#2 Local Examples of Schools that Successfully Engage Families – All I Want for Christmas: My 2011 Education Wish List
The Who – Christmas
We’re almost there, Santa!
The recent personal event of having another nephew being born yesterday highlights, once again, the critical role that parents and families play in the education of their children.
While school districts1, reform advocates2, parent groups3, and unions4 all seem to agree on the importance of “parent engagement”, the sad truth is that every single initiative I’ve encountered from these groups has been a top-down strategy that, in the end, is either too specific to apply to an individual school like mine, or too vague to be any use at all.
For example, in LAUSD, we now have a whole division dedicated to family engagement. Led by former director of the non-profit Families in Schools5, the LAUSD Families6 office has begun its work in earnest. But what exactly are they doing? Well, they’ve written a document called Parents Bill of Rights and Responsibilities7(a document which no one at my school seems to know exists), and developed a poll (as of now about 700 parents have responded to it, which is in the range of one- to two-tenths of a percent of my estimate of the number of parents in LAUSD). Clicking on the “School Resources” link gives very few actionable steps to take at my school, and the “Parent Resources” link is even more dismal – “Hey parents! Click here and download a giant PDF of the LAUSD Parent handbook”.
Look, Santa. Here’s what I want. And I know you can do it because it’s easy. EASY. While having a district-wide strategy is important, tell the district that they mainly need to be focused on becoming a "Parent Engagement Resource Center”, or PERC, since we seem to acronymify everything nowadays (and “verbify” everything too). What does a PERC do? Really simple. It’s main jobs are to:
- Scour the district and find schools that actually are doing parent engagement well. I KNOW there are schools out there.
- Develop a system to catalogue not only what these schools are doing, but who at the schools are doing them (more on this later).
- Include both numerical data AND, just as (if not more) importantly, anecdotal data as well.
- Allow, encourage, and foster communication between schools who want to learn parent engagement strategies with those who seem to be leading the way.
But how do they actually do this? Well, assuming that the district know which schools seem to be doing parent engagement well, here are some ideas:
- LAUSD could compile an online database with names and emails of leaders at each school with exemplary parental engagement.
- LAUSD could provide stipends for leaders at these exemplary schools to provide workshops, classes, or PDs.
- LAUSD could provide sub-time for teachers, and principals to visit schools where parent engagement is done well.
Simply put, there ARE great things going on in the district right now, but no one seems to know about them. If the district can act as a facilitator rather than a manager in this regard, schools might actually be able to see not only “what’s working” but be inspired to tweak it to meet the needs of their own school community.
Santa, make it happen!
- LA Daily News: LAUSD aims to engage parents in schools
- Intersections South LA: “Don’t Hold Us Back” Movement Rallies at LAUSD Meeting
- Transparent: A grassroots organization focused on making LAUSD better for our kids!
- Long Beach Press-Telegram: UTLA workshop will help parents teach kids over summer
- Families in Schools website
- LAUSD Families website
- Parents Bill of Rights and Responsibilities