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Planning to Improve

Strategies

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.

Timelines

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.

Resources

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.

Guiding Questions

Strategies

  • 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)?

Timelines

  • 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?

Resources

  • 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)

Step-by-Step Process

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.

Improve communication

  • 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 updatd 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

Planning to Improve

In this phase of the CIP, you will select and/or develop strategies and interventions that respond to the priorities and goals established in the previous phase.  Next, you’ll develop an action plan that includes both implementation steps and evaluation measures. The action plan will guide work for a period of one to three years.

Guiding Questions

As you write your action plan, you will address each of these questions.

  • What strategies will we use to ensure that our improvement plan is successful?
  • What research and practice supports our use of these strategies?
  • Have we included strategies related to student diversity and equity?
  • What resources (people, time, etc.) are needed to meet our improvement goal?
  • What will we collect as evidence to show that we have reached our associated equity and diversity goals?

Resources for writing the action plan:

See the Resource section of this guide for a variety of information and tools that might help you write your plan. Resources under these categories will be most useful in this phase.

  • Assessments
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Leadership
  • Organizations Providing Assistance and Materials

Step 1: Develop Action Plan

As in any planning process, the first question to be answered is, “What specific actions must be accomplished in order for this improvement plan to be successful?” You will use the Action Plan Worksheet found in Appendix L to record all elements of your action plan.

First, identify your improvement goal and determine strategies/interventions to help meet the goal. For example,

Improvement Goal

The number of low-SES third-graders who score proficient on the NeSA-R will increase by three percentage points by next year.

Action Plan Strategies

  1. The principal will set up a system to monitor progress toward increasing the percentage of third-grade, low-socioeconomic students who meet performance expectations in reading.
  2. Third-grade teachers will collaboratively develop formative reading assessments to guide reading instruction.
  3. First-, second-, and third-grade teachers will form a Professional Learning Community to identify and share teaching strategies that respond to the assessed reading needs of the third grade, low-socioeconomic target group.

After identifying the strategies/interventions, you will identify and record specific implementation activities, including who will do what, when, and with what resources. You also should recommend support and/or staff development activities to help staff implement the strategies and achieve the improvement goal.

Finally, you must record your current status from the four data sets (pre-intervention data).  Record the desired change (post-intervention) that you want to see by the end of your timeline period.  The comparison of pre- and post-intervention data will provide evidence of progress toward your goal. Assessment instruments and processes should be administered at the same time of the year to ensure comparable measurements.

Step 2: Write the Action Plan

Your completed Action Plan Worksheet may be all you need to guide implementation. On the other hand, you may want to use the worksheet to create a more formal planning document. No matter what you choose, keep the following points in mind:

  • Action plans in schools must be subjected to ongoing monitoring to identify successes to build on, gaps to be filled, and problems to be solved.
  • The initial action plan will provide a starting point, but as the school moves into implementation, revisions may be required to ensure effective implementation.
  • You will need to refer to the action plan often and schedule times to review progress and make needed adjustments.

Implementing the Plan

Aligning Improvement Plans and Activities

Technology planning serves as part of the overall continuous improvement planning process (CIP), specifically aimed at the technology needs of the organization, and is used as part of documentation for accreditation.

The Nebraska Department of Education provides an online technology planning tool. The form provides the organization with documentation and data that can be used for continuous improvement planning, budgeting, and evaluation and also serves to collect data that the state must report for federal requirements.  This data collection is to be completed by all Public Districts, and is available to Non Public Districts, Special Purpose Schools (State-Operated) and Educational Service Units. 

The online technology planning tool also serves in meeting FCC regulations for Erate which requires a certified plan for Priority 2 funding.  The Plan is organized to assist organizations in preparing and retaining needed documentation for Priority 1 & 2 funding that may be needed in case of audit.  The online technology planning tool is a catalyst for CIP but may not contain all of the elements that the organization desires to include as part of its overall plan.

NDE Tech Plan Approval – The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) reviews and certifies technology plans.  Completing all of the sections within the online instrument allows NDE to receive the plan in a format consistent with technology plan elements specified by the FCC. Neither NDE nor the Tech Plan approver is responsible for Technology Plan content.  

Collection Dates: The Plan will open on July 1 and is due on or before February 1 annually and should be written to cover the subsequent year(s) activities.  The collection will be open year around for viewing.

Access information about the online tech plan at this URL: 

Implementing the Plan

Monitoring and Evaluation

During this phase of the Continuous Improvement Plan, you will implement, monitor progress, and make necessary revisions to your improvement plan. As teachers learn about and use selected instructional strategies, information will be collected regarding their impact on student learning. An on-going analysis of this data will reflect the success of your plan, as well as areas that need updates or revisions.

Implementing the Plan

“Partnerships among schools, families, and community groups are not a luxury, they are a necessity”
(Henderson, Mapp, Johnson and Davies, 2007)

Engaging Families and Communities as partners with schools is no longer a “good idea” but has become a necessity, as the evidence is clear: partnership contributes to children’s academic and social success. The Nebraska Department of Education identified family engagement as an essential area of focus within its new Accountability for a Quality Education System, Today and Tomorrow (AQuESTT) within the tenant of Student Success and Access.

This Family & Community Engagement section of the Continuous Improvement Toolkit is designed to help school personnel facilitate family engagement through the four phases of the improvement process:

Creating the Profile

Setting the Goals

Planning to Improve

Implementing the Plan

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.

Over 50 years of research links the various roles that families play in a child’s education – as supporters of learning, encouragers of grit and determination, models of lifelong learning, and advocates for proper programming and placements for their child Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships (2013).

Summarizing decades of research on the impact of family involvement, the National PTA web site reports the following student outcomes:

  • Higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates
  • Better school attendance
  • Increased motivation and better self-esteem
  • Lower rates of suspension
  • Decreased use of drugs and alcohol
  • Fewer instances of violent behavior
  • Greater enrollment in post-secondary education

Family and community engagement in education refers to the beliefs, attitudes and activities of community members, parents and other family members to support children’s learning. Although such involvement most often focuses on parents, it also includes guardians, grandparents, siblings and extended family members who have significant responsibility in a child’s upbringing. Community members such as civic organizations, retired citizens, businesses, clubs, and other volunteers are equally valuable partners in children’s education.

It is important to reflect on meaningful ways that families can support children in their education. In the past, parent involvement may have been limited to the school’s didactic approach: inviting parents to conferences and IEP meetings, providing them with report cards, providing parents reasonable access to staff, and occasionally requesting parent volunteers for field trips or school events. Today’s research encourages schools to redefine the concept of engaging families, schools and communities in an interactive relationship to support children’s learning and development. Authors of Whatever it Takes say, “Parents could become a powerful source to support learning for their children if they were armed with the right tools and guidelines.”

Dr. Joyce Epstein’s early work in the field, with the National Network of Partnership Schools, set the stage for later research by defining six types of parent involvement.  These types include communicating, parenting, student learning, volunteering, school decision making and advocacy, and collaborating with community.  Later, researchers analyzed which types of involvement actually impact student achievement.  Standard 2 & 3 below were identified as having the greatest impact. The findings of Henderson and Mapp provide a framework for strengthening family-school community partnerships.  The PTA has updated their National Standards for Family School Partnerships, to reflect this recent work, which changes the focus from what schools should do to what parents, schools, and communities, as partners, can do together to support student success.  Positive outcomes in student learning and achievement, occur when partnering among stakeholders becomes routine. Effective partnering opens doors to infinite and innovative opportunities. The respectful and trusting relationships that are fostered among stakeholders create strong connections which support students’ education.

For local school’s use, the practical, research based National Standards for Family-School Partnerships Assessment Guide (National_Standards_Implementation Guide) describes in detail the following standards, with goals and indicators for measuring each standard:

Standard 1Welcoming all families into the school community– Families are active participants in the life of the school, and feel welcomed, valued, and connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in class.

Standard 2Communicating effectively, – Families and school staff engage in regular, meaningful communication about student learning.

Standard 3Supporting student success – Families and school staff continuously collaborate to support student’s learning and healthy development both at home and at school, and have regular opportunities to strengthen their knowledge and skills to do so effectively.

Standard 4Speaking up for every child – Families are empowered to be advocates for their own and other children, to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.

Standard 5Sharing power – Families and school staff are equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices and programs.

Standard 6Collaborating with community – Families and school staff collaborate with community members to connect students, families, and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services, and civic participation.

Implementing the Plan

In this phase, you’ll take action to improve equity in student performance.  After staff gain a common understanding of the plan, it’s time to implement your strategies. Implementation includes multiple components, including monitoring, evaluation, and celebration of successes. The final step is to use evaluation results to reassess the entire plan and adjust it as needed.

Guiding Questions

As you implement the plan, you will address each of these questions.

  • Does our implementation provide for periodic gathering of evidence related to student improvement, diversity, and equity?
  • Are we using the evidence to revise and strengthen the plan as appropriate?

Resources for implementing the plan?

See the Resource section of this guide for a variety of information and tools that might help you implement your plan. The following resources will be most useful to you during in this phase.

  • Assessments
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Leadership
  • Organizations Providing Assistance and Materials
  • Professional Development
  • Research and Theory
  • Videos and Films

Step 1: Help all Staff Develop an Understanding of the Goals and Strategies

It is important to ensure all staff members are “on board” and are ready, willing, and able to do their part in implementing the plan. Staff members need to have a clear understanding of the purpose of targeted changes and the resources that will be used. You might consider holding a staff learning session, a kick-off meeting, or other event to signal the start of implementation.

Step 2: Implement the Plan!

Step 3: Monitor the Implementation

To determine how well the action plan is being implemented, you should ask several questions:

  • Are the interventions being implemented in a timely manner?
  • Does evidence show that our progress is on course to achieve our desired results?
  • Are adjustments to the plan made, as needed, to assure better implementation?

In order to answer these questions, you will need to monitor implementation through formative evaluation. This involves a check or series of checks to monitor two critical areas:

  1. Implementation of each action within the action plan.
  2. Assessment and/or perception data used to pinpoint what is working and areas that are not progressing.

Data collection should be ongoing, throughout implementation of the plan. Don’t wait until the end of the year. You should check such elements as the targeted population, interventions, timeframe, actions, responsibilities, monitoring, and resources. Use the data that you collect to make any necessary adjustments to the plan.

Step 4: Determine Effectiveness of the interventions

During this step, you’ll take a summative look at whether or not you have achieved your goal(s). This information will help you determine to what extent interventions have contributed to greater equity in student performance.

Collection and analysis of critical data requires a systematic approach to determining the results of the change efforts and using the results as a new baseline for continuous improvement in student performance, equity, and diversity. Tasks in the evaluation include:

  1. Compare the baseline and post-intervention data results.
  2. Display data in graphic format and concise narrative descriptions.
  3. Share results with all stakeholders and document key lessons.

Step 5: Recognize Progress and Celebrate Successes

The purpose of evaluating the implementation results is to identify successes as well as areas for improvement. Successes should be celebrated so that all stakeholders recognize progress and see the positive results of their actions. This will increase awareness and understanding of effective strategies and provide encouragement and support for staff and student accomplishments.

Step 6: Reassess and Plan Again

As you apply the Continuous Improvement Process to provide an equitable education for students of different socio-economic status, gender, race, ethnicity, language, culture, and abilities, it is critical that you reassess your progress and plan again for new goals.

Addressing equity and diversity in student performance can only be assured by continuous planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of results. Setting new goals, based on performance, is the key to achieving continuous improvement.

Creating the Profile

Aligning Improvement Plans and Activities

Technology planning serves as part of the overall continuous improvement planning process (CIP), specifically aimed at the technology needs of the organization, and is used as part of documentation for accreditation.

The Nebraska Department of Education provides an online technology planning tool. The form provides the organization with documentation and data that can be used for continuous improvement planning, budgeting, and evaluation and also serves to collect data that the state must report for federal requirements.  This data collection is to be completed by all Public Districts, and is available to Non Public Districts, Special Purpose Schools (State-Operated) and Educational Service Units. 

The online technology planning tool also serves in meeting FCC regulations for Erate which requires a certified plan for Priority 2 funding.  The Plan is organized to assist organizations in preparing and retaining needed documentation for Priority 1 & 2 funding that may be needed in case of audit.  The online technology planning tool is a catalyst for CIP but may not contain all of the elements that the organization desires to include as part of its overall plan.

NDE Tech Plan Approval – The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) reviews and certifies technology plans.  Completing all of the sections within the online instrument allows NDE to receive the plan in a format consistent with technology plan elements specified by the FCC. Neither NDE nor the Tech Plan approver is responsible for Technology Plan content.  

Collection Dates: The Plan will open on July 1 and is due on or before February 1 annually and should be written to cover the subsequent year(s) activities.  The collection will be open year around for viewing.

Access information about the online tech plan at this URL: 

 

Implementing the Plan

Data Collection

Administrators and teachers should regularly examine the PreK-12 curriculum for horizontal and vertical articulation as well as various developmentally appropriate levels in all subject areas.

Engaging Stakeholders

Curriculum alignment is a professional responsibility that should engage all staff at all levels. Staff should be familiar with the horizontal and vertical alignment of their specific content area(s) as it relates to the district’s comprehensive curriculum. Community and parent representatives should be involved in this process as appropriate.

Reflection/Analysis

In order to positively impact the achievement of all students it is essential to examine the full scope of the curriculum and its linkage across all programs

Administrators and teachers can use the same guiding questions to analyze their PreK-12 curriculum alignment. This analysis will help determine if curriculum alignment is the major reason for low student performance or if it should be considered a strategy to assist in remediation of other issues.

Creating the Profile

Data Collection

It is important that administrators and teachers collect information about the academic progress of all students in their schools and classrooms. Data should be disaggregated to reflect not only the progress of students as a whole group, but also by identified sub-groups. It should also be determined if teachers in classrooms are familiar with, and are using, research-based instructional strategies to enhance student achievement in all subject areas and at all grade levels. Information that examines teachers’ and administrators’ opportunities to participate in professional development activities related to instructional strategies should also be collected for this profile. Determine the resources available in every school building that will provide information and support for implementing research-based instructional strategies.

Engaging Stakeholders

All staff should be involved in the collection and analysis of data. Staff engagement in this process will be reflected in the quality of goals that are set, and the commitment to implementing these goals in schools and classrooms. Stakeholders that represent your community, families, and your student population should also be involved in the collection and analysis of available data. Stakeholder involvement is important at every level and at every phase of this process.

Reflection/Analysis

It is important that administrators and teachers analyze information about the academic progress of all students in schools and classrooms, including disaggregated data by identified sub-groups. Once data is analyzed, determine if there is support for teachers to use this information in daily and long-term instructional planning. Research-based instructional strategies should be used by all teachers to improve academic progress for all students, in all grades, and in all classrooms. It should also be determined if adequate professional development resources are available in every school building related to instructional strategies. An analysis of the time and resources provided for all staff members to participate in appropriate professional development activities must also occur. The effectiveness of professional development activities, related to instructional strategies, should be analyzed as part of the study.

In order to positively impact the achievement of all students in your school, data analysis must include examining the full scope of the school curriculum. Be sure to find the connections and links across all programs that are offered in your school and district. If connections aren’t evident where they should exist, this information should be included in your study.

Creating the Profile

Data Collection

When considering data to be gathered in respect to family and community engagement, it is important to seek information and perceptions regarding the unique strengths and needs of all the partners such as families, community members, school staff, and students. Data collected should be disaggregated to reflect a continuum of families and prospective community partners.

According to Anne Henderson, currently at the Institute for Education & Social Policy at New York University, predictors of student achievement related to family engagement are not income or social status.  Rather, Henderson and Mapp’s research review, A New Wave of Evidence: the Impact of School, Family & Community Connections on Student Achievement points to specific types of partnership as being especially beneficial to children’s academic success:

  • Involvement programs that link to learning improve student achievement.  The more parent and community involvement activities focus on improving student learning, the more student learning improves.
  • Speaking up for children protects and promotes their success.  Children whose parents are advocates for them at school are more confident at school and take on and achieve more.  The more families advocate for their children and support their children’s progress, the longer their children stay in school and the better their children do.
  • All families can contribute to their children’s success.  Family involvement improves student success, regardless of race/ethnicity, class or parents’ level of education.  For involvement to happen, however, principals, teachers, and parents themselves must believe that all parents can contribute to their children’s success in school.
  • Community organizing gets results.  Engaging community members, businesses and organizations as partners in children’s education can improve the learning community in many ways.

Recognizing the impact of existing family relationships and community partnerships on student learning is the first step of creating the profile. Collected data reflecting present practices should provide a foundation for developing additional supports. Schools should also identify areas of student need and begin focusing efforts toward strategies which involve family and community. Carefully selecting measures of evaluation for each strategy will clarify the findings. It is important that school leadership, staff, family and community members embrace a philosophy of shared responsibility for children’s learning.

Engaging Stakeholders

Every school employee, every child’s family, every child, and community members should be invited to share input through surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc. during the process of data collection and analysis. A variety of methods should be utilized to accommodate the diverse group of stakeholders. Family and community input should be embedded in all areas of school improvement, not just family/community engagement. The voice of all stakeholders in this process of engaging partners in children’s learning is critical.

Reflection/Analysis

The family, community and school engagement effort calls for a team approach. Representatives consisting of a variety of community partners, family members, school staff and students should, together, carefully analyze and reflect on data. A team approach requires that data be stated in terms families and community members understand, not educator jargon. This analysis will provide a baseline and should include:

  • information gathered from surveys, focus groups and interviews related to family and community connections to the school, and
  • other data presently available to the school and the community related to children birth to age 21.

Careful analysis of the student population, such as ethnic background, socio-economic status, mobility, English Language Learners (ELL) will inform the team. Many communities have completed a needs assessment or have information on services provided to families, efforts of service clubs or businesses. The agencies involved in such information gathering would be logical partners to include in the team.

Guiding Questions

  • What does research say about effective family and community engagement?
  • Why is it important to engage all families and community in support of education?
  • The National PTA has developed standards for family involvement. How is your school currently performing with families and communities in reference to these standards?
  • What current practices of the school reflect effective collaboration among families and community?
  • Do teachers, family, and community share common expectations regarding support for families? (example: building trusting relationships, linking families and community to school, developing leadership among family and community members).
  • Have surveys and interviews of families, staff, and community been conducted?
  • Were the survey responses representative?
  • What types of services are being provided to support families?
  • In school?
  • In community?
  • The following are some specific questions to be considered for analysis.
    • What is known about your FAMILIES?
      • % working
      • % single parents
      • % grandparents or other
      • % children & families living in poverty
      • % cultural, ethnic, racial, linguistic diversity
      • % mobility or homeless
    • What is known about your COMMUNITY(IES)?
      • Economic factors (% agricultural, % professional, % industrial/technical, climate)
      • Social foundation (service clubs, community organizations)
      • Human services
      • Leadership
      • Inventory of community strengths/needs
      • Demographics

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:
Setting the Goals