The value of parent engagement has been documented for many years through research by
professionals such as Joyce Epstein, Karen Mapp, Anne Henderson and others. Turning that
research into practice has been a challenge for many educators who have multiple responsibilities.
A project is currently underway in Connecticut, funded by the CSDE, called "Enhancing
Collaborative Relationships between Families and Schools." The Connecticut Parent Advocacy
Center, in conjunction with four CT school districts, have been working on developing meaningful
activities to increase staff knowledge and competencies to support engagement of families in
their children's education.
Below are a few examples of emerging practices and ideas that these district-wide teams have
developed as well as some nationally developed materials:
The Fast Team-Families and Schools Together, is a group comprised of parents, teachers,
administrators, and related service providers. The overarching goal of this team is to
enhance communication between families of children with special needs and school personnel
who provide service. The team works towards meeting 4 main needs:
One district has found a way to improve relationships between families of children with
disabilities and school staff by facilitating staff discussions to increase their awareness
of the barriers for families and share positive ways to effectively work with families.
This can be done at regularly planned staff meetings and can be co-facilitated by the school's
social worker and a staff person who has a child with special needs. If there are no staff
that meet that criteria a family member from the district may serve in this role. The
discussion can be based on topics related to issues facing the families within that school
or tailored to specific grade levels. A feedback postcard is helpful in assessing staff
benefit from this effort. This can be done in approximately 15-20 minutes and can touch
on the following issues:
Read about additional practices.
There are multiple ways for school districts to gather data from families to help guide their
improvement efforts. Below are several simple tools to help determine how families perceive the
relationship they have with school staff. Some districts have feedback forms on their website,
some gather the data immediately following each PPT meeting and others hold focus groups or do a
One district holds regular meetings of their administration including all building Principals,
Assistant Principals, Curriculum Coordinators, Department Heads and other administrative level
staff. At these meetings there is dedicated time to share family engagement strategies.
For example, each Administrative Council Meeting agenda has time set aside, based on a rotating
schedule, for building principals to share their family engagement ideas and efforts. They explain
what they do, share the materials used, and review the outcomes of their efforts. This allows
other district staff to replicate successful events while decreasing staff time on development.
It also keeps the topic current, relevant and evolving.
The Parent Leadership Committee is voluntary and is run by parents from all grade levels. Each
grade level has one or two official parent representatives, but all parents are welcome to attend
and provide their opinions and input. This committee meets about every-other month but they keep
in contact more frequently than that.
Read about additional tools.
Read additional messaging options.