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Summary of Questions from Webinar 2:
A New Day: Family, School, and Community Engagement in Education Reform - Responses from Speakers and National PIRC Coordination Center

Responses written by Susan Shaffer, Maryland State PIRC, and Barbara Scherr, Maryland State Department of Education

1. Where can we access Maryland's framework for accountability and outcome measurement tools, sample school parent compacts, and standards for parental engagement training?

The Maryland Parent Advisory Council (M-PAC) Report serves as the MD's framework for parent involvement. The Council's report, Shared Responsibility, includes all 21 recommendations under five themes—communication, training, partnership, leadership, and accountability.

Report accessible via the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Web site at www.marylandpublicschools.org/NR/rdonlyres/724B578E-3BEB-4506-9238-2C7D7A89B3AB/7765/MPAC_FinalSummary_October2005.pdf

Title I Parent Involvement Information Web page available at

MSDE has two full time staff working to support school districts, schools, and parents. For more information about Title I Parent Involvement or general questions about family engagement, please contact:

Barb Scherr
Phone: (410) 767-0291
E-mail: bscherr@msde.state.md.us

Young-Chan Han
Phone: (410) 767-6756
E-mail: yhan@msde.state.md.us

2. How does Maryland include nonprofits and community organizations in supporting family engagement efforts?

Each district in Maryland has a Family Involvement Coordinator and an ELL Family Involvement Coordinator designated by local superintendents to support family engagement. These coordinators meet throughout the year with the staff from Maryland State Department of Education. The representatives from MD PIRC, MD PTA, Maryland Alliance for Family Involvement in Education (MAFIE), and Maryland English Language Learning Family Involvement Network (MELLFIN) are also invited to network, share resources and discuss best practices on family engagement. Maryland thrives on partnership and collaboration with these and other nonprofits and community organizations in supporting families.

About two years ago, MSDE, MD PTA, and MD PIRC together birthed the Maryland Alliance for Family Involvement in Education (MAFIE). MAFIE hosts two professional conversations a year around parent involvement. The meeting is open to district leaders, schools, partner organizations, and parents to attend. In collaboration with MSDE, MD PTA, and MD PIRC, these conversations bring nationally known speakers, such as Anne Henderson, to share her work. Most recently in May 2010, MAFIE invited three local superintendents to share their vision and work on behalf of families.

These three organizations have also declared October as Maryland's Parent Involvement Month. This past October, MSDE, MD PIRC, and MD PTA brought together over 300 parents, educators, and community representatives to express our appreciation for the hard work and important role parents play in their children's education. MSDE used this event as a platform to launch the Third Annual Comcast Parent Involvement Matters (PIMA) Award. This award program is the first of its kind in the nation to shine a spotlight on parents who have been involved in an effort to raise awareness of the impact of parent involvement and to encourage others to get involved. For the past three years, PIMA has honored and recognized the outstanding accomplishments of 24 very special people at a statewide recognition ceremony. These parents have made significant contributions to their child's school.

MSDE also collaborates with MELLFIN, a statewide nonprofit organization, created to share information and resources in support of English language learning families in education. MSDE provides guidance to MELLFIN for their regular professional development meetings and the annul MELLFIN seminar.

Towson State University is also a valuable partner in parent involvement. The University was given a State grant to train teachers and stakeholders on effective parental and community collaboration and engagement.

3. What kind of training is needed to implement parent classroom observations?

The Tellin' Stories approach emphasizes the development of meaningful relationships among families, between families and their schools, and by supporting collective action to transform schools. Since community building and trust is integral to the sustainability and success of the program in schools, this important first step must be taken before parent classroom observations can take place. Prior to classroom observations, parents must be confident that they will be welcomed in teacher's classrooms. Teachers, on the other hand, must be assured that the purpose of the observations is to help families gain a deeper understanding of what is happening in their children's classrooms, increase their appreciation of the daily experiences of their children and school, provide direct support to classrooms, and make informed recommendations for school improvement—NOT to critique teaching.

There are two types of classroom observations: initial classroom visits and achievement-focused classroom visits

  1. Initial Classroom Visits require
    1. A meeting with the principal to explain the purpose and get approval for the visits.
    2. Write a memo to teachers explaining the purpose and nature of visits.
    3. Orientation session for parents (two hours)
  2. Achievement-focused classroom visits require
    1. Formation of an academic achievement committee
    2. The following parent workshops:
      1. Parent brainstorming session—developing the classroom observational tool
      2. Parent/teacher session: feedback from teachers
      3. Preparing for classroom visits
    3. Classroom visits
    4. Conferencing with teacher
    5. Supporting teaching and learning
    6. Meeting with principal
    7. Summary report—to be presented at a school leadership team meeting

4. What do we need to do to create a Tellin' Stories program?

The first step towards implementing the Tellin' Stories Program at your school or to hold a district-wide train-the-trainer training is to identify a district or school-based leader who is willing to engage parents in community building, student learning, school decision-making, and school reform. The next step is to get in touch with either Susan Shaffer or Deborah Menkart to get the program underway at your school or in your district.

If you are located in Maryland, you can contact:

Susan Shaffer, Executive Director
MD Parental Information and Resource Center (MD PIRC)
5272 River Road, Suite 340
Bethesda, MD 20816
Phone: 301-557-7741 ext 118
E-mail: sshaffer@maec.org
Web: www.mdpirc.org

If you are located outside of Maryland, please contact:

Deborah Menkart, Executive Director
Teaching for Change
PO Box 73038
Washington, DC 20056
Phone: 202-588-7204
E-mail: dmenkart@teachingforchange.org
Web: www.teachingforchange.org

5. What types of evaluations are being used determine the impact or effectiveness of the Tellin' Stories program on student achievement?

The Tellin' Stories Program is evaluated in a variety of ways to obtain both quantitative and qualitative data to determine the program's effectiveness in increasing parent efficacy to advocate for their children's education, increased parent participation in school events and school planning, and the increase in the capacity of parents to help support their children's education and learning at home. Furthermore, state assessment results and attendance rates for participating schools are tracked to determine whether the percentage of students scoring "proficient" or better and attendance has increased. Data collection instruments include: pre/post surveys for parents, teachers, and principals; workshop surveys (distributed at the end of each workshop); focus groups; personal interviews; state assessment results; and average daily attendance rates.

Responses written by Mishaela Durán and Lela Spielberg, National PTA

1. How can we start a PTA in the territories?

Currently, PTA has 55 state Congresses, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Department of Defense Schools in Europe and the Pacific. To start a local PTA chapter, contact National PTA by filling out a form for new units on our Web site (http://pta.org/how_to_join.asp).

2. What programs are available through PTA for foster parents?

PTA does not offer programming exclusively for foster parents, but encourages all caregivers to participate in its programs. PTA is also working to engage more caregivers with children in the foster care or juvenile justice system. For instance, Maryland PTA works closely with the Maryland PIRC to engage families with children in the foster care system and provide services and outreach that meet their needs. Recently, Maryland has established first-ever foster caregiver PTA unit.

PTA also recently published a State Laws on Family Engagement Reference Guide, which profiles state laws on family engagement in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This guide includes a section Youth and Families in High-Risk situations, which analyzes laws that address the needs of youth experiencing multiple educational placements or who are at-risk of disengaging from or dropping out of school.
Guide available at http://pta.org/3717.asp

The U.S. Department of Education has also used PTA's National Standards for Family-School Partnerships in it's a Family Guide to Getting in Involved with Correctional Education, which provides guidance on how to work with families of systems-involved youth. The National PTA also advocating for changes in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization that would ensure that caregivers and biological parents of youth in the foster care, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems were engaged in transition planning and strength-based interventions for the youth.
Guide available at http://www.neglected-delinquent.org/nd/resources/spotlight/familyGuide2008.asp

Responses created by National PIRC Coordination Center

1. What recommendations would you give for data collection on family engagement programs: what data to collect; how to collect it; and how to use data to link family engagement and student outcomes?

While there is no one way to collect and use data on family engagement programs, there are things to consider in designing a method for data collection and use, including methodology, matching methods to outcomes, and privacy. The following resources provide useful information on these topics and more.

2. Have you done any analysis that reflects cost and benefits to education, individuals, society, public institutions, employment, social work, and other similar factors?

The following resources provide information on cost and benefit analysis for family and community engagement programs.

3. How do we help educators to redefine the role families can take in supporting education and build a culture of engagement instead of random acts of involvement?

The following resources provide explanations and information on strategies to help educators redefine the school's culture of engagement so that families can take a meaningful role in supporting student learning.

4. How do you assess administrator commitment for effective engagement practices?

While there may be assessments specific to administrator commitment available, we are not familiar with them. There are, however, various tools that assess the structures that administrators need to create if they are to establish an effective family engagement program. Examples of these types of instruments follow.

There are also resources that describe the characteristics of effective leadership support for family engagement including the following.

5. What strategies empower families to engage in their children's education including fathers, families of very young children, and diverse families?

The following resources describe strategies that help to empower fathers, families of very young children, and diverse families to engage in their children's education.


Young Children

Diverse Families

6. Does anyone have examples of parent training used as a degree program for parents?

Although there may be examples of parent training being applied to degree programs, the most commonly referenced programs offer 1) certificates or college credits to foster parents or caregivers who take specified classes related to being a foster parent and 2) certificates or GED credit to parents who attend specific training as part of a school's parental involvement program. There are also some university programs that offer course work or degrees in parent education including the University of Minnesota and Adelphi University.

Information on parent educator programs available at http://www.cehd.umn.edu/CI/Programs/college/Certificates/ParentEd.html and http://www.adelphi.edu/parentinginstitute/profdevpt-conted/certificateprog.php

7. What strategies help to support policy and planning that promotes and supports family engagement as a change strategy?

The following resources describe strategies and approaches that can help to support policy and planning that promotes family engagement as a change strategy.

8. What roles can students play as part of the process to engage family and community in supporting student learning?

The following resources provide information on the benefits of involving students and strategies for engaging them to support learning.

9. Acronyms/Terms

SEDL's Glossary of Educational Terms provides brief explanation of educational acronyms and terms.
Resource available at http://www.nationalpirc.org/engagement_webinars/webinar-2/glossary-of-ed-terms.pdf

This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education's Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education.