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Summary of Questions from Webinar 4:
The Teacher-Parent Relationship: Using Professional Development to Improve Family and Community Engagement

Responses from Speakers and National PIRC Coordination Center

Questions and Answers
Responses written by the National PTA

1. What resources does the PTA have to help families, school staff, and community groups address bullying?

PTA, like all of you, has grown increasingly concerned about the prevalence of bullying in our nation’s schools. It’s a pervasive problem that all too often has far-reaching consequences that negatively affect school climate and student safety; not to mention negative lifelong consequences for all students involved—targets of bullying, students who passively witness bullying occur, and students who actively participate in bullying. National PTA, along with our constituency of local and state PTAs adopted the PTA Resolution Against Bullying to clearly define, and take a stand against, this issue.

For too long bullying has gone unchallenged by schools and by parents. Whether this lack of intervention has been due to unawareness or a view that bullying is a “harmless rite of passage,” it is time that students and all adults—parents, teachers, and administrators—become equipped with tools to intervene effectively. It is the goal of National PTA, through educational literature, programs and projects for parents, students, and school personnel, to foster a zero tolerance environment for bullying behavior in our nation’s schools.

Recently National PTA’s Office of Public Policy staff collaborated with Kevin Jennings of the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (OSDFS) to participate in “listening and learning” sessions on ways to improve school climate. Additionally, PTA has provided feedback and recommendations on OSDFS’ School Climate Surveys—administered to parents, students, and teachers—to ensure we’re asking the right questions when it comes to assessing student wellness.

This is why National PTA works to provide information on identifying and stopping bullying, guiding parents and school personnel alike to take concrete steps toward making our nation’s schools and neighborhoods bully-free. Parents are the strongest advocates for their children, so I encourage you to check with the PTA(s) in your community to identify local initiatives and programs—or get the conversation started. The National PTA Web site provides the following resources:

2. How do the PTA’s efforts to promote the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and its support for the development of Common Core Standards help to strengthen parent engagement, foster home-school-community partnerships, and create a structure for evaluating effective family engagement programs?

We know that there is a positive correlation between family involvement and student success. When families are involved in their children’s learning—both at home and at school—their children simply do better. The 2002 research synthesis A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement by Anne T. Henderson and Karen L. Mapp presented key findings that crystallized not only why family-school partnerships were needed, but how every school can achieve better outcomes for children by strengthening parent/family involvement programs: form effective partnerships that involve the school, family, and community.

PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships builds upon this, and other, research by asking not “What should schools do to involve parents?” but “What can parents, schools, and communities do together to support student success?” This change is significant. It reflects a shared responsibility and need for mutual understanding among all stakeholders in the success of our children. Engagement is a two-way street. Yes, schools must work to ensure a welcoming climate, effective and clear communication, and open transparency and accountability, but parents and community members must also equip and empower themselves with the tools and knowledge to fully engage in the success of children. Essential to shared responsibility and mutual respect among students, teachers, administrators, and parents and families is clear communication and consistency—where PTA believes implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCS) can play a large role in improving outcomes.

PTA believes strongly that the development and implementation of CCS is a critical element to ensuring all parents and families can advocate for, and become engaged in, their children’s education. Often times, lack of clarity and understanding regarding expectations of learning and curriculum is a barrier to engagement. The Standards will provide all the necessary players in the education process—students, teachers, administrators, and parents and families—with a shared understanding of what all students are expected to learn. Additionally, a goal in the development of the CCS was to clarify the standards, as many existing standards are difficult to understand. Without clarity, students, educators, and parents really cannot have shared expectations or enjoy true partnership. We know that when all these players are on the same page and working together to achieve success for all students, academic and behavioral outcomes are improved. We see the CCS as a way to break down this communications barrier between schools and families.

Lastly, we believe very strongly in the need for consistency in standards across school districts and states. We live in a highly mobile society, with more than 43 million families moving homes (and often school districts) each year. An important and concrete benefit of the CCS initiative is that students who move from one state to another—such as military families—will face the same expectations and receive similar preparation to ensure academic success. This equates to parents being better equipped with the tools and understanding to engage in the success of their children. The following Web sites provide information on these efforts:

3. How are parents recruited to participate in the “parent consortium” and what is their role in the supporting education through this effort?

Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) in Tampa, Florida has a robust Parent/Family and Community Involvement Program, funded through the District’s Title I, Section 1118 set aside, which includes dedicated program staff. It is important to note that although the work of the program does focus on improving parent/family and community engagement in Title I-funded schools, it extends to all schools—both magnet and non-magnet—across the county. It is the overarching goal of Hillsborough County to embed effective parent/family involvement practices across all departments—education and non-education—across the entire county. The Parent/Family Involvement Consortium (Consortium) is an essential strategy toward that goal and toward better outcomes for Hillsborough’s children and youth. Although there is no limit to size of the Consortium, current membership is approximately 30 people, representing the following groups:

  • County Government representatives from departments serving children and families, including the school district, social services (30%);
  • County-Wide Nonprofits/Philanthropy such as the president of Hillsborough County PTA, a representative of United Way of Tampa Bay, and staff from a county-wide education-focused private foundation (20%);
  • Local/Neighborhood Community Groups such as neighborhood associations (20%); and
  • Parents representing a cross-section of county schools, with at least 50 percent representing a Title I school in the county (30%).

Recruiting parents to participate in the consortium has been somewhat of a challenge, as district-level leadership and visibility is new (and can be overwhelming) to some parents, although it has been the experience of HCPS that the challenge can be overcome with effective communication and the use of existing systems, such as PTA. Currently, HCPS is working with Melissa Erickson, President of Hillsborough County PTA to recruit parents to serve on the consortium. There are 221 schools in Hillsborough County with active Parent Teacher Associations, although non-PTA parents are also welcome and encouraged to participate. Since the activities of the consortium are funded through Title I, Section 1118, a minimum of 50 percent of consortium parents represent schools receiving Title I funds. Taking into account the goal of socioeconomic and geographic diversity, the consortium recruits parents representing a minimum of nine schools—three elementary, three middle, and three high schools.

As mentioned in my response to the preceding question, the PTA has developed National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, which are rooted in PTA’s core belief that engaged parents and communities equate to better outcomes for children. While we know, based on extensive research, this to be the case, all too often parents, teachers, administrators, and community members struggle with how to go about implementing meaningful programs and practices to effectively engage the entire community in the shared responsibility of education. The standards serve as a framework to help address the “how” of forming and maintaining effective partnerships. Not surprisingly, Hillsborough County’s Parent/Family Involvement Consortium is an example of a strategy that serves to facilitate effective communication and involve parents and families in decision-making; both standards for successful partnerships.

The consortium is charged not only with charting the course for county-wide parent/family and community involvement programming throughout the year—both in terms of activities and programs offered and district-level program goals—but also with dissemination of information and materials to parents and families across the district. Additionally, since there is representation on the consortium from child and family-serving departments across county government, the consortium serves to ensure that all pertinent players are involved in the decision-making and goal-setting processes and are aware of and participate in ongoing and upcoming initiatives. The following Web sites provided more detailed information on these projects:

Additional information on the Parent/Family and Community Involvement of HCPS available at http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/involvement/index.asp

Information about Hillsborough County PTA’s involvement program and role in the consortium available at http://hccpta.mysdhc.org/ or Melissa Erickson, president, at president@hccptaptsa.org

Questions and Answers
Responses written by Jane Groff, Director, Kansas State Parental Information and Resource Center (PIRC)

1. What are the best strategies to build buy-in at all levels of the educational system for providing resources that promote home-based academic support, particularly for parents with limited academic skills?

In my opinion, the best strategy to build buy-in in the educational system for family engagement is by working with your state department of education. Because the Kansas State Board of Education (KSBE) endorsed the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, districts and schools were provided an impetus and framework from which to approach family engagement. The Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) now weaves the standards into their school improvement plans. As schools write their improvement plans, they must address at least two of the standards that they are targeting for the year. If there is a framework or foundation from which to work at the state level it unifies a state in their approach to family engagement. Districts follow the lead of the state department and schools follow the lead of their districts. The Kansas Improvement Notebook (2008) describes this process and provides guidance and tools.

Resource available at http://www.ksde.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=rw9bk9cNcVo%3d&tabid=1957&mid=7091&forcedownload=true

2. What type of training would you recommend on raising awareness about diversity issues and addressing diversity needs for all stakeholders? Is the training more effective if facilitated by someone from within the system or an external facilitator?

In teacher pre-service programs and with existing teachers, it is important to prepare teachers to teach diverse students and remind them of the value of diversity. This can be done by focusing on understanding key cultural elements such as, family, education, religion, gender roles, etc. that pertain to different cultures. Pre-service teachers and existing teachers should have professional development that focuses on communication, conflict resolution and knowledge of adult development. Training on diversity in family engagement should be incorporated into each teacher pre-service class so that the consideration of families is woven throughout pre-service training. In pre-service education or professional learning workshops, the training on raising awareness about diversity issues is limitless. This could include parent centered tasks for pre-service students that focus on understanding different parenting styles across cultures, understanding parents’ perspectives, and communicating with parents who have a low level of literacy.

In my experience, the training is more effective if facilitated by an external facilitator. I have found that schools welcome the professional development and technical assistance Kansas State PIRC (KPIRC) offers because we can address issues that are sometimes uncomfortable for them to address. Of course, I always become familiar with the issues around diversity in the area before providing any assistance.

3. How have district level staff helped school level staff move beyond the attitude that "parents don't care" to an approach to family engagement that encourages home-school partnerships?

District level staff need to be unified in its approach to family engagement. Even if the district has a position dedicated to family engagement, the rest of the district level personnel need to have professional development in how to promote family engagement in the 21st Century. Professional development should include emphasis on family engagement as a shared responsibility, strength based, collaborative, systemic, integrated, learning and outcome driven, and sustainable.

When districts have pursued professional learning in family engagement, they are then better equipped to support schools in their endeavors. I also think that the district needs to lead the schools by developing a dynamic parent involvement policy that is developed with parents and updated annually. Too often schools adopt the district level parent involvement policy instead of being encouraged to develop a policy that reflects their particular school and its emphasis on family engagement. Some of the districts in Kansas have invited the KPIRC to provide technical assistance to their district staff on building a parent involvement policy, school-parent compact and the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.

Questions and Answers
Responses written by Katharine Mora, Education Coordinator, Columbia University Head Start, and Adjunct Professor, Bank Street College of Education

1. What are the best strategies to build buy-in at all levels of the educational system for providing resources that promote home-based academic support, particularly for parents with limited academic skills?

The number cited in the presentation referenced the course descriptions for teacher preparation classes at Bank Street and was determined strictly based on the course descriptions in the course catalog.

Course catalog available at http://webstaging.bankstreet.edu/gems/gs/CourseDescriptions.pdf

All courses at Bank Street take the experience levels of teachers into account. Some courses are designed explicitly for new teachers, while others (the majority) address a wide range of teacher experience. Bank Street graduate courses utilize a constructivist, student-centered model in line with Bank Street’s educational philosophy. Therefore, the knowledge and experience graduate students bring into the classroom are considered a valuable resource and utilized accordingly. There are a variety of resources for case studies available including the following:

The following books may provide additional information or case studies:

2. What are the five core propositions and how they are used to promote engagement?

The Five Core Propositions are defined by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) as forming “the foundation and fram[ing] the rich amalgam of knowledge, skills, dispositions and beliefs that characterize National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs).”

NBPTS Standards available at http://www.nbpts.org/the_standards/the_five_core_propositio

Questions and Answers
Responses written by Susan Walker, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota

1. Could you provide additional information on the Licensed Parent Educators? Is this program available online?

Absolutely. The Minnesota Department of Education licenses individuals who have completed the necessary coursework, testing and other requirements to serve as parent educators, particularly those who are hired by school districts and who work in the Early Childhood Family Education program.

The University of Minnesota provides the coursework toward parent educator licensing. It is a 27-credit program offered at the post-baccalaureate level and all of the coursework is available online. The University also offers the eight core courses as a graduate certificate in parent education, for those who do not need the parent educator license or who would like a graduate level specialization in parent education. These courses are also offered online.

Information about the Parent Education program at the University of Minnesota available at http://www.cehd.umn.edu/CI/Programs/FYC/ParentedFAQ.html

2. Is the report for the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative Task Force available? If so, how can an individual get a copy?

The task force report is not available to the public. However, interested individuals can contact Susan Walker directly for more information about the process, products and intended uses of the task force report for the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative at the University of Minnesota. Contact Susan Walker at skwalker@umn.edu.

Questions and Answers
Responses created by National PIRC Coordination Center

1. Are there any national conferences on family engagement?

There are numerous organizations and groups that host national and international conferences on varied aspects of family engagement. These conferences focus on family engagement at all levels of education, on a specific program or organization, or research or interest areas. There are also a large number of conferences that have a larger mission that includes family engagement along with their other strands of interest (i.e., administrator conferences). The online version of Education Week provides a searchable event calendar for the public. The calendar is searchable by organization, type of event, location, date, and keyword.

Event calendar database available at http://www.edweek.org/apps/calendar/search_events.html

2. Where can individuals find specific examples of effective family engagement practices?

The following resources can provide assistance to those who have extensive experience with family and community engagement and those who have had limited experience.

Webinar Series

The Achieving Excellence and Innovation in Family, School, and Community Engagement Webinar Series Web site provides an extensive list of questions and answers that focus on effective family and community engagement practices. Questions from the following webinars can provide additional information on building educator capacity for family engagement:

Building Teacher and Administrator Capacity

The following resources provide information and tools for preparing teachers and administrators to engage family and community:

  • The PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships: An Implementation Guide (2009) provides detailed explanations and school-based examples to help teachers, administrators, and parents incorporate the PTA National Standards into family engagement efforts.
    Resource available at http://www.pta.org/Documents/National_Standards_Implementation_Guide_2009.pdf
  • SEDL’s Working Systemically in Action: Family and Community Engagement (2010) provides explanations, guidance, and tools for incorporating family and community engagement in a systemic approach to school improvement.
    Document available in PDF format at http://www.sedl.org/ws/ws-fam-comm.pdf
  • HFRP’s Teaching Cases on Family Involvement (2010) is a web-based tool that provides access to 18 scenarios that can be used to build capacity on family engagement topics. The tool also notes which cases have directions for use.
    Materials available at http://hfrp.org/publications-resources/browse-our-publications/teaching-cases-on-family-involvement
  • The High School Family Engagement facilitation materials (agendas, presentation slides, informational handouts, and tools) from the Washoe County School District Website not only provides step-by-step guidance for building staff capacity for family engagement, they lay out a long-term process for school-family interactions. These efforts are supported by a partnership among the Washoe County School District, the United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra, and the Education Alliance of Washoe County.
    Materials are available at http://www.washoe.k12.nv.us/parents/parent-involvement/high-school-planning
  • HFRP’s Evaluation Exchange (Winter 2005/2006) focuses on professional development needs related to increasing family engagement.
    Resource available at http://www.hfrp.org/var/hfrp/storage/original/application/1ef9f773781dd0b1e2d237f6c8af939e.pdf
  • Increasing Family and Parent Engagement in After-School (2006) is designed to provide detailed information on strategies, issues, and additional resources for afterschool parent coordinators, but this toolkit will prove useful for anyone implementing a family engagement program.
    Document available in PDF format at http://www.tascorp.org/files/1455_file_parent_engagement_03082006.pdf
  • How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better (Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010) provides detailed information on those qualities that make schools successful, including examples and suggested actions to support family and community engagement as an integral aspect of school improvement.
    Document available in PDF format at http://www.mckinsey.com/clientservice/Social_Sector/our_practices/Education/Knowledge_Highlights/%7E/media/Reports/SSO/Education_Intro_Standalone_Nov%2026.ashx
    Note: This web document ends in ".ashx" and not all web browsers can open this file type automatically. For instance, in the FIrefox web browser, you will have to download the file, and you can then open the document in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  • SEDL’s detailed explanation Professional Learning Communities: What Are They and Why Are They Important describes the attributes of a culture of facilitative leadership that promotes collaborative interaction.
    Information available in HTML format at http://www.sedl.org/change/issues/issues61.html

Building Preservice Teacher and Administrator Capacity

The following resources provide information and tools for promoting family engagement practices with pre-service teachers and administrators:

Building Family and Community Capacity

The following resources provide information and tools for promoting family engagement practices by building the capacity of families and community members:

  • The U.S. Department of Education publications Parent Power Build the Bridge to Success (2010) and Literacy Begins at Home (2007) describes the types of actions parents can take to support their children’s education.
    Resources available at http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/parentpower/booklet.pdf
  • The National PTA website PTA Goes to Work provides a collection of resources created through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor to help parents make sure their child is on the pathway to career planning from an early age. Resources include parent and leader guides and planning tools.
    Resources available at http://pta.org/pta_goes_to_work.asp

3. Are there studies that trace the long-term affect on family engagement when parents have experienced positive interactions with teachers during their children’s early schooling years?

There are studies that explore issues related to positive family engagement and sustaining positive home school relationships, including long-term impact. Resources listed in the previous question may also provide additional information. The following resources also report on long-term interventions or projects:

Databases or Web-based Descriptions of Reports

  • HFRP’s Family Involvement Research Digests provide detailed descriptions of research reports on a wide range of topics including the design of long-term family engagement efforts.
    Resources available at http://www.hfrp.org/publications-resources/publications-series/family-involvement-research-digests
  • SEDL’s Connection Collection Database houses a searchable database of abstracts for research reports and other family and community engagement literature on a wide range of topics including sustained family and community engagement.
    Database available at http://www.sedl.org/connections/resources/bibsearch.html

Intervention Reports

Questions on this page
Responses by
National PTA

Responses by
Jane Groff, Director, Kansas State Parental Information and Resource Center (PIRC)

  Click to view a list of the 3 questions.

Responses by
Katharine Mora, Education Coordinator, Columbia University Head Start, and Adjunct Professor, Bank Street College of Education

  Click to view a list of the 2 questions.

Responses by
Susan Walker, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota

  Click to view a list of the 2 questions.

Responses by
National PIRC Coordination Center

  Click to view a list of the 3 questions.
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.