outreach to “all parents and family members” in order to receive parent-engagement funding. In their parent- and family-engagement policies, schools must describe how they will conduct “regular two-way, meaningful communication” with families, and “to the extent practicable, in a language that family members can understand.”

From Title I, Part A, Subpart 1, Section 1116:

“A local educational agency may receive funds under this part only if such agency conducts outreach to all parents and family members and implements programs, activities, and procedures for the involvement of parents and family members in programs assisted under this part consistent with this section.”

“[E]ach school served under this part shall jointly develop with parents for all children served under this part a school-parent compact. … Such compact shall … address the importance of communication between teachers and parents on an ongoing basis through, at a minimum … ensuring regular two-way, meaningful communication between family members and school staff, and, to the extent practicable, in a language that family members can understand.

School-to-Parent communication platforms today come in many forms, including social media. Other application, such as Remind, are used primarily for sending updates and reminders to parents, via in-app messaging or SMS text.  Other communication tools—such as ClassDojo, Edmodo, FreshGrade, and Seesaw—allow parents to access student work, view videos and photos from class, and receive updates on student behavior. Many also allow users to “like” or comment on posts. The platforms also have the ability to track parents’ engagement with specific content—such as student assignments, test scores, or electronic messages—at the classroom, school, and district levels.

Research has shown that parent-teacher digital communication, when promoted under the right circumstances, can improve student outcomes. A 2017 study published by Teachers College, Columbia University, found that sending academic updates via text to parents of middle and high school students reduced course failures by 38 % and improved student attendance by 17 %. The effects were largest for high school students and for students with below-average GPAs.  A 2014 working paper released by Harvard University found that weekly text updates to parents of students in a credit-recovery program resulted in a 41 % reduction in the number of students failing to earn the necessary credits. Read more in this Education Week summary.

April 24, 2017 – PARENTS’ IMPACT ON STUDENTS’ ACADEMICS  

As described in this Education Week article, contrary to some common stereotypes, parents of all income levels have high expectations for their children, and low-income parents may even dedicate more time than wealthier ones to helping children with homework, according to federal data. Many school outreach efforts to low-income parents center on just that kind of home-focused involvement. Analyses by the Education Week Research Center and others show that middle-class parents often engage in more social involvement at school—participating in school committees, parent groups, and volunteering in class, for example—experiences that can link them to more opportunities and resources for their children and more influence in schools.

The Family Independence Initiative seeks to address those hidden inequalities, with strong results.  The first 81 Albuquerque families have completed the Family Independence Initiative program. On average, after two years, their incomes have risen 32 %, and their family savings doubled. More than nine out of 10 children in the participating families showed higher grades and achievement scores. Other sites have shown similar growth.

Abriendo Puertas, Opening Doors is another example of a 6-week parent-taught course on child development and Community Organizing for Family Issues is a non-profit that teachers parent leadership.

April 27, 2017 – FAMILY BOOK CLUB

For some ideas on how to start a Family Book Club, or any other kind of book club, read here.

May 12, 2017 – PARENT-CHILD EDUCATION – TULSA, OK

Research is showing early signs of benefits from inter-generational programs (parent-child education) in Tulsa, OK.  Read here.

May 24, 2017 – HOW DO PARENTS CHOOSE SCHOOLS

According to Education Week blog Inside the Research, new research suggests that parents pick schools for widely diverse reasons, and low-income parents may need support to understand what different schools have to offer. For example, low- and high-income parents both select schools based on school quality—but they use different measures of quality, according to a new study of school choice in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Mathematica researchers analyzed how more than 22,000 applicants to the District of Columbia’s citywide lottery ranked their preferences among more than 200 regular and charter public schools in the district. They looked at school demographics, how close schools were to students’ homes, as well as several measures of schools’ academic quality: academic proficiency and growth rates, the district’s three-tiered charter quality ratings, and the districtwide five-tier accountability ratings for all schools.

Another report, from 2012, looked at what factors parents included in their school choices..  See 2012 Fordham Institute publication, The Diverse Schools Dilemma: A Parent’s Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools, by Michael J. Petrilli.  As noted in the following excerpt, upper-middle-class parents often put other considerations ahead of school diversity.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

DUAL CAPACITY-BUILDING FOR FAMILY-SCHOOL PARTNERSHIPS

Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, was published by SEDL in collaboration with U.S. Department of Education in 2013. It presented a new framework for designing family engagement initiatives that builds capacity among educators and families to partner with one another around student success. Based in existing research and best practices, this report was designed to act as a scaffold for the development of family engagement strategies, policies, and programs.