Report to Read: “Ready or Not”

On Parent Engagement In the Era of LCFF

Families in Schools is an organization that works to involve parents and communities in our children’s education to achieve lifelong student success. They recently published “Ready or Not: How CA School Districts are Reimagining Parent Engagement in the Era of LCFF,” a report which draws on thirty interviews with district leaders and staff members throughout California to explore challenges and the path forward for parent engagement.

Overview

When California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) into law in 2013, he elevated parent engagement to a legal requirement as well as one of the eight statewide education priorities in the LCFF. School district leaders now have a remarkable opportunity to reimagine parent engagement.

Thirty school district personnel — including superintendents, school board members, parent engagement directors, and other administrators — were interviewed from fourteen urban and rural school districts of varying sizes throughout California.

Challenges

Engaging new and different parents.

“It’s usually the same parents who get involved with everything.”

What Some Districts Are Doing

  • Conduct outreach through phone, email, town hall meetings, and presentations
  • Encourage parent meeting attendance, particularly parents of low-income, English Learner, and foster youth students
  • Creation of Parent Advisory Committee
  • Hiring of a Parent Liaison, who works with parents to increase student attendance
Abandoning the check-the-box culture among administrators.

“When compliance and regulation become the drivers, we are missing the opportunity at relationships and authentic collaboration.”

What Some Districts Are Doing

  • Create programs and activities that invite a culture shift towards authentic engagement of student voice, parent voice, and community partner voice
  • Pilot a train-the-trainers “Path-Makers” program, where parents and key community leaders are trained in having 1:1 conversations with students, specifically to ensure that they’re on the path to success
  • Implement a two-week mandatory orientation for incoming students and parents
Training educators to engage parents effectively.

“With very few exceptions, family engagement is just not something teachers and administrators are naturally equipped to handle without the proper training.”

What Some Districts Are Doing

  • Create a home visitation program where teachers visit parents of students and have authentic conversations about what success means for their child
  • Train school principals to involve parents in conversations about LCAP and academic achievement
  • Circulate parent surveys and host parent convenings to discuss data and develop recommendations collaboratively
  • Create system to hold principals accountable for parent engagement (professional evaluations include an assessment of how effectively they’re engaging parents)
Enlisting external support in parent outreach and capacity-building.

“We cannot do it alone.”

What Some Districts Are Doing

  • Seek and develop partnerships with organizations that have a history of engaging communities around education issues
  • Collaborate with community groups to create a parent leadership team to identify the most important concerns among parents

Recommendations

The report gathered the following six recommendations for state officials and school districts while moving to systematize parent engagement:

Develop statewide standards for parent engagement.

Defining consistent, high quality statewide and local standards to determine how effectively schools and districts are engaging parents will help administrators measure their success. Review the following frameworks, research, and best practices:

Build relationships and partnerships between parents and school staff.

There’s a correlation between parent involvement and the positive relationships they share with schools and staff.

  • Consider training teachers and parents together in the same series of workshops to develop shared understanding, trust, empowerment, and ultimately, partnership.
  • Create teams of parents and educators that work together to examine key issues in school.
  • Give teachers and parents the tools and data needed to build their LCAP programs and evaluate trends. Click here to learn more about LCAP.
Invest funding and resources in parent engagement to meet LCAP goals.

Success requires an investment of resources and programs; funding parent engagement appropriately will yield positive outcomes in student achievement and other areas.

  • LCAP should provide concrete budgetary allotment dedicated to parent engagement activities.
  • Investment should include human capital needed to perform effective outreach in hard-to-reach communities (new district or school site positions and resources).
  • Ensure that specialized needs (bilingual staff, translation services) are taken into consideration.
Partner with other community groups and other external organizations.

Through partnerships, districts can leverage pre-existing relationships with parents that other organizations already possess.

  • Form partnerships with community-based organizations, advocacy groups, universities, libraries, etc.
  • Leverage training resources and programs across organizations to build capacity of district and school site staff.
  • Seek partner insight on translating and adopting parent feedback into policy and budget decisions.
Tailor programs to the different needs of parents.

Provide varying levels of support to parents based on their needs and roles.

  • Create programs to serve both “parents” and “parent leaders.”
  • Tailor parent engagement around language and cultural realities of communities within your district.
Provide professional development on parent engagement.

Train teachers, school staff, and administrators to understand and practice quality parent engagement. These skills can be improved with practice and strong coaching!

  • Build professional culture that values and rewards effective parent engagement.
  • Identify experts in parent engagement and position them as mentors to other staff.
  • Embed parent engagement into annual professional development plans.
Click here to access the full report, “Ready or Not: How CA School Districts are Reimagining Parent Engagement in the Era of LCFF.”
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