Advocating a Parent’s Perspective to Family Engagement

By: Joseph Fratoni

In my lectures on Strategic Development, I emphasize to students that coming up with a solution and a plan is not the end of the task. To turn this plan into reality, one must communicate the plan, and a major part of communication is listening. This gives us the chance to incorporate concerns and adjust. Too many times, we talk at each other, not with each other.

How many marriages are saved by counselors? The counselor facilitates a conversation where there has only been shouting. Spouses are taught how to talk with each other, and respect the other’s needs. This analogy can be applied to many situations, from granular discussions to broad-stroke issues. Respect, civility, and professionalism rule the day.

What does this have to do with family engagement? Plenty. We all know that family engagement is important in a child’s success. Volumes of studies say so. Teacher effectiveness is compromised by the lack of family engagement. Yet most of the dialogue is how the home can support the school, and not the other way around. We need to understand each other.

In the Education Post’s 2015 Parent Attitudes Survey, roughly 80% of the parents felt that they or the student was responsible if the child made progress in school. Less than 15% attributed this success to the teacher. When asked who was responsible when the child did not make progress, the numbers stayed the same! Parents accept their accountability regardless of the outcome.

Family engagement is about how the school can support the parent’s sense of responsibility. This means helping parents move up the Parent Engagement Curve to the best of their ability. It means providing them with information that sparks a dialogue, and with it, the opportunity to listen. It means building trust by communicating with respect, civility, and professionalism.

While easier said than done, it can be done.

  1. Information must be provided to a parent in a way that makes it easy for them to comprehend. FERPA issues can limit the information to a parent.
  2. As in any equal partnership, knowledge must be shared. Families can provide background and insight into what is happening at home.
  3. An auditable dialogue must be established to insure professional development and positive guidance.
  4. Lastly, metrics must be captured and communication should be transparent. This is the organizational method of listening; it gives us the chance to incorporate concerns and adjust.

At One Green Apple, we strive to help facilitate the dialogue on family engagement. There are many facets to this discussion, including financial. There are aha’s yet undiscovered. We have taken this research and our findings and have incorporated them into a family engagement platform, the Online Parent Understanding System, OPUS, available to schools and districts.

Join us on this journey. Contact us, we’d love to hear from you.