Welcome to the EduVerse with ProfessorJBA. This series is aimed at parents and caregivers in an effort to inform them about the various roles and aspects of the educational landscape to ensure that caregivers can make informed decisions.
Now that the school year is underway, I want to provide some support for parents who are seeking to build better relationships with their children’s teachers. We know that school districts are still struggling with family engagement.
School district leaders invest in family engagement primarily if not solely through Title I Part A. These federal funds for parental involvement don’t allow schools to fully do the true work of family engagement.
The Center for Parent Engagement, a PTA initiative, has identified four principles of transformative parent engagement:
- Inclusive – Embracing and valuing diverse perspectives
- Individualized – Meeting the unique needs of every family and child
- Integrated – Connecting and aligning with the educational system
- Impactful – Empowering families to support their child’s success
Parents know their children’s teachers are supposed to reach out to them and work with them. When this is not occuring, parents must advocate for it.
One point of advocacy could be developing a family engagement department. Although this is a good idea, the work of the department could become fruitless if policies are not changed to allow this department to do the work that is neccessary. Embedded in those polices changes should be a measure of accountability to ensure teachers are taking the work of parent engagement seriously.
At times, some teachers do not show evidence of understanding the power of parent and family engagement and how it could help students meet academic goals. Often times, the buy in isn’t there because it’s not prioritized from school district leaders or by school building leaders.
I once heard a principal say to the school staff on the first day of professional development, “Family engagement doesn’t impact our data and bring us the extra dollars we need for summer checks!” So the sentiment and value of family engagement was as plain and simple as that statement made by the school leader. This school leader isn’t individually to blame because the leader echoed the thoughts of districts leaders.
I urge parents to advocate for teachers and school staff members to have continual family engagement professional development that’s led by community engagement specialists, parents, and community leaders. When school leaders invest in teacher engagement with families, it can help with the academic and social outcomes of students and retention rates of families and educators.
Improving teacher engagement with families can become a priorty when impacted parents advocate for impactful family engagement practices, implementation of family engagement programs that help parents continue education at home, and training that teachers can use to build impactful engagement and relationships with families.