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More On Engaging Parents

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The final two parts of the four part series on parent engagement/involvement have been published by Public School Insights. Here are links to all four of them:

Part One: How Much Parent Involvement Do Educators Really Want? by Renee Moore

Part Two: Parent Involvement or Parent Engagement? by Larry Ferlazzo (me)

Part Three: Building Community Trust in Urban Schools is Hard Work by me.

Part Four: Education is Becoming More Consumer-Driven by Renee Moore

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. The prevailing model have done nothing in the form of increase students achievement or decreasing drop out rates. For 21st Century parent have to more than basic skills. These Skills and Standards will empower parents in API 1-3 schooling.

    TYPE I- Access to Information and Data Collection

    Parents need to have access to timely and accurate information in order to best support their children’s academic success. This includes:

    • Parents using, analyzing, and collecting data about their schools
    • Parents understanding data and using data that drives reforms
    • Parents becoming empowered to investigate and document conditions in their schools by becoming researchers in their own communities.
    • Parent access to information about the resources, and rights to support their children.

    In Epstein’s Six Keys Steps she does not mention anything regarding data collection. We now live in a data driven society and failure to acknowledge this places parents of color at a disad-vantage. Type 1 involvement in our model is also aligned with the intention of No Child Left Be-hind (NCLB), section 1118, and the California School Accountability Report Card (SARC). This element is also driven by the principle that an informed parent is a powerful parent for social change.

    TYPE II- Parents in Decision-Making Roles

    Parents provide leadership in schools by being at the table with teachers and administrators in multiple ways. For example, they actively set policies and are involved in key decisions along with school leaders. They ensure the schools have adequate resources to carry out their missions and obligations. In addition, parents provide training and evaluation of school structures. Finally, deci-sion making must incorporate input from families and the community. Parents in decision making roles should include:

    • Local Advisory Committees with genuine parent participation
    • Effective advocacy and education as a direct result of understanding how systems are struc-tured (e.g. how decisions and power are distributed between schools, staff, parents and students)
    • Providing parents with knowledge, skills, and opportunities to actively engage them in all levels of the decision-making process
    • Representation of parents on the school decision-making teams

    Joyce Epstein addresses decision-making in her six types of parent involvement. However, in our estimation, her view of decision-making is too general; it lacks content or suggestions on what it should look like in practice. In other words, it is left too open to interpretation, thus exclu-sively in the hands of educator who often are the ones who define what parent involvement is. In other words, this lack of clarity leaves too much up to school authorities to decide what this deci-sion-making should look like. Our Type 2, is similar in some sense to Joyce Epstein’s Type 5, “Deci-sion Making: Include families as participants in school decisions, governance, and advocacy through PTA/PTO, school councils, committees, and other parent organizations.”

    TYPE III-Parents as Student Advocates

    Parents need to know how to navigate and negotiate the school system. We need to sup-port the creation of an environment where parents have access to information and support systems to be effective advocates by monitoring and directing the education of our children. This includes:

    • Parents need to know what children need, how to access resources and how to implement a plan of action.
    • Parents need to understand a power map detailing the functions and structures of the sys-tem.
    • Parents need to understand and be able to communicate in an educational setting, using terms spoken by educational professionals.

    Our Type 3 of parent involvement is often not addressed in other parent involvement models, Epstein, Comer, etc. We argue that parents from working class communities need to know how to engage professional educators if they are going to be public participants in their chil-dren’s education. Only when parents know the rules of engagement, particularly the language of education, can they hold the system accountable.
    In our effort to support working class parents and increase their understanding of the pub-lic school system, PUT published The Parent Survival Guide in 2005. Its goal was to assist parents in navigating the school system from grades K-16. The Parent Survival Guide, sponsored by Congress-woman Linda Sanchez and written by urban parents who have struggled themselves in navigating the school system, is a map which parents of color can use to understand the ins and outs of the public school structure. For example, it breaks down the different offices at the school and their individual responsibilities. This is because most parents complain about how schools frequently send them from one office to another.
    This guide also covers such topics as college preparation, scholarships and grants available for undocumented immigrants and African -American students, the ABC’s for student success, spe-cial education, and information about how to work within the school structure. The guide also as-sists immigrant families and parents of color in finding support for their college-bound children with scholarship information (name of organization, requirements, contact information, etc.).
    And finally, a very important feature about this guide is its accessibility to working class parents of color. The Parent Survival Guide is published in both English and Spanish and is written in a manner that avoids jargon and inaccessible educational terminology.

    TYPE IV-Parents as Leaders at Home and in the School-Community

    Parents need opportunities to build leadership and advocacy skills to enhance student-parent-community partnerships. Schools will serve the family and community needs for health and social service and provide resources and information for accessing those services.

    • Parents will learn intergenerational and cross-cultural communication strategies, with a special emphasis for immigrant families.
    • Parents will learn “21st century parenting skills” such as how to develop boundaries, parent-child communication, identify risk factors (e.g. drugs and gang involvement.)
    • Parents will understand the college requirement and financial aid process.
    • Leadership training will be offered that will include meeting facilitation, public speaking, conflict resolution and cross cultural training
    • Communications training for parents will be more effective in navigating their children through K-12 to college.
    • Parents receive on-going support and technical assistance to equip them for effective par-ticipation.

    Epstein does discuss parent roles, but it is limited in content and context. In our summa-tion, there is no room in Epstein’s model to broaden the content to go beyond homework to ad-dress urban parents’ needs. Parents in urban schools, however, need equal resources in the area of gang influences, drug problems, and criminal activities that go beyond basic parenting skills.

    TYPE V- Effective Two –Way Communication

    Communication in multicultural and multilingual communities must be translated in languages that parents speak in their home. Communication between home and school must not only be a regular, two-way occurrence, it also has to be relevant and meaningful. These multicultural and multilingual ways of communicating with parents must include, but not be limited to, the comput-erized machines, newsletters, personal contact, letters/flyers, and the school marquee. Parent Liai-son roles in multicultural school must also help bridge open communication between school and home and help create effective home /school relationships. This includes the cultural awareness to ably work with parents of diverse cultural, linguistic, and economic backgrounds and experiences. In many urban and multicultural communities, the Parent Liaison role is the key to fostering rela-tionships with parents and open communication between schools and communities. There is, however, no relationship more important than that between parents and teachers and that is the idea behind The Urban Parent Teacher Education Collaborative.
    The Urban Parent Teacher Education Collaborative is a pioneering model for others universi-ties. By creating a space for a university professor and a grass-roots parent organizer to team-teach a class for pre-service teachers, Pepperdine University has recognized parents as experts in the area of how and what is needed to educate children in urban schools. This new model allows future teach-ers to have contact with urban parents before they come into our school communities. In work-shops, pre-service teachers are given strategies for interacting with parents in order to learn how to build a working relationship with them. PUT members and teachers, for example, practice role re-versals that allow both teachers and parents to acquire a better understanding and respect for the importance of each other’s roles.
    This distinct model of teacher education seeks to build a clinical laboratory for teacher preparation driven by parent involvement with the following goals:
    • To increase and sustain teacher’s knowledge, skills and positive attitudes toward families through their participation in a community-dialogue forum with urban parents.
    • To move beyond classroom-based teaching methods by offering teachers direct field experiences working with families.
    • To enable pre-service teachers to develop effective practices to prepare their work with families and communities.
    • To establish a context for pre-service teachers to learn about urban communities.
    • To increase working relationships between novice-residence teachers with families and students which break down perceptions of stereotypes and improves student achievement.

    TYPE VI-District Level Support

    Structures must be provided to build parent capacity that is well-defined and where meaningful participation such as dialogue, empowerment and action are critical components of educational reform. This mid-level structure will be fully funded and led by parent councils that will:

    • Provide parents with training and capacity building opportunities to effectively engage in school reform at the local and district level.
    • Provide parents with information and resources to meet the needs of the whole child.
    • Enable parents to support students and schools programs.

    We acknowledge that in Epstein’s six types of parent involvement does engage the issue of parent participation at the district level, including the establishment of “independent advocacy groups” that will serve to lobby for school reform and improvements (National Network for Partnership in Schools, 2006). Our type 6 aligns loosely with Epstein’s type 5 of parental involvement.

    TYPE VII- Friendly Schools Atmosphere

    Schools will post welcome signs throughout the school in many languages including Eng-lish. The staff of each school will provide mandatory customer service every year for the entire school. Parents will be asked to fill out a survey on services render.
    A friendly school atmosphere was also left out of Epstein’s six keys that were adopted by the State of California. The number one complaint in urban schools from parents is that the school staff is rude and unfriendly. This is the major reason parents give for not participating or volunteering at local schools.

    Mary Johnson, President
    Parent-U-Turn

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