This blog post is excerpted & adapted from Restart & Recovery: Considerations for Teaching and Learning System Conditions from the Council of Chief State School Officers. See the full report for more guidelines, vetted resources and project context to support your family engagement strategy.
4 key values that will help center equity in your family engagement strategy:
Do families and community members have a voice in shaping the vision of your school community?
When students, families and communities are deeply involved in creating solutions that address their own unique needs, those solutions are more likely to be effective and equitable. Students, families and community members must have the opportunity for meaningful engagement in order to name the challenges associated with reentry, come up with solutions and refine strategies throughout the year.
Intentional Culture and Diversity:
How are you removing barriers to ensure that all members of your school community have opportunities to engage?
All members of the community must be represented. Neighborhoods within school systems have distinct needs, priorities and conditions, and are often highly fragmented along racial and ethnic lines. To ensure equitable engagement, school systems will need to monitor and refresh committee membership regularly. They will also need to address barriers that prevent some community members from participating fully, including but not limited to transportation and access to childcare.
What partnerships with influential local organizations can you strengthen in order to better support students and families?
In every community there are local organizations, ranging from ministerial alliances to youth sports leagues to Boys and Girls Clubs, that have the potential to bring people together to improve outcomes for children. Organizations like these have deep connections with families and can understand student and family needs in ways that schools and school systems may not. Schools can partner and share information with these trusted community advocates in order to build a strong support system for students inside and outside the classroom.
How are you creating meaningful opportunities for two-way communication?
Sharing information regularly and transparently with families is critical, but school systems and schools must also create meaningful opportunities through multiple channels for all voices to be heard. Families and communities need to know how their feedback is incorporated into decision-making by school leaders.