Setting the Goals
The effort of engaging family and community is a continuous process reflecting a shared philosophy and an attitude that becomes imbedded in the school community’s vision, mission, and heartbeat. This philosophy permeates the entire school improvement process. Family and Community Engagement is not a separate, stand-alone theme of school improvement, but is a thread that runs throughout all school practices. The book Beyond the Bake Sale, describes four types of schools to consider from a "Partnership" to a "Fortress"school, click here. One clear and complete guide for designing school goals is the National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs, 2004, developed by the National PTA. This document which many Nebrska schools have, includes a brief review of current national research and articulates standards for family and community involvement which NCLB has endorsed. "The National PTA has updated the standards at http://www.pta.org/programs/content.cfm?ItemNumber=3038
Areas of Need
To begin setting the goals, consider your school’s mission: what do you wish to address first? If you know the areas of learning which most need improving, it would be logical to engage your family and community partners in that area(s). For example, if a school goal is to improve student performance in language arts, and 3rd grade is to plan, compose and revise paragraphs, stories and letters, 4th grade is to raise vocabulary scores, and fifth grade is to understand a variety of printed materials, you might: provide parents with various resources and strategies to help their children succeed academically, in these skills. Information would be provided on a regular basis through grade-level newsletters or web sites containing study guides or homework tips, suggestions through parent/student/teacher conferences, or brief workshop demonstrations of interactive strategies to use at home. If you chose to inform by newsletter, here are sugestions. Various NDE subject area websites provide some homework support. As a community example, schools might collaborate with the extension office or a business partnership to share the development of the goal of improving language arts, including consideration of the specific objectives for different grade levels.
Priorities to Address
In team planning, address how student needs can be met through collaboration. Identify what you need, and which elements of family and community engagement are already in place, and how you can expand those to increase other areas of partnership that may be lacking. The research tells us that we may not need to create more events or strategies, but just be more intentional and focused on including partners in children’s learning. For example, Beyond the Bake Sale stresses the importance of honoring families. See those suggestions here.
Considering the 6 types of involvement: welcoming all families into the school, communicating effectively, supporting student success, speaking up for every child, sharing power, and collaborating with the community, how is your school doing? The National PTA has developed assessments to evaluate the standards for schools in family and community engagement. A condensed version of the assessments can be found here . The assessment data, if collected, would clearly identify the strengths of the families, the community and the connections or collaborations already in place. Likewise, it will reveal the areas where communication and engagement are lacking. Examine these, carefully. Whether the different stakeholders agree on strengths and weaknesses will be evident, and that issue may need to be addressed by your team, as step one. After reviewing your assessment, did you find you needed to set a goal in one of the following areas?
- Improve 2-way communication,
- Increase the families’ role in student learning, or
- Increase community resources to strengthen school, families, and student learning.
Strengths and Areas of Concern
- What are the unique strengths of the community that influence student success?
- What are the target areas of the school’s overall improvement goals and how can collaboration with families and community support those goals?
Priorities to Address
- How can you address student needs through family and community collaboration?
- What steps might be taken to prioritize the student needs?
Step 1: Review school practices related to family and community engagement with your school team, including family and community members. Use an assessment (e.g., National PTA) to evaluate current practice. A parent survey or parent focus groups will give direction as far as the needs of the families, (see tools.)
Step two: Apply the findings using the team’s discussion of the assessment results, together with the mission and goals of the school and the areas of student achievement that most need improvement, to determine:
- Where are we now?
- Where do we want to go?
- How do we get there?
Step three: Develop (or review) a written family/community engagement policy stating the philosophy that partners will be included in children’s learning, as required in NCLB. For ideas to focus on student learning, click here.
Step four: Develop a plan for implementation of activities that will increase children’s learning, by engaging families and community members as partners with the school.
- Secure support from all stakeholders, distribute a draft and request response
- Publish the plan, share in meetings or newsletter, provide staff development on how to implement
- Continually evaluate and update for success
To continue the continuous improvement process, click on:
Planning to Improve