Building on PUSD’s Family Engagement
I’m Patrick Snider, a recent college graduate, Wisconsin native, and AmeriCorps VISTA spending the next six months helping PUSD’s schools and parents build on the great family engagement already occurring. Relatedly, parents of Prescott Unified School District students, be on the watch for your students’ schools to reach out to you after spring break about completing a family engagement survey. This blog post tells you about family engagement and expresses why you should fill out the survey before it’s too late!
I’ll start by saying a little about what effective family engagement is, in general. I’m coming at this from an academic understanding of family engagement, which I believe is valuable for you all to hear, but I’m also emphasizing that your understanding of family engagement, that comes from being engaged parents, is equally valuable for me (more on this later).
That said, effective family engagement’s number one goal—what it’s all about—is benefiting students’ learning and mental, physical, emotional, and social health and growth. Building and strengthening school-parent relationships is a necessary and major focus in reaching this number one goal. Since you all want the best for your kids, you’re hopefully still with me!
When schools, parents, families, and communities work together to support learning, good things tend to happen. What kinds of good things you ask? Well for starters, students are more likely to be happier with the red ink letters they see on the top of their assignments (or digital letters they see on PowerSchool, if I want this blog to be more in touch with the times) (Van Roekel, 2008). Van Roekel taught for a quarter century in Arizona before becoming president of the National Education Association (25-Year Teaching Veteran Elected President of NEA, 2008).
In the same policy brief, he also stated that students are more likely to go to school more often, stay in school longer, and participate in challenging programs when effective family engagement exists.
But wait… there’s more! Barton (2003) found that strong school-family-community partnerships help expand students’ educational dreams and elevate their motivation. In addition, Jeynes (2003) stated that evidence of these positive effects applies to elementary and secondary level students from all varieties of economic and ethnic backgrounds, as well as parents’ educational backgrounds.
Effective family engagement does not require parents to be trained teachers in algebra, history, or chemistry to be able to help their students do well in algebra, history, or chemistry. On the other hand, effective family engagement requires more than attending a couple parent-teacher conferences. Effective family engagement assumes, according to Heather Weiss, who works for Global Family Research Project to advance family engagement, that helping students succeed is a responsibility shared by every adult with important roles in students’ daily lives, meaning parents/guardians and school staff.
It’s a shared responsibility of school staff and parents because parents deserve to be involved. In fact, they need to be involved. Why? Because parents have knowledge about their kids, relationships and experience with their kids, and concern for their kids which are all natural, unrivaled, and vital.
That shared responsibility includes the need for parents to be supported by schools to ensure they can understand how their children are doing in school, what their children need to learn this school year, and how they can help their children succeed in school and, more generally, in life. If this sounds like a lot, it’s because it is a lot. The good news is that effective family engagement also recognizes all family members involved in a child’s education live busy lives that can make involvement challenging.
Parents are empowered and better equipped to overcome these challenges when their children’s schools intentionally work to understand and build on the strengths, preferences, and situations that parents have and experience. The family engagement survey is meant to be an example of just that: PUSD intentionally seeking to learn more about the strengths, preferences, and situations that its parents have and experience. Like I said earlier, your perspectives and opinions around family engagement are essential.
The survey gives each of you a chance to give your perspective and share any or all of the following with your PUSD schools: help you need to better support your children’s education, family engagement ideas that interest you, ways you’re currently involved in your children’s education, strengths you have connected to your role in your children’s education, your experiences with your students’ schools and teachers this school year, and anything else you want to share related to family engagement.
All of this information will help your students’ schools make informed decisions about ways to better support you and your students’ teachers, so that your children’s learning, and mental, physical, emotional, and social health and growth can increase and flourish even more. For this reason, please consider completing the family engagement survey when your children’s schools send it to you. Tell a fellow parent to do so too; that’s family engagement right there!