Ron Mirr, Senior Vice President of Learning Supports and Family and Community Education, (FACE), for Scholastic Education, recently facilitated a powerful day-long parent engagement workshop for Cotsen teachers and administrators. His session, Leveraging Home – School Partnerships to Improve Student Learning, provided participants with a comprehensive framework and strategies to forge full, equal, and equitable partnerships among families, educators and community partners with the goal of promoting children’s learning and development.
Workshop attendees explored how to create richer conversations and relationships with the families of their students as Ron guided them through the Family Engagement Assessment and the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family – School Partnerships. The Family Engagement Assessment is designed to help assess how welcome families feel at your school. The Dual Capacity – Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships is designed to support the development of family engagement strategies, policies and programs.
Mirr emphasized several key concepts that are critical to moving family engagement from an “events”- focused approach, to a more complete process that builds the capacity of both educators and families to support student success at all grade levels. He shared that schools with effective engagement practices:
- Link family engagement efforts with student achievement
- Utilize strengths-based lens to examine their family partnership work
- Build and enhance the capacity of educators and families in the 4C areas:
- Capabilities (Skills and knowledge)
- Connections (Network)
- Cognition (Shifts in beliefs and values)
- Confidence (Self-efficacy)
Martha Mota, a mentor from Harry Bridges Span School, commented, “One of my biggest take-aways was the difference between family engagement and parent involvement. Family engagement is important because it places the student in the center, and it allows for the student to get support at school and at home. This support is very important for the student to grow and learn academically and socially.”
Alex Jauregui, Cotsen mentor from Beatty Elementary School, added, “If parents feel that their child’s school is a ‘family’ and everyone cares for one another, they are more willing to help out, take part in their child’s education and take an active part in school life. Family engagement is a collaborative effort between teachers, parents, and students. I cannot assume what parents want. I need to ask them what they would want to do and what goals they would like to set to ensure success for their child. We have to be in constant communication with each other.”
The Cotsen Foundation believes that family engagement is an integral factor in the support and success of students’ academic lives and has developed the Parent Engagement Grant to help schools work with parents to better understand classroom curriculum and learn ways to support the academic and social-emotional development of their child at home. For more information on this grant, go to www.cotsen.org/our-grants/
Ron Mirrhas nearly 40 years of experience working with schools and social service agencies on engaging families and community partners in the learning process. He is a co-author of the Family Engagement Assessment-a tool that measures a school’s capacity for developing effective partnerships with families.