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

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

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

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Why Get Engaged if Nothing is Wrong?

By Ryan M. Tracy, Th.M.

parentsWhat do Parents really know about their school? According to a recent article published by New America Media, “Positive Aspirations vs. Negative Realities,” parents in Southern states don’t think they need to be engaged with their child’s school due to their confidence in their school’s academics. The article notes that there is a huge gap between what parents know and what is really happening in the classroom. In fact, “a huge majority of parents across all ethnic groups believe the schools are doing a good or excellent job of preparing their children for college and teaching them basic skills in reading and math.”  Yet, “less than one-third of Black and Hispanic 8th graders in the study are at grade level in reading or math.”

When I heard this study shared at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, it made me think about the mindset that our parents have about our schools. Why get engaged if nothing is wrong? And if something is wrong, can I as a parent really do anything about it?

Currently, I am helping to research and pilot a Family Engagement program with Stand for Children called Stand UP (University for Parents). Stand UP is a 10-week research-based Family Engagement program with a curricular focus on the home environment and parent-school communication that leads to student achievement. The initiative is in its early stages, but we just rolled out pioneer sessions in 3 locations: Phoenix, AZ, Chicago, IL, and Memphis, TN.

I have had the privilege to not only help research and bring design to the program, but also facilitate the program in Memphis, TN. We chose a Memphis elementary school to pioneer our program that had a strong, reformed minded principal and a school with a great history of community leaders with a student population of 98% African American and 95% on free and reduced lunch.  Something we noticed was the more parents became aware of their child’s academic data the more they talked about what they could do at home and school to change their child’s academic realities.

We had the opportunity to discuss various action steps parents could take to get their children on track such as: how to have a healthy dialogue with the teacher, how to set high expectations at home and at school, how to build healthy self-esteem, and the importance of homework time. One parent said to me, “I have been coming to volunteer at school three or four times a week, but until I went through this program did I know that my child was two grade levels behind in reading but there are actions which I can control at home and collaborate with the school on to get her back on track.”  In the fall of 2012, we plan to go into three more schools in Memphis and four more schools in Phoenix and Chicago with the hopes of reaching and engaging more than 650-800 parents.

For me, the parents in Memphis and in our pilot sites are not that different than parents in other communities around the United States. All parents, regardless of socio-economic background, want the best for their children. We have the opportunity to help them be part of the dialogue by understanding the realities of our schools so they can reach the goals set for their children.

It’s not rude or crude to allow the data to speak for itself, but we can’t stop there. Data should never be the “end all, be all” solution. Data should inform us, and then help us create conversations and actions that can lead parents to create environments for their child’s future success. If we take the time to tell parents where their students are now, they will want to know where to go and what to do for their children next. Sharing data on our students is a way to inform parents and engage them in the educational process. If we don’t share, we are losing a valuable opportunity to partner with parents in the journey to student success.

Posted on June 13, 2012 by Ryan M. Tracy, Th.M.

Ryan is the Tennessee Family Engagement Manager for Stand for Children, a grassroots national advocacy organization. He designs and implements family engagement programs and is currently a leader in the organization's 10-week  Stand UP (University for Parents) which focuses on curriculum of the home and school. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

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Permalink   Comments (3)   Send to a Friend

Tags: 2-way communication, *Diverse Families, *Parent Engagement at Home , *School-Family Partnership, Building trust & respect, Low-income/ At risk, Multiracial

Posted June 20, 2012 by Ryan tracy
Let me say this on the front end, there is more to a child than one test. And data should never be the end all be all solution especially if we are just talking about a test. And we also have to realize we are dealing with human beings with emotions and feelings and thoughts and ideas.....so to that end, not only do I think we need to look at state test data, but I think we need several measures not just one "test" to help us make our decisions about how to parent and what supports our kids need. For me, Data should be used to INFORM decisions made. INFORM means, help a parent understand. The term Data for me, needs to be expanded and then shared and it needs to be shared often and engaged on a regular basis; in fact, it needs to be shared with parents more than just at the end or beginning of the year....it should be shared strategically......but data must be taken regularly..... When I say data, I mean:

Data on students school attendance

Data on report cards: what are there grades

Data on Discipline

Data on state tests

Data, if you will, on how the student learns and understands concepts and ideas

Data on the emotional and creative abilities of the students

Something that we are finding in Memphis, is one piece of data, state tests, is not being shared with parents. No matter how we feel about the test, why hasn't it been shared? The reason we are doing our univeristy for parents is yes, to understand the state test and discipline infractions, and school attendance, but also to find out other data that we can learn from parents and teachers about the students in our school to help our children truly succeed. Engaging parents is about sitting down with each and every parent and also sitting down with the teacher, parent, and having conversations about the child.

In TN, the academic standards have risen to test all students to see where they are in relation to other children in their district and their state and in the United States. Is this foolproof, NO. But we have to use something.....I don't think this is an end all and I, as well, have reservations, but I will say this again, we have to use some kind of measurement(s). And parents and teachers need to continually push their districts school board and state legislators, to make sure our kids are getting to college and/or being ready for life and that we are measuring this progression somehow and someway. According to the state, the data collected measures how a student is doing; but I would agree, how do we know if the data collected is valid? WE have to continue to ask that question and push our schools and districts to make sure that they are measuring the children so we we know how to grow them...... 

Posted June 20, 2012 by Felicia C. Edwards
My name is Felicia, and I am the parent of three. My deepest concern is with accurate information for the low income/at risk families and children who are eligible for all services when biased information is collected and data is not collected properly through whether it may be conduct research or compatibility to services through siblings education background. Each student is different and results of data is not promising to each assessment,clearly serving the low income/poverty children across our nation. Secondly, as a parent you wish to observe classroom readily to be a part of the educational needs especially when one's child may be in elementary or secondary educuation. Give me the stats and the numbers remain low, because of varies barriers. Thirdly, how can data be the end and the solution when errors are conclusively pointed out. I need feedback from supportive parents like myself.  

Posted June 14, 2012 by Mary Johnson
My new Parent Engagement Standards 1 Standard focus on the impotance of Data usuages for parents and condition that need to ensure keepingthem engage.Data need to shares with parents from beginning of school year until last day of school year. Test score come back so late that the data is unless, it dead on arrival. The student advance to next grade before the data is available. It unless in developing a intervention,this is why data need to ongoing share, not just one time a year.Check out Parent-U-Turn Standards for Parents, Caregivers and Parent Leaders. www.21stparent.com

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.


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