Transforming Schools Through Family, School, and Community Engagement

Transforming Schools Through Family, School, and Community Engagement


>>ANNA HINTON: Welcome to the first installment
in our series entitled “Achieving Excellence and Innovation in Family, School, and Community
Engagement.” I’d first like to thank our partners, the United Way Worldwide, the National
PTA and the PIRC Technical Assistance Providers, the Southwest Educational Development Lab
and the Harvard Family Research Project for partnering with us in this effort. Our goal
with this entire series is really to raise awareness around the need to create family
engagement – around the need to create a family engagement system that is really viewed
in terms of its importance on the same level of other systems in education, for example,
like assessment in accountability systems. However, the purpose of this first webinar
is really to begin conversations around changing the way that we think about doing this work
and reframing our approach to family engagement. So this first webinar will really seek to
lay the foundation for how to create integrated, systemic and sustained family engagement systems.
We hope to provide real-life examples of what it means to have an integrated family engagement
system that’s really linked to learning and aligned with academic targets or instructional
goals. We want to talk about in-depth what it means to have a systemic family engagement
strategy where state district and school policies, plans and then family engagement strategies
are really aligned to creating a cradle-to-career family engagement pathway and finally, what
it means to have a sustained family engagement strategy with an infrastructure and dedicated
staff to implementing the strategy. So our presenters for today really contribute to
this understanding and to help to lay the foundation for this reframing beginning with
Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary here in the Office of Innovation and Improvement
at the US Department of Education. Jim will provide some opening remarks and a context
for how family engagement fits within the department’s four areas of reform. Followed
by Jim’s presentation, I will talk a little bit about key definitions and specifics as
it relates to what we mean by this reframing, if you will. Heather Weiss, Founder and Director
of the Harvard Family Research Project will follow my presentation with the discussion
of the use of data to support family, school, and community engagement. Nina Sazer O’Donnell,
Vice President of Education at the United Way Worldwide will talk about the United Way’s
efforts to help communities, schools and families promote student learning and finally, we will
conclude with a presentation from Ron Mirr of the Iowa State PIRC and RM Consulting.
He is joined by Jaynette Rittman, an elementary school principal who will discuss family engagement
strategies implemented at her school that really fits this framework. So with that,
I will turn it over to Jim Shelton for remarks.>>JIM SHELTON: Good afternoon. First, I want
to reiterate the thanks to all of our partners. I won’t name them all but we think it’s
a critical opportunity for us to actually change the dialogue around family engagement,
raise it to the level of importance that it ought to have and make sure that we are sharing
the best of the field in terms of what we know about what can be effective. The webinar
series is going to focus over time around a number of issues. In particular, we’re
trying to make sure that we reframe the role of parent engagement – actually not to reframe
and this is something that you as people in the field know very well. The parents have
a variety of roles whether it’s as partners in learning where we’re better enabling
parents to support their children’s learning at home and at school and making sure that
we’re following the research. There’s just various ways in which parents could play
very effective roles in that. Parents as decision-makers making right choices about the pathways that
their students take, the schools that their children attend and even the teachers that
they are allowing the students to be in the classroom with and then obviously, parents
as advisers and advocates making sure that they are involved in the decision-making impacting
their schools, making sure they’re aware of the policies that impact their children
as students and then affect the school communities in which they have the opportunity to go to
school. What this means is that the way that our various systems think about family engagement
needs to make sure that it emphasizes several key principles. It needs to be purposeful.
It needs to be datadriven. It needs to be ultimately linked to how students actually
achieve academically and how we actually support learning in the classroom. It needs to be
responsive in terms of responding to the concerns of parents and it needs to really honor the
parent’s contributions and not be condescending in the least form. Then obviously, it has
to support family and [communities] on how they actually organize to hold low-performing
schools accountable. Unfortunately, many of the interactions that our families and parents
have today are just based on the fact that they are actually having to deal with the
school because of a systemic failure and that’s something that we have to empower them to
do in a much more effective way. The webinar series, the “Achieving Excellence and Innovation
in Family, School, and Community Engagement” webinar series is an opportunity for all the
stakeholders to learn about family, school and community engagement research, best practices
from the field and new innovations that are making a difference in school improvement
and in student learning. The leading practitioners that have agreed to participate whether they
be policymakers or researchers or people who are actually doing the work day-to-day will
be sharing real-life examples from the field about what it takes to do this work effectively.
[Audio Gap] has created an incredible opportunity to transform education in this country. You’ve
heard about it in a lot of different forms but mostly, you’ve heard about it impacting
the four critical reform areas plus this notion of overall thrust on innovative approaches.
Let me just take the four things apart and talk about how families fit into them just
very briefly. Data Systems, it’s very important to family engagement that we actually allow
information to be transparent so that parents have accessible, comprehensible and actionable
information about how their children are doing, about the resources and performance of the
schools that their children attend and about other roles and activities that they should
and have the ability to access to they influence governments and the accountability of the
schools. Those Data Systems are the ways in which parents are going to be able to understand
whether and how their schools are performing and whether they’re serving their children
well. It’s the first step in empowering parents. Second, obviously, everyone wants
to make sure – every parent’s first desire is to make sure that the teacher, the educator
in the classroom in leading the school actually is the most effective possible that they are
trained to deliver well for their child. That they’re trained and able – not only trained
but able to actually deliver learning and opportunities for significant exposure and
developmental gains for their child, basically growth and then obviously that the classroom
is a place that not only the child is welcome but the parent feels welcome and that again,
in partnering in that work around being a partner in learning that they have somebody
that they could talk to to understand how to be most effective. That’s not something
that happens by accident. Obviously, teachers and leaders need to be supported in their
efforts to learn how you actually engage families, parents in particular effectively and that’s
something that we have to understand how we leverage the resources that we have to accomplish
more effectively than we have in the past. I’ve talked about the lowest-performing
schools in particular. Those schools that we know that for decades in some cases have
been underperforming. Many parents have gone through schools and then knowing that they
were underserved by them and then they’re watching their children go to those same schools.
We have to give the chance, the voice in actually improving those schools and demanding opportunities
for changes, opportunities for advancement for their children beyond what they may have
experienced themselves. Then obviously, with all the talk around raising standards and
having new and better assessments that get away from a bubble test but actually start
to assess what children know and are able to do in ways that are much more effective,
much more innovative that allows us to understand if they are getting the critical thinking
in other skills that we want them to have beyond just rote knowledge. Those are things
that we can easily get caught up in targeting as educators and as professionals serving
in the education space and we have to make all of that information accessible so that
it’s very easy for parents to understand whether or not their child is on the track
to the kind of aspirations that they have for them around college and career, making
those things transparent, translating it into ways in which the parents can engage in the
classroom with their teachers, those things are critically important. Those are the most
important things I think that I have to share with you today. I will quickly want to turn
it over to the rest of the panelists but before I do it, we know that we actually are lacking
good information around family engagement. It’s one of the things that makes it hard
to put on top of the agenda because this is something that everyone instinctively knows
is important but we haven’t actually tracked the data in a way that it allows us to make
a clear argument about what are the indicators of success for family engagement and how do
you know that it’s ultimately resulting in better outcomes for student. What is the
evidence around the most effective ways to engage families and how do we actually adapt
that for the different communities and especially the different school circumstances that they
face. How do those translate into best practices and how do you actually ensure that people
when they implement those practices are doing it with the know-how to do it effectively
and with fidelity and then finally, the thing I talked about most is the lead educators
whether they be classroom teachers or leaders of schools, how are we training them to actually
implement these strategies to perform and behave frankly in a way that actually supports
this kind of vision of family engagement. With all of that, I know that the panelists
today are going to be qualified to start to answer those questions and we appreciate everyone
who’s shown up today to share and to learn. Bye-bye.>>ANNA HINTON: Thanks, Jim. So Jim has really
laid out challenges that we must address as a field in order to be successful in this
work and these challenges really force us to think differently about what we’re doing
to engage families, schools and communities and essentially, this is what this reframing
is all about, changing the way that we define family engagement, our beliefs about family
engagement and just basically how we do family engagement. So in taking a step back given
what we need to change – given the fact that we want to focus on reframing the conversation
around how we do business, we need to talk about what is the goal? What is the goal for
reframing? What is the goal in our work with parents and our work with schools, school
staff, teachers and principals, district staff. Just what are aiming towards and so we’ve
identified a twofold goal, if you will. The first is to ensure that all families have
access to information they need to effectively support their children’s education from
cradle to career and so when you look at this goal, it appears to be narrow and focused
for what we want for parents but it’s not really – it’s a starting point for the
reframing conversation. So we’re starting here because we want to make sure that everything
we do around family engagement is purposeful and is driven by data, driven by school data
or student performance data and so the second part of that goal is to ensure that schools
and districts have the infrastructure and capacity to develop systemic family and community
engagement strategies that are aligned with instructional goals. This essentially means
that we provide our school and district personnel with the needed professional development and
technical assistance to better enable them to create systemic family engagement pathways
and strategies. So considering the goal that we’ve just talked about and what the research
says about family engagement, we know that from cradle to career, effective family engagement
is not a one-time program. It is not an add-on service or choice of a good school but rather
a set of day-to-day purposeful practices, attitudes, belief and interactions which support
learning at home as well as at school, during afterschool activities and during the summer.
So what we’re really talking about here is moving away from random acts of family
engagement, random acts of family engagement that we cannot tie back to or link to school
data that may just be moving away from a focus on Math Night or a spaghetti dinner just to
see how many parents we can get out at the school. So this reframing is really about
purposely creating strategies that are data driven and are linked to learning. Additionally,
new evidence about family engagement finds that school improvement requires systemic
work on multiple fronts. Parents and community involvement in a recent study has been considered
to be one of the key essential supports to turning around low-performing schools so when
you have systemic and sustained family engagement coupled with efforts to transform schools
and to educate students, it leads to better pathways for graduation in college. So we’ve
talked a lot about what family engagement is not. Now, I want to turn our attention
to discussing what is effective family engagement, what are the components of an effective family
engagement strategy and the first is is that it’s really a shared responsibility. It’s
co-constructed by the family, the school and the community. It’s a shared responsibility
in which the school and other community organizations are committed to reaching out to engage families
in a meaningful way but the second part of that is that families are also committed to
actively supporting their children’s learning and development. The second part of this definition
is that family engagement is continuous across a child’s life from cradle to career. It
begins in early childhood. It doesn’t just stop there and it continues throughout college
and career development. Finally, effective family engagement is really enforced, everywhere,
learning takes place. Family engagement is carried out at home and in the community.
So given this definition, we’re no longer talking about – we’re no longer just concerned
with getting parents in the school building but rather, we’re more interested in ensuring
that everyone, family, school and communities are all committed to this work and that it’s
continuous from birth through college in that it can really take place in all settings so
not just in the school building. So how do you create an integrated systemic and sustained
family and community engagement strategy? That’s really what we’re talking about
in terms of this reframing of family engagement and what does it look like? So we’ve outlined,
at a minimum, things to consider when trying to create an integrated systemic and sustained
family engagement and the first is really the creation of systemic policies and plans
and strategies at the state, district and school level from cradle to career that really
do create a family engagement pathway. The second is having dedicated staff and again,
at the state, district and school level for family, school and community engagement to
support the creation of an infrastructure for family engagement that can be sustained
and really institutionalized. The third is focusing on capacity-building at all levels
again, the state, district and school level to support the development, implementation
and assessment of systemic family, school and community engagement. Few teacher preparation
programs include instruction on how to partner with parents and the community to improve
student achievement so this is definitely a need. All school staff and administrators
need guidance to professional development and technical assistance on how to carry out
family engagement in the way that we’re talking about and also to ensure that it’s
aligned with the instructional goals. The fourth thing is really focusing on making
individual and school performance data accessible, understandable and actionable – doing the
engagement with the instruction and school improvement goals and we’ve talked a little
bit about that before. This will also enable informed high quality public school choice
options, guide parent-teacher conferences and otherwise, just enable families to support
their children’s learning and play their role in the school governance process. So
that’s the importance of making sure that we have transparent data systems. The fifth
thing is accountability for family, school and community engagement at the state, district
and school level. And six, create incentives to develop and test innovative approaches
to build best practices from cradle to career and ongoing dissemination on these practices
to support innovation and continuous improvement. So when you take a look at these – with
these considerations, they may seem complex but they’re really quite doable and while
I’m sure that there are many places that are doing some of what we’re talking about
in terms of this reframing, I do want to talk about two places in particular. That’s just
an example and there are two different examples and that’s why I’m highlighting them.
The first is the Boston Public School District. So this is an example of a multitiered system
of family engagement. It’s highly structured so much so that there’s an assistant superintendent
of family and student engagement to assist a superintendent and this really helps to
ensure that family engagement is seen as an integral component of the district’s blueprint
for school reform and that it’s not considered or seen as an add-on initiative and that it’s
not really related to student achievement or other school improvement efforts. This
office is responsible for coordinating both district and school-level engagement strategies
and not necessarily for directing the school’s family engagement efforts. The office’s
role is essentially to build a district’s capacity to support the schools in conducting
their own family engagement work. All of the district’s family engagement strategies
are aligned with academic target again, to ensure that it’s not an addon and that it’s
not a special program that’s not connected with the instructional practices or student
learning. The interesting approach that Boston – the interesting thing about Boston’s
approach is that they really do market family engagement as a strategy for improving student
outcomes through increased attendance, decreased suspension rates and other indicators that
are clearly linked to student achievement and so they recognize the difficulty in creating
a direct causal link between [Audio Gap] family engagement and the student achievement and
instead market family engagement around these outcomes. The district also has other family
engagement strategies, sort of geared towards conducting outreach to parents and conducting
workshops but essentially, this is just one example. The other example which is my final
example is the Boston Public School System – I’m sorry, which is the Federal Way,
Washington. They have an office of one staff and they also use parents as outreach to pull
in parents to try to help that – they use the parents to help with their engagement
strategies. I want to speed ahead a bit and talk a little bit about the reframing of family
engagement. I just want to quickly go over what the points that I’ve mentioned earlier
are in terms of what this reframing is really all about; moving from an individual parent
to a teacher’s “job” to a shared responsibility, moving from random acts to a systemic approach,
from events to results-driven, from add-on services to purposeful connections, from compliance
to focus driven and from limited data to a transparent data system. So we do have a polling
question that I would like for you all to consider as I prepare to turn over to Heather
Weiss who will talk about data and using data to inform our family engagement strategies.>>HEATHER WEISS: Good afternoon, everyone.
Heather Weiss. My goal in this presentation is to try to get you excited about data, to
provide some examples of places that are using data in the ways that Jim and Anna suggested
and to whet your opportunity to learn more. The third webinar in this series in fact is
going to focus on how we increase data use as a key element of effective family and community
engagement strategies. I think right now, we’re in an incredible position to leverage
the investments in data that are being made nationally. The estimate is we put $1 billion
in now to build data systems and we’re on track to spend $1 billion more. The Data Quality
Campaign estimates that by 2011, all states will have longitudinal data systems that track
performance from year to year and as you’ve heard, there’s a high priority at the department
in getting and using data to support education improvement. Having said that, as my next
slide will suggest, at this point, we’re not routinely using data in ways that build
and support effective family engagement. So we are not at a point where we’re giving
families understandable data about their child’s performance – hello?>>JAQUE MINOW: You’re fine, Heather.>>HEATHER WEISS: Okay, sorry. We’re not
at a point where we’re giving families understandable data and actionable data. They’re not getting
data on the school’s performance in ways that enable them to work with the school effectively
to embed family engagement and that’s a key part of the school’s overall change
and transformation strategy and data are not routinely used to inform database to parent-teacher
conferences. Having said that, we are really at a point I think of opportunity where the
national investment in data really provides an unprecedented opportunity to innovate and
provide accessible, understandable and actionable performance data that’s going to keep kids
on the pathway to college and career. I want to talk about a couple of places and a couple
of design principles, if you will, that are informing the development of smarter data
systems that I would turn your attention to where the education sector is doing it in
an ongoing way nationally around data use and they’re encouraging the movement from
instructional to learner-centered data systems that focus on actionable data that teachers,
families, students and after-school programs and others can use on a day-to-day basis to
support kids’ improvement and staying on the pathway to graduation and to college readiness
careers. They’re also encouraging systems where data flow across institutions all of
the partners that I just described and the creation of information and tools that support
day-to-day practices of data use and provide information about ways that students, teachers,
families, after-school providers can work with students to improve their performance.
So we’re beginning to develop data systems based on those kinds of principles that create
huge opportunities for family and community engagement. I want to briefly describe three
really interesting efforts. We don’t, at this point in time, have full cradle-to-career
data systems. It’s an aspiration of goal but we do have good illustrations of innovation
going along the way. As my next slide suggests there are innovative efforts in early childhood,
in middle and also in high school and the three that I would point you to and there
are links so that you can follow up, those of you that are interested to learn more about
these things are Save the Children’s Early Steps for School Success and two programs
that are going on in New York City. With respect to the early childhood work that is being
done to save the children in multisites around the country, what they provide are individual
plans for the child and then a portfolio of the child’s work. They provide regular feedback
on the child’s development every two months with ideas about how parents can support the
child’s development. Parents then take that portfolio to Pre-K as introduction to them
and to their child for the teacher and by this point, the parents have learned how to
partner with the teacher or the home visitor or early childhood provider and have the expectation
that they will have data-driven discussions with the teacher and get regular information
on the child’s performance and what they can do to support it. So I encourage you to
take a look at what Save is doing with regard to this. I think some of the most interesting
work that’s going on around data use in the country is being done in the K-20 system
in New York City by the New York City Aris Parent Link system and New Visions 9th Grade
Parent Involvement and College Readiness. Both of these efforts are piloting and learning
from substantial outreach efforts to engage low-income schools and families in getting
and using data to support their child learning in and out of school. Each provides attendance
and select performance data to families on a regular basis and I think their experience
has a number of lessons for us as we try to design these. Now, my next slide really lays
out what New Visions is doing in New York and I had to warn everybody that I think I
win this prize hands down for the worst PowerPoint slide in the whole deck in this webinar but
I’m putting it up here to really whet your appetite to go to the New Visions website
and also to look at a case that we’ll be posting up on the Harvard Family Research
Project website next week that goes indepth in what New Visions is doing. I’ve chosen
a New Visions example because they have integrated, accessible understandable and actionable performance
data into the core of their work to get kids to graduate from high school and to be college
ready. They’re focusing their parent engagement efforts on the 9th grade students and families
because that’s a key point because kids tend to drop out shortly thereafter so they’re
really focusing on that 9th grade period. They believe that at home, parents need to
be able to monitor the academic progress of their child as well as to access to in-school
and communitylevel resources to help each student meet his or her academic goals. They
also believe schools need to develop a capacity to provide families with timely action-oriented
student performance data and that includes information on how the child is progressing
toward graduation and post-secondary education benchmarks as well as grades, attendance,
homework, assignments. For this to happen, teachers and other school staff need to clearly
communicate academic expectations and post-secondary education goals and provide parents with regular
data on a regular basis. So you see in terms of this slide with their theory of change
how central parents and teachers are together to 9th grade students’ success. On the lower
left hand side, you see how they’re building school capacity and on the lower right hand
side, you’ll see some of the things they’re doing and some of the tools and information
they’re providing for parents that will give them the regular information about what
schools expect in their young person’s performance on key measures. Now, the next slide is one
of the tools that New Visions has provided and you see in this tool first of all, it’s
color coded. A parent can see immediately the child’s progress. Green is obviously
good. Yellow is warning. Red is we’ve got some real problems here. They put up key leading
indicators for credits accumulated on the left, attendance data and then the young person’s
progress on the New York State region. Then if you go to the next page, what they also
do is then key in, as you can see on the lower right, things that need to happen in order
for the young person to stay on track. So in this case, this young person needs some
additional support, credit recovery assistance, opportunities to go to after-school tutoring
and perhaps an after-school program in order to get some remedial help so that they can
stay on the pathway to college and career readiness. So I put this up because this is
the kind of tools that are being developed around the country. You’ll shortly be hearing
from Nina about work that United Way is doing with AT&T’s support and in Nevada, there
is an opportunity or a community there where the PIRC, the United Way and the school are
developing something that is not dissimilar to what New Visions is doing in New York so
this kind of idea about how we put together data to support this [Audio Gap] travel across
the country and have organizations like United Way pick it up. I think we’re in the early
stage of this effort and there’s a set of lessons that are emerging particularly from
the New York work and then I think will be emerging from other places as we proceed in
these kinds of innovations. Lessons I see are the importance of principal leadership
and commitment to using data, the importance of involving families and helping to design
these tools and design ways that they’re going to be engaged around data in support
of keeping their young person on the pathway. I think it requires dedicated district staff
and school staff in New York. The parent coordinators in each school have been central in engaging
parents around this data in an ongoing way. I think it requires the development of tools
such as we see Visions has done to make data accessible and understandable and actionable
and I think it involves training the teachers and parents to have data-driven discussions
at parent, teacher and student conferences and elsewhere. Finally, as I look at some
of these samples that are going on in New York, what is happening is as people begin
to integrate the family engagement and data use into the core of their reform strategies
and has a catalytic effect, they’re beginning to see many other ways that they can engage
families to keep on track. So I encourage you to continue to track some of the work
that’s going on [Audio Gap] because I think that some of [Audio Gap] that we got in the
family and community engagement arena. So with that, I’d like to ask the poll question:
Has your school or district taken steps to make student data accessible, understandable
and actionable so families can use it to help support their children’s academic success?>>JAQUE MINOW: Everybody can go ahead and
answer the poll question. We’ll broadcast the results [Audio Gap].>>HEATHER WEISS: I would like to turn it
over now to Nina.>>NINA SAZER O’DONNELL: Thank you, Heather.
Some of you may know and some of you may not know but United Way set out some very ambitious
goals to work with partners at national, state and local levels to accomplish needed improvements
in education, income and health. In education, United Way challenged our entire system across
the country to work with their partners to cut the dropout rate in half by 2018 and we
know that in order to do that, community efforts must be systemic. They must look at entire
systems, not just one system so the efforts must include schools, communities, public
policy and very importantly, families that systems and community work at the local level
and at the state level and at the federal level working in sync building off each other’s
efforts and well-coordinated and they must be sustainable which means really two things,
that there must be an eye for how to continue and scale up sound practices that are yielding
results and that we must provide strong support to children and families from birth through
adulthood as one of the most important strategies. United Way Worldwide also set a cradle-to-career
agenda because we know if we’re going to have any success with achieving our goal,
we really have to focus on children from when they’re born until when they’re successfully
launched as independent, financially-stable adult. So in order to do that, we need to
make sure that children and their families [access] the community support resources needed
to assure that their children are [striving] and successful in school, work and life and
so in order to accomplish that, we organized our education work into five focus areas.
We’re encouraging United Way to work with their partners in communities all over the
country on making sure that kids are ready to succeed when they get to school, making
sure that they can read proficiently in the 4th grade and making sure that they make successful
transitions into from grade to grade and out of middle school that they graduate from high
school on time ideally and that they actually complete a post-secondary college or training
of some sort. We know United Way, as all the previous presentors have said, that it takes
partnership across multiple sectors and prayers for children to succeed through that trajectory.
It requires supportive communities, effective schools and strong families and I think the
logic model that Heather just shared with us illustrates this in another way that the
success for children and education has to be a shared responsibility with schools, communities
and their family. We believe absolutely and as the [third] research really shows that
parents really are the most important teachers in their children’s lives across the life
span or across their childhood and youthhood and experience also tells us and research
tells us that families want the best for their children. They want their children to be successful.
They need knowledge and tools to do that throughout their children’s learning career. The United
Way has been changing their focus a bit and we have quite a number of assets to build
on to bring to this work with our partners and again, our partners at all levels. So
we are a national network. We are 1,300 United Ways around the country with demonstrated
success localizing communities change lives, have this diverse array of national, state
and local partners who provide knowledge, expertise, resources and tools for change
and we have the ability to engage effort, engaging both individual and the organizations
[tapping] into champions, make things happen. United Way has unparalleled network of volunteers,
more than 11 million community and business leaders and more than 500,000 workplaces [Audio
Gap] of [Audio Gap] work who want to do more than write a check so please get ready to
marshal those resources towards helping to succeed and helping parents -[that happens]
with their kids. United Way has a long history in early education and has done some work
on family engagement around school readiness. Fortunately, AT&T under their aspiring initiative
also has a strong commitment to ensuring that students graduate from high school and in
partnership with the Harvard Family Research Project. We are working to develop Family
Engagement Strategies [specific] to high school students at risk of dropping out or not graduating
but starting with an outcome-focused planning process in each of the fifteen communities
the outcome of which is to develop community-wide research-based family engagement plans specific
to families of high school students and these plans are due in late May. They need to be
participatory, exclusive partnerships with community based groups in schools. They need
to focus on students at risk for drop out and their families and students and families
are engaged in the planning process for this work. We’ve also brought national expertise
to the table and then to Harvard Family Research Project to make sure that we’re doing this
work in alignment with current research. Then each time they had to [pool] and analyze the
data in their own community and we’ve been doing evaluation in this project from the
beginning knowing that there isn’t a lot of good data. We want to contribute to a better
data set so local evaluators are documenting the tracking progress in each community strategizing.
So they’ve been school and community partners. It’s defining that this school population
that they hope to assess, they’ve been aligning and identifying student, family, school and
community outcomes. They’ve been connecting outcomes and strategies and gathering baseline
data. In addition, we’ve been operating a learning community with the sites to help
share what’s being done in ways that will lead to shared learnings with whole United
Way system so that we [Audio Gap] this work nationwide very quickly. We know that United
Way can really help communities, schools and families. We are thrilled to be in this work
because we know it’s essential to students succeeding, to families being financially
stable and healthy with [true] to our mission and we are thrilled to partner with the partners
on this call and with probably many of you out there listening in so have you move forward
in your family engagement when you’re [Audio Gap], please remember if United Way isn’t
your [unintelligible], invite them in and with that, I’m going to turn it over to
Ron Mirr and he’s going to talk about the Iowa State PIRC.>>RON MIRR: Hi, this is Ron and I’m from
Iowa and as she said, I’m part of the Iowa Parent Information Resource Center or PIRC
and I’ve been part of the PIRC in Iowa since 1995 or 1994, excuse me, and the PIRCs are
federally-funded projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education and if you could have
visited in Iowa in 1995 and looked at what we did and if you came today, I think you
would see that we’ve grown enormously in our efforts and we’ve really learned a lot.
It had become much more sophisticated in our approach. When we started in 1995, this whole
idea of parent engagement in school was really just starting to take shape and we didn’t
have a lot of resources and we decided that we were going to be capacity builders. So
we targeted schools and what we wanted to do was work with teachers and help them work
with parents and are phrased with: How could help parents be more engaged in their children’s
learning and because there weren’t a lot of resources available, we had to develop
our own, we created our own process. There were some things out there but they rapidly
started to grow and we had our big reframe in 2002 and that really came about as a result
of the publication called “New Wave of Evidence.” It’s a SEDL publication and it was written
by Anne Henderson and Karen Mapp and in that document, they really looked through all of
the research that said here’s the effect of parents and schools working together and
what it means and they made nine recommendations. We thought very long and hard about these
and we used these recommendations that were based in the best research at that time to
create a framework for how we thought about parent engagement and so we evolved from our
initial strategy of targeting schools, primarily targeting teachers and parents to really having
our capacity-building approach have two prongs. We now have a very strong focus of networking
and trying to build the capacity and working with state partners and we continue to work
with school-based teams but that work, as I’ll explain in a little bit, has really
gotten much more sophisticated and much more targeted. In 1995, we thought we were really
successful if we could help each school building that was working with us establish a goal
of current engagement as part of their school improvement planning profit. As you look at
the next slide, it talks a little bit about what’s different now and so if you came
to see our PIRC in action now, you’d see we really are trying to create other integrated
statewide approach to parent engagement and one of the biggest changes is that parent
engagement is no longer the goal. What we have learned from talking to national experts
and reading and talking to our professional peers is that parent engagement by our definition
now is an effective strategy that schools can use to reach the ultimate goal which is
increased student learning and so this framework that we’ve adopted that’s based on the
work that came out of “New Wave of Evidence” and their follow-up book, “Beyond the Bake
Sale,” you’ll see that we really try to help school staff understand and our statelevel
partners understand that this can be an effective tool that you add to the toolkit that schools
have to increase in learning. One of the things we also were inspired to do in 2002 is to
really reach out to state-level partners and what we would’ve wanted to have happened
is that all of the people in Iowa at the state level who were promoting parent engagement
or who were involved with parents and education that we had a similar framework, we had similar
definitions and we had a similar approach and that we would work together. A friend
of mine from New Hampshire who’s involved in this work said to me several years ago
that she really thought that with all the PIRCs did and what schools did when it came
to parent engagement really was just a set of random acts of parent engagement and she
really got me thinking about that and we had many conversations. In talking to her, we
really thought about this in Iowa, how could we help schools and our state partners move
from these disconnected events to a series of connected activities that would really
aim ultimately around parent engagement at improving student learning. We wanted to help
schools and our state partners go in-depth and overtime and as things really connected
to result in increased student learning. So that is a big theme for us now. When I’m
talking about a bit about what we do at the school level, you’ll see that we really
try to help schools go in-depth and over time. The other thing that we’re committed to
in our framework for parent engagement is continuous improvement in our part and we
are constantly talking to national leaders, PIRCs in other states and our partners at
this state and local level in Iowa and really trying to learn from our experience and feed
that back into the process so we can continually make our approach more effective per school.
Okay, so if you look – I want to talk first about our state-level strategy. We have as
we retooled ourselves and we try to think of how we could be very systemic at the state
level, we tried to seek out the partners who were doing the most with parents and learning.
So our strongest – we have many. The four that are listed here are really our strongest
partners. The school administrators of Iowa, that’s the professional development agency
and the professional organization that represents virtually every school administrator in our
state. We work very closely with the Department of Education on multiple initiative including
the Title I office. We have a strong partnership with the Iowa Association of School Boards
Foundation staff and their work with their constituent members throughout the state and
as you’ve heard everybody say so far, this really is a cradle-to-college effort in our
state. The state gives the money to counties to do early childhood visiting program connect
to the Iowa Empowerment Office and we work with them to coordinate parent engagement
even at the early level so we try to have a cradleto- college focus as well at the state
level. On the next slide, I have some samples of the many things we try to do in terms of
what it looks like for us to provide assistance and support and to integrate our efforts with
these existing state initiative and it’s very important to us not to make this a new
thing but to make it part of what already exists. Every school district in Iowa goes
through an accreditation process and we work with the Department of Education staff who
lead these visits and we give them tools and training and materials that they can use to
help prepare the districts for their site visit and to engage in much more meaningful
conversation with district about what do they know works. How can parent involvement be
a strategy in their district to support increased student learning and where can they get resources
and they become for us a referral source where we can serve in this role for districts who
want some assistance on this, if they want to increase what they know about parent engagement
or they want to try out some of the strategies or if they want to go in-depth, they can come
to us and we can provide that support. We work with the Department of Education in every
single school that does not make adequate yearly progress. For several years, we had
a shared staff person who is part of the PIRC and part of the State Department of Education
and she helps design the process that schools go through to turn their schools around, a
part of which very importantly is a strong complete thorough plan for parent engagement
in ways that would assist with the turnaround process. As I mentioned, we work with the
school administrators of Iowa Association and that’s the group that administrators
turn to for leadership. We have a belief in our state that we know if something is going
to happen at a school building, if a school building is going to embrace anything including
changing the way or improving or adding to the ways they do parent engagement, the principal
has to be on board and they have to be supportive. We thought that if we went to the organization,
we partner with them and that organization would [state] its constituent members, a parent
engagement is something that’s important. It’s an effective strategy increasing student
learning. You should think about it. Here’s information about it. You should do it that
that would really help us as we went to schools and said, “Let us support you in these efforts.”
We took a similar approach with the Iowa Association of School Board and have worked with their
staff to get information out to school board members around the state about what can they
do in their role as school board members, first of all, to understand what effective
parent engagement looks like and specifically, what those boards can do to support the administrators
and the staff in the district to really work to engage parents in ways that support learning.
One of the things I think I’m most pleased with in our efforts, in our state, we have
a set of state standards against which all teachers are evaluated. We have another set
of standards against which all administrators are evaluated and if you looked at the administrator
standards, Standard 3 is family and community engagement. That standard and the measures
underneath it were written in a partnership between PIRC staff and the State Department
of Education and we have followed up on that by training all the superintendents in the
state and all of the administrators who are certified to do principal evaluation around
what does that mean. What does quality family and community engagement look like? What should
they look for in their staff and how can they support their staff to increase their knowledge
and be [infused] effective best known practice into their work. We’re also doing some work
with all the teacher training institutions in Iowa trying to give them materials that
they can use with pre-service teachers to help them understand how to think about parents
in a different way as an effective strategy for improving the learning outcomes for their
students. So those are some of the examples we do at the state level and we’re constantly
looking for additional partners in trying to provide information about effective strategies
on parent engagement to them so they can embed them in their efforts. One of the things that
happened as a result of our big transformation in 2002 is that we really changed how we work
with schools. Our desire is to build the capacity of schools to really engage parents in ways
that support learning and we had a pilot project that we called SPIN, Sustaining Parent Involvement
Network and through this process, we brought teams of educators and parents together and
we train them in our framework, help them understand why this is a good idea, what the
research says about why it works and it gave them ideas about what they could do and then
we assisted them both with training and some resources to go out and building by building,
develop their own plan for how they might change the way they engage parent and what
we learned in that process is that some schools did a phenomenal job of structuring a plan
that really helped engage parents in multiple meaningful ways but we also saw that many
other schools struggled and had some difficulty and our big learning was that for schools
throughout our state to really do this well, in addition to the frameworks that we had,
we needed to get them some sort of a structure to really help them engage in in-depth activities
over time because we knew that the activities had to be connected to each other and it had
to hit multiple levels. We looked around the country and try to define structure and we
found in Illinois, at an agency called the Academic Development Institute, a program
called Solid Foundation which provides us with the structure and we have married that
structure with our efforts on having this really nice framework to support schools through
an enhanced process that we call iSPIN, the Iowa Sustaining Parent Involvement Network
and if you look on the next slide, you’ll see the six areas that we helped them focus
on. You’ve heard all the speakers stress the importance of data and this is really
a data-driven approach. It starts with forming a team of parents and educators in equal numbers,
parents who represent the diversity of the staff or the diversity of that school, whatever
it may be and they begin by collecting data from parents, teachers, and students and data
feeds into all the conversation they have. They engage in a two-year process with us,
they meet twice a month and we lead them through a series of conversation and we require what
they talk about and they’re able then – we don’t require what they answer. They’re
able to look at their own circumstances, see what’s important to them and they engage
in these twice-monthly conversations per two-year period and in these conversations, you’ll
see here on the slide the six things we try to help them do because we want this to be
a systemic effort. We need to hit at all levels in the school how parents are engaged and
part of the conversations really help them focus on and be clear about how they share
leadership among educators and parents for increased student learning. A big part of
what we do really helps the school make explicit their expectations of parents in many ways
but also helps make explicit what the parents’ expectations of the school staff are and can
be. We help schools spend a lot of time clarifying policies and practices that promote parent
engagement. We look at classroom visit policy, home visit policy. We look at the homework
policy and as the schools are able to sort out why they give homework what the focus
is, we also articulate what is the role of parents in this? What’s the role of students
and at the same time, help parents understand what they do in support of this process. There
are many conversations about improving communication between parents and schools so that it really
is two-way and meaningful. We provide multiple professional development opportunities for
the staff and they in turn provide training opportunities for parents. They ask the parents
what they need and like what Nina said, some of that may relate to what at the high school
level do they need to support their child in terms of being prepared and being able
to go on, how do they understand the assessment data. The last component is through a series
of conversations. We really promote as many face-to-face connections if possible both
at school and in the community and that means we include home visits. It’s a voluntary
process and in a moment, Jaynette Rittman who’s the principal in one of our schools
where we’re working is going to talk to you a little bit about this and before I turn
this over to Jaynette, I think we have the last participant poll for today asking you
to vote to see if you have a core group of dedicated knowledgeable and skilled staff
in your schools to engage families to support the student academic process. That’s a little
bit about our approach, our two-pronged approach, the statewide approach and the local approach
and our last speaker today is Jaynette Rittman. She is the Principal at Garton Elementary
in Des Moines, Iowa. There are 600 students in this school, K-5, Title I school and about
80% of the students receive free/reduced lunch prices and Jaynette’s team has been with
us for two years. She’s in the second of the these two years and she’s going to tell
you a little bit about what this looks like and feels like at the building level.>>JAYNETTE RITTMAN: Thank you Ron. As Ron
stated, iSPIN has provided the framework and the structure for many Iowa schools. This
is definitely the case at Garton. The framework has enhanced our parent engagement strategies
to support student achievement while the structure has provided us the foundation to make it
possible to strengthen our current efforts by providing us with predetermined agenda
items, team time and networking. This allowed us to begin this endeavor with parent engagement.
iSPIN has provided us opportunities for shared leadership by forming an iSPIN team. The team
includes parents, staff, SUCCESS worker, counselor, administrator and a team facilitator. The
team meets twice a month and plays a critical role in the success of parent engagement strategy.
The school’s first step was collecting data from our staff and our parents. This gave
us valuable information on where we needed to begin. The team worked closely to identify
the areas parents and staff agreed upon and those areas were – there were significant
differences. One area we needed to improve on was clarifying expectations for students,
parents and staff. The team created a student-parent-teacher compact, homework policy, disrespect policy
and a visitor policy which clearly defines the expectations for students, parents and
staff. We found these works extremely useful to refer back to for clarification throughout
the year. One way we were able to get staff buy-in was by sharing the data with staff,
having them analyze the data and conclude that clear expectations were needed to support
parent engagement and ultimately, increase student achievement. We were able to effectively
disseminate the information planned and discussed during our iSPIN meetings to all of our staff
through grade-level meetings. We found that the dissemination of information in our POCs
provided staff more opportunities to openly share their feelings towards the information
we were presenting to them. We were able to share information, receive input from staff
and take suggestions back to the iSPIN team to make adjustments. This process has been
a very effective way to hear everyone’s voice which is critical in the change process.
Creating a welcoming environment for all parents is extremely important for us at Garton. We
have an extremely diverse population with sixteen different languages represented at
Garton. One important way we can gain trust was to do home visits and we’ve done home
visits for the past two years. For those staff that really wanted to participate, we had
staff share their experiences with their colleagues to gain a greater interest among all staff.
Several staff shared how proud students were to have their teacher come to their house.
They would clean their rooms and they’d put their best clothes on for their teacher.
A fourthgrade teacher shared with us that one of her parents commented to her, “I
knew you really cared about my son when you took the time to come to our house and meet
us.” One of our second-grade teachers said that during the year that she did home visits
was the best year when communicating with her parents. Home visits had a huge impact
on the success for her school year. Home visit is an area that we want to continue to strengthen
because we see the value in them. This year, we had 10 out of 24 classroom teachers complete
home visit. It’s our hope to have 100% participation this fall and by completing home visits, staffs
are able to gain a greater sense of empathy for the families that we serve. We also provide
open house and culture fair and parent activity nights based on our curriculum, parent workshops
based on parent interest surveys and we find it very valuable to have parents be part of
our school-wide discipline plan prior to students receiving an expectation room referral. This
has been a challenge for us since some parents don’t understand they play critical role
in assisting the school with their child’s behavior but it has been very important to
us as well. As you can see, parent engagement is a strategy that must be woven in throughout
the day to gain the trust and open communication between students, parents and staff. It must
be a partnership willing to change and grow to support student achievement. This partnership
does not happen overnight and it takes an in-depth look at current practices and over
time through the use of data and professional development, resources and the willingness
to change, the partnership will grow and develop. You can see that we’ve provided you additional
quotes from a parent, principal’s and a superintendent’s perspective. Thank you.>>JAQUE MINOW: All right, thank you, everybody.
We’re now going to turn to questionand- answer portion. Just to reiterate, we put
in the notepad around the side earlier but all the slides and the audio of today’s
presentation will be sent out via email and made available. With that, we’re going to
go
to [Audio Gap] sorry, we’re having just a minor technical difficulty. Okay, so now
with that, we’re going to do our best to get to questions and answers. There have been
a lot of questions that have come in over the course of the presentation so we’re
going to – literally hundreds so were going to do or best and we’ll go ahead and get
started. Ron, there’s a question regarding the Anne Henderson book. Participants are
wondering if you could give the reference information for that book again.>>RON MIRR: There were two books that I mentioned.
The first one is called the “New Wave of Evidence” and it’s a SEDL publication.
I know there’s a link to the SEDL website and you can Google “New Wave of Evidence”
and download it as a PDF. It’s by Anne Henderson and Karen Mapp. That was 2002 and they had
a follow-up publication in 2006 called “Beyond the Bake Sale” and you can Google that and
find that on Amazon.com.>>JAQUE MINOW: Okay, great and thank you
and Nina, somebody was wondering, what are the fifteen communities in which United Way
is doing the AT&T work?>>NINA SAZER O’DONNELL: I don’t have
them all in my head and so we will post them with the archive of the webinar.>>JAQUE MINOW: Jaynette, a participant was
wondering in which subjects did you all provide the parenting workshops?>>JAYNETTE RITTMAN: We did school discipline
and we incorporated 1-2-3 Magic for behavior discipline as far as discipline at home and
we also incorporated ESL workshops for ESL families providing them information that was
valuable to them for a successful school year.>>JAQUE MINOW: Now, here’s a question,
are there resources out there that help parent education programs evaluate their work? Formal
evaluation is often too expensive for schools to fund. So would Ron or Heather, would one
of you be willing to take that question?>>HEATHER WEISS: This is Heather. Yes, I
think there are some tools out there and if you go to our website at the Harvard Family
Research Project and look at the family involvement section of that website, I think you will
find some of those tools.>>JAQUE MINOW: Great and another question,
are administrators ready to provide time to educators to receive professional development
on family and community engagement? Ron and Jaynette, what’s been the experience at
Iowa?>>RON MIRR: I can tell that in Iowa that
when we talk to administrators about – that we understand the most important thing that
contributes to student learning is quality instruction and that they can improve the
effects of their quality instructions if they add to that parent engagement and ways that’s
linked to learning, we get their attention very quickly and when they understand that
and they become familiar with what the research says about it, they have become very willing
to allow folks to have release time or time to engage in professional development around
this. I have to tell you that the problem we have in Iowa with our PIRC is that as we
go out and talk to schools about participating with us, we have too many yeses and we’re
running a little short on staff and so I would tell you that my experience has been that
once administrators understand how it’s linked to learning, it helps them achieve
their desired goal, they’re very interested and supportive.>>JAQUE MINOW: Great, we have a question
for Anna…>>HEATHER WEISS: Jacque, could I chime in
with two additional things in response to this question. Anna mentioned early on that
there was recent research about the importance of family engagement particularly for lowperforming
schools. I want to put it another resource on the table and it’s called “Organizing
Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago.” It just came out in January of this year.
The lead author is Anthony Bryk and basically, this is the best analysis I know of longitudinal
data and this instance, from a set of high-poverty schools in Chicago and it’s a very sophisticated
data set and analysis of what differentiated the schools that we’re able to turn around
on serious indicators of a child’s achievement versus that those that did not. They come
up with five essential elements, one of which is family and community engagement. The other
book I would put on the table is by Rudy Crew who was the superintendent in New York City
and most recently, in Miami. His book is called “Only Connect” and as a superintendent
at some of the biggest cities in the country, basically his argument is that it is essential
for him as a superintendent to have engaged families if he is going to move his district
on bottom line achievement. So to the question that will people allow teachers to get trained
in this, that this course is changing or not now so that we’re understanding that we’re
not going to get a lot of schools turning around unless we begin to incorporate family
and community engagement as a key part of the strategy for turnaround.>>RON MIRR: I’ll add one other comment.
In our state in Iowa, the eight largest school districts get together monthly to talk about
how they can mutually support each other and this past year when they were asked, what
is it you want help with and need help with, among those eight, the number one or the number
two item was, how do we engage families? So they’re asking for it.>>JAQUE MINOW: Right and the next question
is for Anna and it relates to the proposed consolidation and wondering – there’s
a participant wondering if PIRCs will still have to be funded past the school year 2011?
How does the administration propose to go about to disseminating practices like this
in state and among local districts?>>ANNA HINTON: This is Anna. In the 2011
proposed budget, the Department has consolidated PIRC’s funding with the extending educational
options choice program and under that program, there will be funds, national activity funds
set aside to continue funding parent engagement strategies. So there will be money available
to continue funding some of the strategies that were funded under the PIRC program.>>JAQUE MINOW: Great. Question to Ron, all
the partners in your group were selected from the school community. I guess they were selections
of the school community. Do you have any parent or community-based organizations as partners?
Also, I was curious to understand how do you draw on parent cultural capital to inform
you in helping advance student achievement?>>RON MIRR: Okay, I’ve made a note. That’s
a long question. I’ll see if I can do my best [laughter] both parts. On the first part,
parent and community partners, because of the timeframe today, I listed some of our
key partners. We have many other partners. For example, we have an effort called “Partnering
in Communities” that we do with the Iowa State Extension and that’s where they have
developed a very structured process to go in from the community perspective and have
business partners, other groups mobilize the community including the school to find ways
to – the community support increased parent engagement. That’s been picked up by Iowa
State Extension and it’s offered in all of our counties around the state and we have
multiple groups that have been in that process for several years. We also reach out to parent
serving groups. We work and partner with our PTI which is the Parent Training Information
center which was a federally-funded project to support families, kids with special needs.
We reach out to different groups. We have multiple projects that partner with parent
groups around cultural issues. One of our projects is called – I hope I say this right,
“Latinas El Exito” which is we work with the Association of University Women and they
work in our communities in Iowa that have large Latina populations and they work with
junior high girls and try to pair them with adult Latina mentors and really try to help
connect them not unlike what you heard in terms of United Way process for looking at
what does it take to go on to higher education and career. So anytime we find an agency or
group, whether it’s a large public agency or as parent-led group, if their interest
is in increasing parent engagement as strategy for supporting student learning, we will try
to embrace them and we have many different partners. One of the links that you will see
is to our website and you can go on our website and locate what some of those are. Cultural
competence is an important piece of what we do and we have tried to bring in professional
development speakers for our administrators and teachers to talk about how you can harness
the energy of all parents including Parents of Color and bring that into the process of
how often – when we talk about our framework and what we’ve learned from Anne Henderson
and Karen Mapp, we really try to help our school teams understand how to honor the contributions
of all our parents and have that be an important factor in what they – when they put their
plans in place.>>JAQUE MINOW: Great and Anna, we have a
follow-up question. It sounds like there will be spending for parent engagement strategies
in the Federal budget after 2011 but there will not be PIRCs, is that correct?>>ANNA HINTON: I can’t speak definitively
about as to whether or not the PIRC program will be put back in in some shape or form.
Right now, the proposal is to consolidate the program with another program. So that’s
the only bit of information that I have right now as it relates to the PIRCs.>>JAQUE MINOW: Ron, this is another question
for you. We have a couple of participants asking what your background is. Are you an
educator or were you a parent that got involved?>>RON MIRR: I started my work with parent
engagement sixteen years ago, the same year my oldest child was born and I had an interest
– my background is as a social worker. I was trained to be a mental health specialist but
I am the child of teachers. I’m the husband of a teacher and I’m around teachers all
the time so I see myself as a good bridge between the world of education and the world
of human services and support.>>JAQUE MINOW: For any of the presenters,
can anybody speak to strategies and effective practices in engaging limited-English families?>>NINA SAZER O’DONNELL: This is Nina. I’d
like to tell a quick little story about something that happened at San Antonio where the United
Way and community partners in the city were all working together. It was part of the Making
Connections neighborhood. They’re attempting – giving intensive technical assistance to
help exceed a lot of trajectory by the Annie Casey foundation and after I looking at data,
everybody agreed that in a [sports] school, in a predominantly primary Spanish language
community, kids were falling off – actually, they started out looking at high school graduation
and found the kids were starting to miss school. The [students who’s] delinquent have all
kinds of academic problems and test scores going to the toilet, went into the toilet
in about fourth grade. So they decided after much more deliberation that family engagement
was the solution and brought in a group of parents and said, “Now, here’s the data.
Here’s what we’ve learned. Family engagement is an issue here for models.” The parents
said to them, “If you give us a model that won’t work, let us design something” and
they designed an initiative that’s been going on is for I think two or three years
now where parents began to organize parent engagement, home visits to other parents,
workshops, trainings about the importance of being involved in your kid’s school.
They started something that still continues called – in all these four elementary schools
called “Coffee at the Curb” where volunteer parents show up everyday with coffee and treats
for parents who actually bring their kids to school. They’ll encourage that and by
the way, over the last two years test scores have gone through the roof. Discipline – truancy,
all of those issues have disappeared. Every one of these four schools now has a parent
room and both principals who had formerly been disciplinarians are now able to help
the parents run the parent room and parent engagement and strategies. So it’s definitely
possible whether parents speak Spanish or other languages but I think a key is involving
parents in the solution.>>JAYNETTE RITTMAN: I would like to also
piggyback on that, this is Jaynette. Two of our parent workshops that we held this year
were specifically for our ESL students and their parents and we had wonderful turnouts
for both of those and it was basically to provide them information that they needed
to help their child succeed in school. One was focused around the Iowa Test of Basic
Skills which is our standardized test that we have to give to all students which many
of our ESL students struggle with and having a better understanding as parents, they were
able to support their student or their children and provide them the resources that they needed
to support them as far as just the basic things that we might take for granted, getting a
good night’s rest, eating breakfast, coming in comfortable clothes, being prepared for
the week that we are taking our test for Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Providing them just
the general information, they were so grateful and they were so appreciative of everything
that we were able to offer them. They want to have more of these workshops next year
and like I said, we started off with two this year and we did one at the first semester
and one at second semester and parents were thrilled to be a part. I think if we give
them that opportunity, they will come and they do appreciate everything that we can
do for them.>>RON MIRR: One of the pieces of technical
assistance we have provided to the schools we work with, the school team relates the
data and I believe I said to you that at the start of the process, they gather data from
parents, teachers and students. An important thing that we do with these teams is have
them look at how many of their parents answer this survey, who these parents are and do
they represent the diversity including the language diversity of their building. One
of the first activities is, if you don’t have the voice of those parents represented
really stopping and thinking about and taking steps to make sure the voice of all parents
is represented in the early process and they work – and sometimes, it’s harder for
a team than other teams. They’ve been trying to find some building-based local strategies
that can really up that parent voice not just in the survey but the ongoing conversations
of the team.>>JAQUE MINOW: So one question that we’re
getting a lot of is not surprising in terms of the current economic climate and [LEAs]
struggling to preserve any innovative – any progress that’s been made or institutes
some of these best practices in the face of what [trends] came out of this system, pretty
severe budget cuts regarding early and k-12 education. So does anybody on the phone or
does anybody on the presentation have some insight into that?>>HEATHER WEISS: You mean inside in the sense
of actions that one could take to try to do something about it?>>JAQUE MINOW: Well, I think not only actions
to take to try to do something about it but some strategies to get creative in terms of
where you’re looking for funding or maybe low cost options or expanding partnerships
to leverage community assets that are there.>>HEATHER WEISS: Nina I think is somebody
who knows the work that United Way is doing that’s had the kind of partnership that
United Way is creating with families with community-based organizations and the school
is a really good example of how to leverage everybody’s resources to try to really create
a systemic, sustained and integrated approach to family engagement. Maybe you want speak
a little more to it, Nina.>>NINA SAZER O’DONNELL: Well, I think Jacque
actually outlined the strategies that have been working. I’m actually, as we’re speaking
at a meeting of six communities that we’ve been working with over the last two years
on strengthening families initiatives which are elementary parent engagement and they’re
reporting what they’ve been doing for the last two years and a couple of them, for example,
Boswell which is a very – there’s not a lot of money. It’s supposed [unintelligible]
the country talk about not having money and being – I’m not saying not having money
is good but not having money caused them to think about partnerships in leveraging and
engaging with families in different ways and engaging – looking at families as assets.
So the other thing that I think is another way to think about this is [figuring] your
community. If you got $50 million tomorrow for family engagement, what would you do with
it and sometimes thinking that through will lead you to think about things that need to
happen in the down curve, even having [dollars] that might be helpful and it might give you
direction for where you could partner and leverage. I think the other – my other answer
is that the kind of work that we’re all collectively doing to those demonstrate effective
family engagement work and to document it in ways that funders and other investors are
going to be confident that the work is going to yield the results that are promised is
ultimately going to help us all move forward with resources that we need.>>RON MIRR: I think it’s always nice and
very helpful to have resources as why you are out looking for those resources, one of
the things that we encourage our teams to do is to reflect on all of their current ways
they are reaching out and engaging families and to think of those in light of what the
research says is an effective way to work with parents to increase student learning.
I think we find that many our teams that it’s not hard for them to start something new but
what is harder for them is to examine their current practice and work smarter and let
go of some of the ways that have less evidence of being connected to a student thing and
put other strategies in place so I know that one thing that the schools can do when they
don’t have as many resources is to really do a little self-assessment and do a scan
of what’s going on already in their building or their district to see are these the most
effective ways and are they things can be replaced at no cost or low cost.>>JAQUE MINOW: I think that’s some great
insight. Anna, we have – yes?>>HEATHER WEISS: This is [Audio Gap] can
I add one more thing?>>JAQUE MINOW: Yes.>>HEATHER WEISS: One of the co-sponsors of
our webinar series is the National PTA and I encourage people to go on their website
because they’re doing a lot with respect to public education around the importance
of family and community engagements and trying to bring the research base into the public
policy conversation for example. So I highly recommend it just on a legislative guide to
face family engagement legislation so I highly recommend that people to take a look what
the PTA is doing as well.>>JAQUE MINOW: We have a question for Anna.
We have a participant who wants to how the Department of Education is working with other
Federal agencies who are also committed to cultivating child, family, neighbor, teacher,
service provider, pastor, policymaker, et cetera engagement for optimal child development?>>ANNA HINTON: The Department is engaged
with – well, we co-sponsor an interagency working group with HHS and I believe it’s
a work group with about seven sub-committees of which family engagement is one of them
but that’s one large interagency working group that we’re currently actively engaged
in and then there are conversations around partnering with other Federal agencies but
there’s nothing concrete or set in stone that I’m able to talk about currently but
those conversations are going on internally but the one huge interagency working group
that we are currently a part of is with HHS.>>JAQUE MINOW: Hey, we have another question
for the Department. The participant wants [Audio Gap] parent [and call] for a short
and quick process and do not require school leaders to get inputs from parents. What policy
language could be introduced in the SEA to ensure that low-performing schools are required
to work with parents and communities in the turnaround process that include long-term
parent engagement goals as part of that turnaround plan.>>ANNA HINTON: Right. Well, the Department
has issued a blueprint which really highlights what some of the current thinking is around
that but in the future, we will be releasing more specifics as it relates to the reauthorization
and at that time, we’ll be able to talk a little bit more about what the policy recommendations
are.>>JAQUE MINOW: Right and before we go, I
wanted to check and see if there were any phone – any questions or anybody on the
phone. Operator: If you would like to ask a question, it’s “star, one” on your
touchtone phone and you may withdraw yourself at any time by pressing the “pound” key.
Once again, it’s “star, one” to ask a question. We’ll pause momentarily for
questions to queue. It appears we have no question.>>JAQUE MINOW: Okay, great. So I think we
can take just a couple more. We have one to the presenters. I don’t know if this goes
to Ron or Heather or Anna. This participant wants to know if there’s been any discussion
about replicating the iSPIN program that the Iowa PIRC is doing in other PIRCs throughout
the country?>>RON MIRR: I can answer that.>>JAQUE MINOW: Okay.>>RON MIRR: Actually, the process that I
mentioned, the structure that we folded into our framework was developed by a PIRC at the
time in Illinois. That was the Academic Development Institute so it started with the PIRC, came
to us and there are multiple PIRCs around the country that are already using – we
weren’t the first ones to do it. We’ve taken on a slightly different path by stating
it into our framework but I’m aware right now of two other PIRCs that are actively starting
to implement the iSPIN version and this summer, we are meeting with the folks from ADI and
talking about that very topic, how can we support other PIRCs or other organizations
or schools themselves to be able to implement this process if they’d like to. It’s very
much on our mind and we are working hard to promote that.>>JAQUE MINOW: Hey, we have one more question,
are there examples of educational service districts helping schools with parent engagement
strategies to any of your knowledge?>>HEATHER WEISS: I think that the closest
I know of, I think there are probably are but the closest I know is in fact New Visions
which is work organization in New York. It’s a kind of an equivalent to that and in fact,
New Visions is obviously helping people develop their family and community engagement strategy.
I think that would be a question that probably a number of the PIRCs could also answer at
some point. You might want to put it to them and post it on the post-webinar website because
I know from my experience talking with them around the country [Audio Gap] working with
those groups.>>RON MIRR: I can tell you that in Iowa,
our educational service districts are called AEAs or Area Education Agencies and they are
strong partners and the SPIN process that our iSPIN grew out of was developed by one
of those organizations and is still put in place and we partner very strongly with our
AEAs and we have AEA staff who work in concert with our program not only on this school-based
effort but also on our early childhood efforts.>>JAQUE MINOW: Hey, with that, we wanted
to thank all our presentors for today’s webinar.

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