School Engagement: The Power of Family Voice
Welcome back to school! I hope you had a great summer reenergizing and refocusing. I had the great opportunity to be a part of the work in progress at the many workshops, planning sessions, and advisory groups that took place this summer. It has been inspiring to hear dedicated, bright minds strategize solutions for improving the educational experience of all our students. It also reminded me once again of the important role parents and caregivers play in their students’ lives. As a teacher and principal, I experienced families playing an essential role in not only ensuring their children were ready to learn, but in creating a culture of learning and a community commitment that values the success of each student above all else. While not every family has someone who can be present during the school day to support, there are a number of other ways you can participate. Whether it is joining the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), helping a weekend or after-school event, or even organizing classroom work from home – however it gets accomplished, make sure you are part of the picture. Your voice and input are critically important to your child's educational experience and to the school community as a whole.
For three years now, we have seen many districts use their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) to better serve and mobilize students, families, and communities by focusing on family engagement. The Alameda County Office of Education is proud to be a leader in the state in supporting authentic family engagement practices –convening and training a diverse network of family and community engagement professionals through our Family Engagement Network (FEN).
There are approximately 55 family engagement positions throughout the County’s 18 school districts. Comprised of staff from districts, schools, and community organizations, the FEN is focused on creating strong community partnerships and empowering families to elevate their voices. Through collaborative monthly meetings and professional development opportunities, practitioners gain access to current research and best practices and engage in specific themed trainings like Trauma-Informed Practices and Ecological Frameworks of Family Engagement. Last spring, ACOE partnered with the San Diego State University Parent Center to host and co-facilitate two training series for 120 district and parent liaisons, administrators, teachers, and counselors.
The more that families are engaged in their child’s school community, the more they will feel empowered to offer informed input on the direction of the school and district. How can a family get involved in their district’s LCAP process, including understanding recently released state test scores? What questions should be asked? We’ve gathered some helpful resources for families and community leaders. Take a look at the links and see how you can impact your community’s LCAP.
Throughout this school year, we will continue to provide insights into the major shifts currently taking place in California’s public education system, including the state’s new accountability and continuous improvement system (referenced in my June newsletter), which will be formalized at next week’s State Board of Education meeting on September 8-9.
But, for this moment, I hope the school year has started off well and that this year we will continue to build on our collective commitment to see all our young people grow and thrive even beyond our greatest expectations.
L. Karen Monroe
Alameda County Superintendent of Schools