Planning to Improve
Now that you have selected goals and have buy-in from all the partners, consider how staff will be prepared to be more inclusive of family and community. What supports do they need? How will families and community members become prepared to be more involved in student learning?
Based upon your earlier assessment of staff perceptions, strategies should be planned to move them forward from wherever they are. Start with your highest priority and develop some short and long term objectives. For example, if you need to improve 2-way communication, and if a school goal is to improve student achievement in language arts, staff may have a brainstorming session to formulate creative methods to communicate the district’s grade level standards so families can be intentionally supportive of those standards. The options should meet the needs of their diverse array of families. The longer term objective would include all families gaining an understanding of language arts expectations for each of their children’s grade levels.
As you plan for continuous improvement, consider input from family and community partners when reviewing your school processes such as developing the school calendar and the school safety plan, interviewing and hiring practices, and creating the school-wide behavior expectations.
Realistic timelines set a tone for positive accomplishment. Logical, sequential planning which gradually adds new or improved practices to existing structures provides stability and may ensure more staff support. For example, if your school sets aside time for staff to develop homework strategies which promote language arts the month before conferences, staff could share/demonstrate those strategies with families at conference time. It is helpful to include staff representatives when determining timelines, based on the existing calendar and school priorities.
Family and community engagement does not require a huge expenditure in terms of dollars or time, however, it may require the entire school community to revisit current practices and perceptions.
Schools may already have a vast array of resources available for partnering with family and community. There may not be a need to create new resources, but rather to capitalize on the existing assets of certified and non-certified staff, families and community agencies or partners. Designating one staff member who always “advocates” for families, in all school actions, has proven to be a successful and practical resource. Cooperative arrangements may provide resources to carry out the plans such as reallocation of space to form a family resource center or processes for translation of information for families , or procedures for making a home visit.
- What types of professional development and outreach would foster collaboration among school staff, families, and community members?
- To improve communication?
- To increase families’ role in student learning (i.e., develop meaningful family-friendly, homework assignments)?
- Based on your goal, who is responsible for each strategy?
- When will it happen?
- What methods or measures will help guide your activities and track progress?
- Do you have what you need to complete your work? (human resources, materials, technology)
- How will you address the gaps in resources? (think innovatively and creatively, tap new ideas and resources)
The following strategies have been proven to strengthen a school plan to enhance family and community engagement, to impact student success. Schools may choose one or two in each area.
- Establish a welcoming environment for families
- Improve and document mail, telephone, email contacts
- Provide a hotline for homework or attendance
- Create or have students create class or school newsletters which give tips for helping children learn at home
Improve families’ role in student learning
- Send information home to guide family members, for example, on how to help with a research project or how to assist with spelling words
- Plan homework that naturally lends itself to family engagement, such as a personal interview on a specific topic or discussing a writing assignment (be sure to give specific guidelines for each assignment)
- Ask that a family member review the child’s work, when expectations have been clearly explained, so that they become familiar with the child’s skills
- Provide opportunities for families to learn about study skills, new curriculum, or grading changes in brief workshops or interactive activities
Increase community resources to strengthen schools, families, and student learning
- Recruit volunteers from service clubs or organizations using specific information about tasks needed and time required; show appreciation
- Together with community partners, hold special family-focused events linked to school improvement goals, such as tech nights or health fairs
- Provide local businesses or service organizations (or the newspaper) a statement from the superintendent regarding the importance of family members attending school conferences or thanking volunteers
- Document community contacts in a central file, to facilitate updated records, and to avoid multiple contacts from different staff
For school personnel, parents or community partners who want to access current family engagement research, websites, promising practices, or tools for evaluation, go to the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) Family and Community Engagement website.
To continue the continuous improvement process, click on:
Implementing the Plan