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An Introduction

This information and material is derived from sessions conducted by Dr Steven Constantino at the ICP Council Meeting in Shangahi in April 2008.

Engaging All Families – The Successful Practice of Family Engagement

Dr Steven M. Constantino Ed. D.

Click on the links in this list to download material supplied by Dr Constantino:

Notes from his sessions:

  • “Most information about engagement is information that we already know.
  • But we generally don’t engage every parent.” We tend to work on “engaging the already engaged.” They are the ones who have the capacity, the capital, the energy, and the time to be engaged.
  • Research strands used in his research:
  • 2/3 of parents are not engaged. 2/3 of students are not engaged.
  • How do we engage the disengaged?
  • "Of the 18 educational reform models currently in vogue in the USA, all have significant elements about home-school engagement and relationships. But schools generally spend less time on that aspect of reform than on the others."
  • If we believe that all children can learn, how do we achieve that?
  • How do you build the capacity of a disengaged person?
  • The culture of the organisation will decide its success or failure. How do we change the culture? How do we sustain the change?
  • Engaging parents does not cost anything.
  • “Parents and teachers want their connections to be positive and in order to do so, school systems that bring them together must rid or reduce the chances of misinterpretations and misunderstandings. The best of what parents and teachers have to offer to students, to each other, and to their school community will not be fully realized until they learn to talk to each other . . . until they “learn each other.”
  • In a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University, 15,000 teachers were asked: “What would you like to see happen in order to improve the ability for all children to learn?” 93% said: “More support from the homes of my students for what I am trying to do in my classroom."
  • Definition of family engagement: The degree to which families are engaged in the educational and academic lives of their children and the degree to which schools and school districts support and sustain the efficacy of parents in shaping their own child’s academic future.
  • Family involvement and family engagement are NOT the same thing.
  • Ron Edmonds, in his 1982 book “Effective Schools”, said that 70% of student time is spent outside the classroom; 100% of reform is to change things inside the classroom.
  • Ron Edmonds: “We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose education is of interest to us. We already know more than we need in order to do this. Whether we do this or not must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.”
  • “The family members are the first and most influential teachers of their children.” Most people say: “the best teachers of their children.”
  • Why Engaging Families Matters: Research and Return on Investment:
    • Attendance Improves
    • Grades Improve
    • Test Scores Improve
    • Student Attitudes and Behaviors Improve
    • Achievement Gap Closes
    • Teacher Satisfaction/Efficacy/Retention Improve
    • Improved Parent/Child Communication
    • Improved Home Learning Environments
  • He asked the meeting: “What do you see in the photo below?”
  • Most responses from the audience showed that they saw negative aspects of that family’s life and interactions. He then asked the group to find some positives.
  • “No one sees the positives first, but everyone can find positives easily when asked to so that. Until we see the positives first and believe that the parent has value, nothing will change.”
  • “So what is the culture of your school?”
  • Culture is: "The encompassing attitudes and beliefs of those inside the school environment and outside the school or, the cultural norms of the school."
  • Attitude and belief can also be defined as values.
  • Culture does not fall from the sky; it is created and thus can be manipulated by people within the schools/districts.
  • Is it a “Come if you’re called” culture?
  • Why focus on engagement?
    • 30% of workers are engaged.
    • 55% are disengaged.
    • 15% are actively disengaged.
    • 48% of parents report they do not feel connected to their child’s school.
    • 66% of parents are disengaged with their child’s educational experiences.
    • 66% of students are disengaged with their own learning.
  • Engagement has “the power to produce an effect in their child’s education”. That is efficacy.
  • Efficacy = The Power to Produce an Effect. Shumow and Lomax (2001) “Parents’ Feelings of Success in Guiding Their Children” – “Parents have a high sense of efficacy when they believe that they can help their children do well in school are happy and safe.”
  • Parents won’t engage if they don’t trust the organisation / school, so they isolate themselves by disengaging.
  • In his own school, he had no extra funds to promote engagement, so he had to work to change beliefs, and then attitudes and actions.
  • “Children in poverty have the same ability to learn but not the educational resources to learn at the same rate.”
  • A common mistake is to equate the level of family engagement with the number of parents who come through the door of the school. This is not true.
  • You can not see family engagement; you can see only its results.
  • The key is to help parents ask better questions of their children.
  • Support for home learning is the most critical element.
  • Talking about the whole “family”, not just the “parent”. 50% of adults caring for children in the USA are not the natural parents of those children.
  • How can you engage families in what has already happened? Tell them what will happen next in their child’s schooling.
  • The Efficacy Model - generally speaking, practices that promote parental efficacy:
    • Are grounded in student achievement and parent perceptional data.
    • Are action-oriented, meaning parents learn by doing, then transfer the knowledge
      to their children.
    • Take parental levels of education into consideration.
    • Work around barriers to successful family engagement.
    • Meet parent and family needs.
    • Are part of a larger process to promote family engagement.
  • “Most parents who have a perception of how well-run your school is, base that perception on the relative happiness of their child.”
  • “83% of 900 families said that they moved their children to Charter Schools (in the USA) because they believed that the school and the teachers care more for their child.”
  • School leaders need to work on the invisible culture of their organisation.
  • “Culture eats change for lunch. If culture does not promote change, it won’t happen.”
  • “The school staff becomes disengaged when they lose sight of what you expect of them.”
  • Refer to the material in the ICP Council Meeting Booklet. Page 132 is not a survey of parent satisfaction; it is a survey of parent opinion. Need to be aware of the difference. Example: The Cadillac car has a satisfaction rate of 100% in surveys, but it has the lowest rate of repeat purchases.
  • He proposed 4 domains of engagement:
    • Welcoming environment – “Does your school have a ‘Welcome to our school!” approach or a “Halt! Who goes there?” approach?
    • Two-way communication.
    • Degree of involvement.
    • Support for home learning.
  • “Try using the template on pages 140 and 141 in the Council Meeting Booklet in your own school.”
  • “Put your limited resources into working to engage the disengaged.”

Ideas to Promote the Process of Family Engagement with Schools:

  • Process Outline:
  • Beliefs:
    • Understand the present culture.
    • Culture/vision for family engagement (ex: vision based on principles).
    • Assess staff beliefs about family engagement and their perceived role in creating a process.
    • Awareness of the benefits of family engagement.
    • Policy development.
  • Assessment:
    • Baseline data: What do parents believe? Perceive?
    • Public opinion vs. satisfaction.
    • Understanding what to measure and why (Start with the end in mind).
    • Data examples.
  • Planning:
    • What gets measured gets done.
    • Measurable goals linked to domains produce improvements in school success as defined by (your data).
    • Understand data points.
  • The Efficacy Model:
    • Connect parents and families with achievement.
    • Follow model outline.
    • Use pertinent data.
    • Measure the outcomes (control group or longitudinal).

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