As summer break winds down and schools prepare for back-to-school professional development with their educators, finding the best way to engage families is a hot topic.
In a previous blog, we highlighted a report from one of the leading voices in the family engagement field, Karen L. Mapp, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and co-author Eyal Bergman.
The report, “Embracing a New Normal: Toward a More Liberatory Approach to Family Engagement,” calls “for the PreK–12 sector to walk through the door opened by COVID-19 and the antiracist movement and address the often-ignored and unspoken dynamics that prevent the cultivation of effective partnerships between families and educators.”
The emphasis on systemic racism has drawn school leaders’ attention to populations who may have been overlooked in their past calculations on how to reach families. These dynamics are often unspoken—but not by Mapp and Bergman, who are forthright about ending deficit-based mindsets that focus on what families don’t have or didn’t do.
They encourage schools to learn more about the challenges families face in getting their child to and through school, then partnering with them to solve these problems together. An exchange of information is vital to this process.
“Educators and families should work together to define their shared challenges and improve the educational experience for children,” they write in the report. “Rather than focusing on communicating school rules and procedures, educators should discuss useful and actionable information with families. Scores of research studies show that families want to know more about how their children are doing in school.”
The day-to-day elements in their call to action for effective family engagement include:
-Demonstrating respect by seeking input from families and listening to what they have to say. -Responding in ways that are competent—and trusting that families are also competent to uphold their role in their child’s education. -Showing integrity by doing what was promised or communicating if the situation has changed. -Showing families and students that they are valued and cared about as individuals.
Of course, all of this must be linked to students’ learning and development—after all, this is educators’ primary role.
This call to action resonates deeply with our team at AllHere. We believe in fostering true partnerships with families—our innovative, evidence-based two-way texting solution is built around the importance of this for student success—but we are also realistic about the time constraints that busy educators face. We know they benefit from support with outreach to families to ensure they have sufficient time to focus on their primary roles.