The family washing machine and classroom lessons about chemical reactions. The U.S. Constitution and family rules at home. A special team inside the Spring Branch ISD Community Relations division has a goal of helping educators and families make home connections to classroom learning like these.
The Spring Branch ISD Family E3 (Educate, Engage and Empower) team, Betsabeth Beyk and Leticia Verdinez, recently participated in two national gatherings of family engagement practitioners.
At the National Family-Community Engagement Conference in Reno, Nev., they learned best practices and heard what other districts are doing to partner with families and the community. A clarifying concept the duo brought back is a metaphor about family engagement provided by the National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement:
“Just like a space launch needs engineers, mathematicians and physicists to work together to send astronauts into space, families, schools and communities need to work together for children’s learning to take off.”
An opportunity to learn family engagement strategies from researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education this summer also energized and shaped the goals of the Family E3 team.
They, along with Trina Morford, Parent Liaison at Spring Forest Middle School, attended an information- and action-packed course, Creating Effective Home and School Partnerships for Student Success, during four days in July at Harvard University in Boston.
Family engagement teams from more than 25 states and six countries participated through a series of lectures, small group debriefs and planning sessions.
Featured at Harvard was the expertise and research of Dr. Karen Mapp, a senior lecturer in the graduate school there. Mapp has developed more than twenty years of research and focus on the “cultivation of partnerships among families, community members and educators that support student achievement and school improvement.” She is also the author and co-author of several articles and books on the subject.
Research finds increases in family engagement in children’s education has a many benefits for students and schools:
- Higher test scores
- Better attendance
- Ten times more likely to improve in math and four times more likely to improve in reading
- Improved promotion and graduation rates
- Families develop more connections to the school and are more apt to advocate for all children
- Increased staff retention
During Harvard group planning sessions at the Harvard conference, the SBISD team worked through three collaborative exercises to achieve a Family E3 Plan of Action for this school year.
“We realized our small team cannot do the work of parent involvement alone,” Beyk said. “We now have a stronger awareness of the need for cross-functional collaboration between district departments, school leaders, educators and community partners.”
This year, a series of professional development classes are planned to equip teachers and front office employees with concrete practices to create equal partnerships between schools and families in SBISD.
“We need to see family involvement as a daily practice not just an add-on to the work of educating students,” said Beyk. “Providing links to [classroom] learning will make educators and families co-creators of students’ success.”
“By attending these trainings this summer, I feel equipped and empowered to share with colleagues and families the wonderful impact Family Engagement has on all stakeholders,” said Verdinez.
“We will focus on implementing purposeful activities to help us connect with families to tap into their talents, knowledge and abilities so they may use these with comfort to reinforce learning at home.”
Exciting News! Save the Date!
We all can learn from the national expert! Dr. Mapp, is coming to SBISD Sept. 5-6 to present two family engagement workshops. Her free presentation the evening of Thursday, Sept. 5 will be open to parents, community and SBISD staff, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Don Coleman Coliseum, 1050 Dairy Ashford.
Dr. Mapp will speak about the powerful impact of effective family and school partnerships and provide practical suggestions for fostering the success of Every Child.
A workshop the morning of Friday, September 6 will be targeted for district and school leaders, counselors and educators.
Click here for presentation and workshop registration information.
By Becky Wuerth, SBISD Communications