As a new Program Director for Raise Your Hand Texas, over the next several months I will be traveling across the state and country to research and highlight promising practices for building family engagement capacity in schools. In this role, my aim is to support schools in the design and implementation of evidence-based strategies for engaging parents in their child’s education.
My personal story is a demonstration of what can happen when schools, families, and communities collaborate in the education of a child. Today, as a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I am using what I’ve learned through experience and research to promote family engagement strategies that can change the lives of public school students for the better.
Several state and federal policies recognize the importance of family engagement. In Texas, examples of recent legislation requiring family engagement include House Bill 4, the High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Grant Program, and House Bill 5, which includes a provision for evaluating family, community and student engagement.
The Research is Clear
According to the Chicago Consortium on School Research, “parent and community ties can have a systemic and sustained effect on learning outcomes for children and on whole school improvement when combined with other essential supports such as strong school leadership, a high quality faculty, community engagement and partnerships, a student-centered learning climate, and effective instructional guidance for staff.” To this end, we must encourage and support our schools and communities to strategically and collaboratively embrace families as key partners in the education of children. We must ensure that every family is equipped with the tools they need to navigate and support their child through the educational system. With over 3.3 million students (more than 60 percent of Texas students) living in poverty, we must ensure every child has the opportunity to realize their potential through a solid education. The future of the Texas economy depends on it.
Studies find when schools engage families in their child’s education, students are more likely to:
- earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs.
- be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits.
- attend school regularly.
- have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school.
- graduate and go on to postsecondary education.
Framework for Effective Family Engagement
The U.S. Department of Education requires schools that receive Title I funding to create a parent and family engagement policy and school parent compact intended to promote accountability and collaboration between schools and parents. To help guide these conditions, the department designed a family engagement tool – The Dual Capacity Framework for Family-School Partnerships. The research-based framework identifies the capacities and conditions necessary to develop and sustain effective family-school initiatives and practices that support student learning and school improvement.
The U.S. DOE describes this framework as “a compass, laying out the goals and conditions necessary to chart a path toward effective family engagement efforts that are linked to student achievement and school improvement.”
According to the framework, an effective family engagement approach includes five key process conditions:
- Linked to learning: Every communication with parents, whether it is a school event or parent-teacher conference, should be focused on a child’s specific education goals.
- Relational: Trust and respect must be built between home and school.
- Development: Participants must be empowered and enabled to be confident, knowledgeable and informed to transform the student’s education.
- Collaborative: It’s critical that parents and educators work together in building the initiative.
- Interactive: It needs to be interactive because that’s how people learn.
And three organizational conditions:
- Systemic: Designed intentionally as part of the school’s core academic goals and considered a high priority.
- Integrated: Infused into every facet of training and professional development.
- Sustained: Backed by sufficient support and resources.
Programs should aim to build capacity in the following areas:
- Capabilities: Support the improved human capital and skills available.
- Connections: Facilitate networks, i.e. increase social capital.
- Cognition: Change beliefs about roles and attitudes of self and others to students’ learning.
- Confidence: Encourage each individual’s sense of self-efficacy.
Share your best practices
We invite Texas school leaders to share how your campus is cultivating a family and community engagement culture. Also, if you are a public or charter school leader who is dedicated to authentically engaging your families as partners, we want to send you and your team to Harvard, all expenses paid. Apply now to attend the Family Engagement in Education institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.