ENGAGE! In Partnerships for Student Success

partnershipPartnerships are a critical factor in student success. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are often significant disparities in education funding, facilities, and instructional resources. While many communities have mobilized and advocated for education equity, we aren’t there yet. That’s why it’s so important for families, communities, and schools to work together to support better outcomes for all children.

According to Beyond the Bake Sale, there are five critical reasons that partnerships matter:

  1. Partnership and student academic achievement are closely linked.
  2. Partnerships help build and sustain public support for the schools.
  3. Families and the community can help schools overcome the challenges they face.
  4. Teachers can benefit from parent and community partnerships
  5. The No Child Left Behind Act (now referred to as ESEA) provides partnership opportunities that can help schools meet the requirements under the law.

The Harvard Family Research Project says that for children and youth to be successful from birth to adolescence, there must be an array of linked supports or to learning all around them. The connections should work together and be in place continuously, shifting over time as children grow.

Partnerships can connect schools with businesses, hospitals, colleges, service clubs, social service agencies, youth organizations, public housing projects, labor unions, tenant groups, churches and other community groups. These partnerships can create thriving neighborhoods where families want to live, work, and raise a family. Reach out to a broad base of partners in and around your school community. Make sure your partnership activities strengthen families and link to learning. Work with them to develop a shared vision about what the partnership in your community will look like. These collaborations can strengthen the school and build a family friendly community.

For more information about creating partnerships for student success, read Beyond the Bake Sale by Henderson and Mapp. Also, visit the Harvard Family Research Project at www.hfrp.org. You can find more information about the National Standards for Family School Partnerships in the Implementation Guide at www.pta.org/familyschoolpartnerships.

ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

 

Worlds Collide: The PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships Meet Beyond the Bake Sale

BeyondtheBakeSale2If you’ve ever experienced a National PTA Annual Convention, you know it’s an exciting time when parent leaders from around the world meet to learn from experts as well as each other. This year’s convention was no exception! I spent a great deal of time in the Social Media Lounge engaging with many educators and parent leaders about the exciting programs available from National PTA.

One visitor to our lounge was my friend Bonita Allen, a Parent Involvement in Education Consultant on the Pennsylvania Title I State Parent Advisory Council (SPAC). Bonita was excited to share with me information about some work that the SPAC had done to align the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships with Beyond the Bake Sale: the Essential Guide to Family School Partnerships.

Beyond the Bake Sale contains strategies to build strong collaborative relationships and practical advice for creating a culture that welcomes and respects all families. It’s become an essential resource for educators who want to better understand how to reach out and truly partner with families, as well as for families to understand how to push for effective family engagement programs and policies. The PTA National Standards for Family School Partnerships offer a framework for how families, schools, and communities should work together to support student success. Anne Henderson and Dr. Karen Mapp, authors of Beyond the Bake Sale, were part of the team of national experts who developed the PTA’s National Standards, which is probably why they align so nicely!

My conversation with Bonita was incredibly timely. This summer, I’ve agreed to participate in a book study on Twitter (#PTcamp) focusing on Beyond the Bake Sale. One hundred educators and parent leaders have signed up to participate in the discussion. Each week we will read new chapters and then engage through a variety of social media channels to share our own takeaways. I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you here in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about the SPAC work aligning the standards, let me know at swilson@pta.org. Bonita and I will be happy to share!

Sherri Wilson is the Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.  Check out the PTA One Voice Blog to read more of Sherri’s weekly column ENGAGE!.

 

ENGAGE! With Family Reading Experience

FRE_KindleLast year, Lincoln Elementary PTA was one of 85 recipients who received a set of 10 Kindles and agreed to hold a Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle event at their local school. Lincoln Elementary is a K-8 school with 367 students. Seventy three percent of the students are minority students, and 93% of the students receive free and reduced priced lunch. I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy J. Ponder, a parent who was instrumental in the planning and implementation of their Family Reading Experience last week.

Hi Stacy, thanks for taking the time to talk to me about your Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle! I understand you had a fantastic time. How many families were able to participate?

We had about 50 to 60 families that joined us. Most of the parents were fathers or grandfathers. Our event had already been postponed twice, so people were excited that we could finally hold it!

That sounds like a great turnout! How did you get so many families to participate?

We had lots of incentives. We had children’s dictionaries, donated by Scholastic. Every family who participated got a dictionary along with the take home game boards that are part of the Experience. We served pizza at our Experience, everyone loves pizza! We also had giveaways at every station. Every table had stickers or pencils so that everyone who visited got something. We also gave everyone who attended a small drawstring backpack. That was useful for them to carry all of the giveaways home! We even had a couple of large baskets with household items we were able to give away as door prizes.

How did the families learn about the event?

We’d had to postpone the event two times already and had done some promotion before those were postponed. We use our schools phone system called Connect Ed and we sent home the Family Reading Experience Flyers we downloaded from the National PTA website. We also used personal invitations when we saw people in the halls or picking up kids.

That’s terrific! We’ve also seen that there has to be a lot of different communication channels to reach families and that the personal invitations often have a great response. What did families feel was the best part of the experience?

The best part was the interaction that families had. Also, they loved learning new things! I’d also have to say that the technology station was the most popular one. Everyone was excited to try using the Kindles!

I know, the use of technology in education is very exciting! What’s next for Lincoln Elementary PTA?

Well, this Experience was for families with children in Kindergarten through second grade. Our next Experience is for families with children in grades 3-5. We’re having that Experience on April 24th and are hoping for another great turnout!

Wonderful! I wish you the best of luck with all your future PTA events, especially the Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle!

The PTA Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle includes a set of free activities and tools in English and Spanish to organize events that engage the entire family in improving reading skills for students between kindergarten and fifth grade. If you would like more information about the Family Reading Experience, or to download all of the free materials, log on to pta.org/familyreading.

ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

ENGAGE! Access Literacy Resources through First Book

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Kyle Zimmer, President and CEO of First Book

Today I am interviewing Kyle Zimmer, the President and CEO of First Book. First Book is a non-profit social enterprise founded to provide new books to children in need. First Book was founded in 1992 and has distributed more than 110 million free and low cost books in thousands of communities.

Hi Kyle and welcome to ENGAGE! Can you tell us why it’s so important for children to have books at home?

Thanks for having me.  It’s no secret that books are the critical ingredient for success – in school and in life. The London-based Institute of Education released a study not long ago showing that children who read for pleasure do significantly better in school than those who don’t – and not just in reading and spelling, but in math as well. That’s something that multiple studies have shown, and it’s something that many of us know from our own experiences as parents.

But there’s an enormous and tragic gap between middle- and upper-class children and their peers from low-income families. Kids in need simply don’t have access to books. There’s one study I often reference – one which never fails to shock – which showed that in some of the poorest communities in the US, there is one book for every 300 children.

What are some of the strategies First Book uses to get books into the communities that need them the most?

There are hundreds of thousands of heroic teachers and local program leaders out there on the front lines in communities across the country, working every day to help kids from low-income neighborhoods fulfill their potential. First Book helps them get the resources that they need – brand-new, high-quality books and classroom materials.  These books and resources allow teachers and volunteers to elevate the quality of their work and implement new curriculum and launch wonderful reading programs.

There are several ways we accomplish our work. Through one channel, we distribute about ten million new books every year that are donated by the publishing industry – we make those books available, free of charge, as we receive them. We also operate our online First Book Marketplace – where educators can purchase the books they need at deeply-discounted prices.  The First Book Marketplace currently offers more than 5200 titles for an average of $2.50 per paperback book – including shipping!

Both of these channels are available exclusively to educators and program leaders that serve children in need.

Many of our PTAs are hosting Family Reading Experiences to help families learn strategies for supporting their children’s literacy. I know First Book has really worked hard to build a platform PTAs can access at http://www.fbmarketplace.org/programs/national-pta. Can you tell us how PTAs can register with First Book so they can access all of the valuable resources you have available?

Anyone who works with kids in need can sign up to get books from First Book. We welcome both PTA leaders and members supporting schools in low income areas. Check out firstbook.org/PTA to learn more or to sign up for your school.

What about PTAs that are in communities that are not low income? How can they work with First Book to get more books into the hands of kids that need them the most?

A great question! The responsibility for getting books into the hands of kids in need lies with all of us, so we welcome PTA members from all walks of life. There are any number of ways they can get involved, including adopting a local Title I school and holding a fundraiser to help them get the books they need by setting up a First Book Virtual Book Drive. You can learn more about Virtual Book Drives and other resources at firstbook.org/PTA.

What are some other ways that First Book works with PTA?

The National PTA has created some terrific resources to help families, like the Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle. Thanks to our partnership, First Book is able to make these resources available to the 100,000+ schools and community programs we support, so that we’re able to give more families not only the books their children need, but tools and resources to help them make the best use of those books.  Visit the Family Engagement section on the First Book Marketplace to see this and other resources to support family involvement in reading.

First Book is also featured as a resource for in the National PTA Schools of Excellence, where the focus is on reading and literacy.

In addition, First Book has pioneered an initiative that we call The Stories for All Project, aimed at dramatically expanding the market for diversity in children’s literature. We’ve offered this platform and these books as ways to support PTA’s Emerging Minority Leaders, and we’re excited about exploring that opportunity.

Thank you so much for joining me today and for all the work that you do at First Book to support children’s literacy. National PTA is delighted to partner with First Book to connect more children with high quality books. If you would like more information about First Book you can find them on the web at www.firstbook.org/pta and the First Book Marketplace is at http://www.firstbook.org/first-book-story/innovation-in-publishing/marketplace.

ENGAGE! In Shared Power

Basic CMYKThe National Standards for Family School Partnerships focuses on what parents, schools and communities can do together to support student success. The fifth of the six standards focuses on shared power. The goal of this standard is to strengthen the family’s voice in shared decision making. Ask yourself, are all families full partners in making decisions that affect their children at school and in the community?

Here are a few indicators that demonstrate a school has met the standard for shared power!

  • The school has established policy to ensure that parents have an equal voice in all major decisions that affect children, such as principal selection and budget allocation.
  • Parent leaders work with the school improvement team to adopt effective strategies to engage families in reducing achievement gaps between groups of students.
  • Parent leaders are trained in facilitation skills such as brainstorming, role-plays, and small group activities that encourage everyone to speak.
  • The principal and parent leaders personally invite public officials to meetings to discuss ideas, issues, and problems in the community.
  • The PTA parent leaders build the organizations effectiveness by recruiting and maintaining a leadership team that reflects the school and community and by aligning all programs and practices with PTAs National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.

The following are some of the resources available from National PTA and our partners to encourage schools, PTAs and families to work together as partners in decision-making about children’s well-being:

To get started, identify all the ways your school can include and consult parents in decisions that affect the school community. Make sure the PTA or parent group membership and leadership is reflective of the school community. Also, consider programs and activities that develop social and political connections.


ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

ENGAGE! In Speaking Up for Every Child

Basic CMYKThe National Standards for Family School Partnerships focuses on what parents, schools and communities can do together to support student success. The fourth of the six standards focuses on speaking up for every child. The goal of this standard is to help families become empowered to be advocates for their own and other children, and to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.

To help families understand how the school system works, it’s important that they:

  • Understand how the school and district operate
  • Understand their rights and responsibilities under federal and state laws
  • Know about resources available
  • Understand how to resolve problems and conflicts

To empower families to support their own and other children’s success in school, it’s important to:

  • Develop families’ capacity to be effective school advocates
  • Plan for the future
  • Ensure smooth transitions
  • Engage in civic advocacy for student achievement

Many parents and community members need opportunities to learn and practice advocacy skills before they will feel comfortable speaking up. School staff and PTAs/parent groups can make a critical contribution to student success by ensuring that every child has an advocate.

The following are some of the resources available from National PTA and our partners to help empower families at your school to speak up for every child:

 

ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

ENGAGE! A Quick Recap of My Favorite Chat

Social Media _ Speech CloudsEach week, I participate in the Parent Teacher Chat (#ptchat),  a Twitter chat that enables parents, teachers, administrators and others to connect and discuss various strategies that strengthen home-school partnerships. Last week the topic was one that is very near to my heart, the National PTA Standards for Family School Partnerships!

If you follow this blog, you know that the National Standards are a framework that allows PTAs and schools to work together to engage all families in meaningful ways. I’ve posted several articles already about each standard to really break it down and provide links to some useful tools.  This week’s #ptchat was really important because it allowed voices from the field to weigh in on some of the strategies they use to engage all families. Here are some of my favorite comments:

  • Luisa Requenes (@LuisaRequenes) posted,“Family engagement standards take care of the WHOLE child for his/her future and academic success!”
  • Francis Frost (@FrancisFrost) said, “The standards go to addressing the students whole education experience – academic, school community, parents.”
  • Dana Sirotiak (@Siroticak) noted that “The standards benefit students because all tie to student success both in home and at school.”
  •  Lisa Davis (@lisaodavis) pointed out that “These standards are building blocks that keep improving and gain momentum.”

The chat included some fantastic PTA leaders. Here are some of their comments:

  • California PTA (@CaliforniaPTA) said, “We envision all 1,000 school districts in CA having a family engagement plan based on the standards.”
  • Massachusetts PTA (@MassPTA) provided a link to the Massachusetts state fundamentals.
  • California PTA Executive Director Paul Richman (@PJR100) noted, “A key to successful engagement is meeting parents ‘where they are at’” including “languages, ability to get to meetings, etc.”
  • Maryland PTA President Ray Leone (@President_Ray) shared that reaching out to the “local arts council is a great way to bring the community into the school.”

During the chat, I had the opportunity to promote the most recent tools we’ve developed to support the implementation of the standards with special groups. As a part of the National PTA Every Child in Focus Campaign, we have developed a set of documents to deepen family engagement in schools through the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Visit the site to explore tools for working with Hispanic families, urban families, American Indian families, families of children with special needs, suburban families and African American families. Don’t forget to check back next month when we unveil the new tool on working with foster families. And follow me (@PTAswilson) and my very good friend (@NationalPTA)!


ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

 

ENGAGE! Supporting Student Success

StudentsIn a groundbreaking 2010 study on school improvement, family engagement was identified as a key ingredient for school turnarounds. So not only does family engagement support student success – it supports effective school reform.

The study indicated “essential supports” for effective school reform included:

  • School leadership as the driver for change
  • Family, school and community partnerships
  • Professional capacity of the faculty
  • A student-centered learning climate
  • Instructional guidance.

This study specifically evaluated school improvement in low-income, urban schools. They found that elementary schools with strong family engagement were 10 times more likely to improve in math and four times more likely to improve in reading than schools weak on this measure. That’s why the third standard of the National Standards for Family School Partnerships is Supporting Student Success.

When Standard 3 – Supporting Student Success is achieved, families and school staff continuously collaborate to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school.  Families feel well prepared and comfortable to enhance the instruction and social and emotional learning that occurs during in-school and after-school lessons.

The first goal is to share information about student progress. Your PTA can:

  • Ensure family-teacher communication
  • Link student work to academic standards
  • Use standardized test results to increase achievement
  • Share school progress

The second goal is to support learning by engaging families. Your PTA can:

  • Engage families in classroom learning
  • Develop families’ abilities to strengthen learning at home
  • Promote after-school learning

To get started, link all PTA events to student learning, including activities focused on making all families feel welcome! Work with school leadership to conduct workshops on interpreting standardized test data. Also, collaborate with teachers to provide fun, family-centered PTA events focused on topics such as literacy, study skills, individual curriculum areas, and college and career planning. Check out our Family Reading Experience and new guides in our Take Your Family to School Week Kit.

For more information about the research on “essential supports” read Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago by Bryk, Bender, Allensworth, and Luppescu.


ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

 

 

ENGAGE! Parent Involvement 3.0

World_Map_BlogThe Latest PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores show that 29 nations outperform the US in mathematics, 22 in science, and 19 in reading. Overall, the US was ranked 22nd. The Netherlands, on the other hand, ranked 7th.  Their philosophy on Parent Involvement 3.0 might be one reason why!

I was very excited when Peter De Vries contacted me and my colleagues Jenni Brasington and Ron Mirr to assist in translating Parent Involvement 3.0. Peter has worked in the Netherlands as a teacher in basic and special basic education for almost ten years. Since then, he’s worked as a location manager for an orthopedagogic daycare center for children with mental and physical disabilities while running his own practice as a mediator between parents and schools in both primary and secondary education. Since 2003, he has worked as principal advisor and trainer at CPS Onderwijsontwikkeling en advies. Peter has written several books including Handboek ouders in de school, Mijn kind op school and Ouderbetrokkenheid voor elkaar.

Peter describes the various levels of parent involvement as:

Parent Involvement 1.0
One-sided communication where the school determines the time, format and content of the communication.

Parent Involvement 2.0
Two-way communication that doesn’t actually allow any type of collaboration between home and school.

Parent Involvement 3.0
Communication that allows families and schools to share new information with a common goal – the student!

The strategies in this book were designed based on the Dutch implementation of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.  Different countries have different cultures, so while not everything will be a good fit, this book provides some useful strategies for implementing the National Standards to promote a greater cooperation between families and schools.

If you are interested in learning about this Dutch model of home-school collaboration, Parent Involvement 3.0 is now available in English and you can find the free download at www.cps.nl/parentinvolvement. Be sure to check out the forward by National PTA President Otha Thornton and let us know what you think about this approach to home-school partnerships!


ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.

 

ENGAGE! Communicating with All Families

CommunicationThe National Standards for Family School Partnerships focuses on what parents, schools and communities can do together to support student success. The second of the six standards focuses on communicating effectively. The goal of this standard is to share information between school and families.

To achieve meaningful, two-way communication, it’s important to:

  • Use multiple channels (traditional flyers and notes, phone calls, texts, social media, etc.)
  • Ask families about their issues or concerns using formal and informal surveys
  • Share information on current issues of interest to families
  • Facilitate connections among families

As you think about your school or schools in your district, consider these questions:

  • Are communication materials informative, regular, and accessible by all families?
  • Is there a school policy for teacher communication with families?
  • Are there translators?
  • Is there a policy for family communication with teachers?
  • Do the school and PTA have opportunities for families and staff to share information in a variety of ways (e.g., e-mail, home visits, phone calls, printed materials)?
  • Is it is easy and convenient for parents to contact teachers and provide feedback to the school around policies and issues of concern?

All families should feel the school informs them about important issues and that it’s easy to communicate with teachers, the principal, and other staff. Creating a perception that a dominant group of parents is in the know while everyone else is in the dark reduces trust and stifles the free flow of ideas.

Twitter has become a terrific way for parents and teachers to connect with others and create their own personal learning network (PLN). Every Wednesday night from 9 to 10 pm EST, parents and teachers from around the world engage in lively discussions using the hashtag #PTChat. Each week features a different topic and many feature guest experts who contribute to the conversation.  Topics cover everything from planning back to school nights to balancing academics with extracurricular activities. Join us next week and learn more about engaging all families!

ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.