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Essential Reads

 Woman reading Essential Reads

» A Culture that Engages Every Family, Steven M. Constantino, Ed.D.

» How to Revitalize Your School-Parent Compact, Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D.

» How Do You Know if You're Really Open to Partnership, Anne Henderson & Karen Mapp

»PTA--Gateway to Engagement, Advocacy, and Access, Meryl Ain, Ed.D.

» The Power of Asking-Instead of Telling, Jody McVittie, M.D.

» Empathy in Action, Rick Ackerly, Ed.M.

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A Culture that Engages Every Family

By Steven M. Constantino, Ed.D.

CultureThe New Standards for Global Family Engagement ™ start at what we believe to be the most critical component of the ability of schools to engage families and also promote their efficacy. Culture.

Shaping a culture that embraces families will ensure that the engagement will be consistent, permeate the organization and be sustained over time.

There is no question that we are at a crossroads in education around the world. There is the potential to positively reshape and reaffirm the basic tenets of education such that all students benefit from it. Successful schools, both academically and ethically, have at their core a rich and positive school culture. There is no real reform without family engagement and now add to that, no real reform without a permanent shift in school culture. Research case studies continue to support the notion that creating a demanding culture that includes relational trust and a positive school climate for students and their families is essential for continuous improvement Re-culturization is much more important than reorganization, with which we as educators seem to be enamored.

What is Culture, Really?

One definition of school culture has at its core the historically transmitted patterns of meaning that include norms, values, beliefs, ceremonies, rituals, traditions, and myths and how well these ideas are understood or engrained in the members of the organization. Simply put then, culture shapes what people think and how they act.

The notion of collaborative school cultures which embrace collegiality and efficacy for all if further supported by understanding that while all schools are different, most schools continue to exist as isolated places where school staff work alone. (Peterson, 1994). In cultures that foster collaboration teachers engage with each other. When determining how to engage every family, collaborative cultures can be inclusive of the important and trusting relationships between school staff and families, which promotes the important ideas of collegiality and efficacy. However, the process to attain this collaborative culture must be real and organic and not contrived.

The Importance of Including Culture

For as many years as researchers have been writing about family engagement and its importance to overall student achievement and school improvement, schools have been desperately trying to engage every family, with less than stellar results. Researchers have offered a plethora of strategies for schools to implement so that more families, especially those that are traditionally disengaged with their children’s education, can become engaged and attached to the school so that their child’s learning improves. While there is no argument that progress has been made with regard to understanding the importance of family engagement and attaining the empirical evidence that it is indeed important, to suggest that real family engagement is engrained in the culture of schools globally, is simply not accurate. Why then have we had so much trouble with successfully infusing family engagement practices with schools? The answer lies in one word: culture.

Initiatives do not last because the culture of organizations is never changed to embrace and sustain the idea. Ideas, objectives, initiatives and strategies that represent a fundamental antithesis toward the existing culture will always succumb to the existing culture unless significant work is done to augment, expand and change the culture to embrace the change.

Where to Start with a Culture that Engages Every Family

In order to once and for all allow family engagement to be the important component to school reform that research has proven it can be, changing the culture of the school to be accepting and inclusive of family engagement is critical.

Questions to Ask:

As a beginning, ask your colleagues the following questions:

What do I think about family engagement?

Will family engagement work at this school? Why or why not?

What is my role in promoting family engagement at our school?

Am I willing to devote time, resources, and energy to family engagement to bring about more achievement of my students?

These simple questions get to the core of beliefs about family engagement. More often than not, educators create opinions and perceptions of family engagement based on prior experience. If the majority of interactions with families are negative, then it stands to reason that teachers and school staff, over time, will develop negative perceptions of families. How many times has a principal of a school started the school year by asking all teachers to make five positive phone calls a week? And, how many of those phone calls were really made after the first week or two of school? In order to create a culture for families, a thorough understanding of what culture is and how it impacts organizations is critical. Then and only then can an organization move forward to create a culture that is truly reflective of valuing the partnership and empowerment of all families.

If we truly want families engaged with schools and the academic lives of their children then we must work to change the culture of schools so that the process of educating children is more humanized. If we are to succeed, we have to be responsive to the individual, regardless of their background of origin. This change, however, requires those involved to understand and desire the need for the change itself and take ownership in the process An educational setting that can measure and assess progress with shared goals, shared power, respect for human dignity and cooperation is well on its way to reshaping their culture forever.




Posted on May 26, 2012 by Steven M. Constantino, Ed.D.

Steve Constantino is an author, speaker, and thought leader in the field of family engagement as well as the superintendent of the Williamsburg-James City County School District in Williamsburg, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter.

©2012 Steven M. Constantino. All rights reserved

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Permalink   Comments (2)   Send to a Friend

Tags: 2-way communication, *School-Family Partnership, Building trust & respect, Theory-Research

Posted June 5, 2012 by Mary Johnson
Everyone is talking about Teacher Standarda it times also develop Parent Standards.This would allow a guideline for local schools for building bridges and capacity for a successful tomorrow.
Parent-U-Turn Standards for Parents, Caregivers and Parent Leaders.

Standards for Parent Engagement, seven standards are delineated. These standards fall under three larger organizers, as shown below, and include:
The Focus of Parents Rights and Advocacy The Conditions for Parent rights and Advocacy Parent as a Advocate

Standard 1: ParentsAccess to information and Data collection:
� Access to information: The school/ district inform parents of testing results and the statistics of the area/school/subject matter.
 Information of results/statistics available via handouts or on-line
 The results would be printed in multiple languages
 Alert system to inform parents that the information is available
 Contact person that parents can ask to help them read and understand results-how readily available is this person.
 Parents understand and use varied assessments to inform instruction, evaluate and ensure student learning.

� Collection and Analyzing data:
o The school welcome parents on campus for research or just to observe.
 How easy or hard is it for a parent to come on campus for these purposes?
 Some type of procedure should be in place and strictly abided by, by all involved as to accommodate the parent as well as not to cause too much classroom disruption.
 There a person who is readily available to provide the parent support to conduct research.
Standards 2: Parents in Decision-Making Roles
 Parents must be representative of school population, for example 1 parent for 3,000 students is not acceptable
 Space for parents to have access to administrators.
 The attitude of administration generally open to parent collaboration.
 Parents treated as reflective thinkers with possible solutions.
 Expanding roles of existing modes of parent representation, for example the PTA
 Parents can carry out research for the school, conduct trainings for other parents or even teachers on various subjects

Step 3: Parents as Student Advocates:
 Teachers are open to have parents contact/participate within their classes
 The school is informing parents on how to contact people within the power map
o For example: A handout which lists, �If you have a problem with _________ then you would contact _________ at number and office.�
 This can be in a handout that was sent home but is readily available at school functions, front office, and maybe even in the classroom.
 Trainings provided for the parent and school personnel which include power-mapping.
 Provide a list of common school-used terms complete with the definition of the term and the context it is most commonly used is readily available and sent home.
 Parents collaborate and communicate with students, parents, other educators, administrators and the community to support student learning

Standards 4: Parent Leaders at Home and in the School-Community
 Information being passed out to parents to inform them of the college process and resources available to their child and family.
o Handouts
 A process for reserving space at the school to facilitating easy meeting space for parents and the community.
 Assigned a person to be able to go to for trainings
 Parents assume responsibility for professional growth, performance, and involvement as individuals and as members of a learning community

Standards 5: Parents Effective Two-Way Communication:
 Efficient amount of translators readily available for all languages spoken by parents at school functions
o Handouts in multiple languages
o �Efficient� would be at least 90% of the teachers who need translators have them
 For any type of communication home, teleparent or phone calls home, are the comments balanced between positive comments and things that the student needs improvement on.
 Teacher respond to e-mail of phone messages within a timely manner.
 Ongoing evaluation of effectiveness of the parent liaison.

Standards 6: Parent District Level Support
 The district have a point-person whom the parent representative, the administrator who is the point-person at the school, and any other relevant persons could go to for support and resources. How available is this person?
o This person could even run the parent-district meetings and act like the liaison for the district.
 An effect program that supports parent participation, may have minimum of 25 parent.

Standards 7: Friendly School Atmosphere
 Is the school clean?
o Trash
o Tagging
o Paint: Dingy? Peeling?
 Welcome signs
 Office personnel and Teachers maintain professionalism, have an understanding of and practices good customer service.
 Parents understand student learning and development, and respect the diversity of the students.


Posted May 26, 2012 by Sharon Youngman
I could not agree with you more. To add to your remarks I would implore schools to be a place that raises up the whole child, which involves taking a more active role in how we discipline, communicate and encourage responsibly. The synergistic effect of parents and teachers sharing strategies truly impacts the social emotional growth of the child.
Hopefully I can support the schools in NYC toward that goal. It's a tall order and any support would be appreciated. 


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