Educated engaged and effective families as change agents in school improvement
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Educated, Engaged, and Effective Families as Change Agents in School Improvement. Diana Autin , Executive Co-Director Carolyn Hayer , Director of Parent & Professional Development Region 1 Parent TA Center @ The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network. Our Hypotheses.

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Educated engaged and effective families as change agents in school improvement

Educated, Engaged, and Effective Families as Change Agents in School Improvement

Diana Autin, Executive Co-Director

Carolyn Hayer, Director of Parent & Professional Development

Region 1 Parent TA Center @

The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network

Our hypotheses

Our Hypotheses

  • Families have the greatest interest in ensuring that their children's schools meet their needs, and the most to gain in improving low-performing schools

  • Parents can be powerful partners with state, district, and school administrators and educators:

    • Assessing needs

    • Planning improvement activities

    • Advocating for the resources needed to implement those activities, and

    • Evaluating results

Goals for today

Goals for today

  • Provide concrete examples of how families can be effective change agents in turning around low-performing schools

  • Share strategies for schools, districts, state agencies, and parent centers to encourage and support effective parent leadership

  • Engage in hands-on activities that model effective parent leadership development and partnership

Questions for today

Questions for Today

  • How can parents be engaged as equal partners and leaders in data-driven decision-making?

  • What works in moving parents from naysayers to “yay” sayers?

  • How can schools integrate parent leadership into improvement planning and implementation?

Impact of families

Impact of Families

  • Most consistent predictors of children’s academic achievement & social adjustment are parent expectations

  • Family participation in education was twice as predictive of student academic success as socio-economic status (10x greater in some programs)

  • The more intensively families are involved (advocacy, decision-making, oversight, volunteers, support at home), the more beneficial the achievement effects

Impact of families1

Impact of Families

  • When parents are involved, students have:

    • Higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates

    • Better attendance

    • Increased motivation

    • Lower suspension

    • Decreased use of drugs, alcohol, violence

  • When middle & HS parents stay involved, students:

    • Make better transitions

    • Maintain quality of work

    • Develop realistic plans for their future

    • Have higher graduation rates

    • Seek postsecondary education

Why else

Why else?

  • Families can be:

    • The greatest supporters, or the greatest opponents, of school improvement

    • The agents of sustainability of school improvement strategies

Characteristics of high performing schools

Characteristics of High Performing Schools

  • A clear and shared focus

  • High standards and expectations for all students

  • Effective school leadership

  • High levels of collaboration and communication

  • Curriculum, instruction and assessments aligned with high standards

  • Frequent monitoring of teaching and learning

  • Focused professional development

  • A supportive learning environment

  • High levels of parent and community involvement

Overlapping spheres of influence of family school and community on children s learning

Theoretical Model


Force C




of School

Force B




of Family

Force D




of Community

Force A

Time/Age/Grade Level

National pta standards for parent involvement epstein s framework

National PTA Standards for Parent Involvement/Epstein’s Framework

  • Promote & support parenting skills (Parenting)

  • Provide regular, two-way, and meaningful communication between school & home (Communicating)

  • Welcome parents in the school and seek their support & assistance (Volunteering)

  • Help parents play a key role in their child’s learning (Learning at home)

  • Enlist parents as full partners in decision-making about school improvement (Decision-making)

  • Use community resources to support schools, students, & families (Collaborating with Community)

(c) Statewide Parent Advocacy Network 2013

Major factors impacting parent involvement

Major Factors Impacting Parent Involvement

  • Parents’ beliefs about what is important, necessary & permissible for them to do with & on behalf of their children

  • Extent to which parents believe they can have a positive influence on their children’s education

  • Parents’ perception that the school – and their children – want them to be involved

  • Strongest & most predictive predictors are the specific school programs and teacher practices that encourage parent involvement at all levels and guide parents in helping their children at home

Major factors of systems change

Major Factors of Systems Change

  • “Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.”

    • Frederick Douglas

  • Improving schools requires a demand for change & accountability; informed, engaged parents can provide the most powerful support for that change & accountability

Making it happen

Making it happen

  • Shared vision

  • Purposeful connection to learning

  • Investments in high quality programming & staff/strategic use of limited resources

  • Robust communication systems

  • Evaluation for accountability & continuous learning

At the district level

At the district level

  • Fostering district-wide strategies

    • Infrastructure for district-wide leadership for family engagement

    • Ensure reporting, learning, & accountability for family engagement

  • Building school capacity

    • Build capacity for family engagement through training & technical assistance

  • Reaching out to & engaging families

Barriers to shared leadership systems change level

Barriers to Shared Leadership:Systems Change level

  • Identify three barriers to shared leadership at the systems change level

    • Family participation in identification of needs

    • Family participation in identification and development of services

    • Family participation in evaluation of program services and activities

Spheres of conflict

Spheres of Conflict

Structural Conflicts

Data Conflicts

Value Conflicts

Relationship Conflicts

Interest Conflicts

The planned change process

The Planned Change Process

Table 1 theorized pattern of relational and conventional bureaucratic organizations

Table 1 Theorized Pattern of Relational and Conventional Bureaucratic Organizations

Involving parent stakeholders in all phases

Involving Parent Stakeholders in all Phases

  • Establish a core group of family leaders that has been oriented and trained to be on teams

    • Include parents with both successful & less successful experiences with schools

  • Reinforce the commitment of valuing their continued involvement through all phases of school/district improvement activities

Why do parents get involved

Why do parents get involved?

  • The issue is important to them, their family, & their community

  • They have something to contribute

  • They believe that they will be listened to, their contributions respected, and their participation will make a difference

How do parent leaders stay involved

How do parent leaders stay involved?

  • Multiple opportunities for participation

  • The level of participation can vary depending on life circumstances.

  • Families receive sufficient advance notice

  • Family participation is facilitated

How do parent leaders stay involved1

How do parent leaders stay involved?

  • Families are listened to; their ideas are supported & respected

  • Families do not experience retribution as a result of their participation

  • Family participation has an impact

  • Family participation is consciously & visibly appreciated

Primary supports needed

Primary Supports needed

  • Tangible (stipends, provision of or reimbursement for childcare and transportation and reimbursement for lost wages).

  • Emotional (respect, understanding, validation, and ongoing support to fulfill their roles, including times of transition and crisis).

  • Environmental (training, equality with service providers, and full inclusion in activities)

Family leadership groups

Family leadership groups

  • Provide specialized expertise that may be missing from staff

  • Serve as ambassadors, building bridges into the community

  • Survey the need to enhance existing activities

  • Bring in resources

  • Help conduct evaluation and oversight activities, maintain accountability

Partnering with parent organizations

Partnering with parent organizations

  • Discuss 2 productive & 2 challenging experiences you have had to date working with family organizations

  • Reflect on one time when you had a successful partnership with a family organization to accomplish your goals…

    • What did you bring to the partnership?

    • What did the family organization bring?

    • How did you know it was working?

Parent organizations as catalysts for change

Parent organizations as catalysts for change

  • Parent organizations help education systems:

    • Recognize & understand the barriers to participation by families

    • Make changes to address barriers

    • Engage families in all processes

  • To make it happen, there must be:

    • Mutual respect for skills & knowledge

    • Mutually agreed upon goals

    • Trust & honesty

    • Clear & open communication

    • Shared planning & decision-making

Levels of focus for parent organization partnerships

Levels of Focus for Parent Organization Partnerships

  • Level 1: Strengthening individual parent knowledge & skills

  • Level 2: Promoting community education

  • Level 3: Educating Providers

  • Level 4: Fostering coalitions & networks

  • Level 5: Changing organizational practices

  • Level 6: Influencing policy & legislation

Token vs meaningful parent leadership

Token vs. Meaningful Parent Leadership

  • No preparation or information given prior to participation

  • No meaningful role in meeting or forum

  • Often one time only participation

  • Professionals talk “around parents” using acronyms and terminology unfamiliar to them

  • Adequate notice of the meeting and material supports are provided to assist with parent attendance

  • Materials and/or an orientation is provided prior to the meeting

  • Parent input is valued and individuals work with parents to clarify terminology, systems and policies

  • Follow-up is provided

Assessing of needs strengths

Assessing of needs/strengths

  • Use as leaders in development and conducting of focus groups, interviews, and surveys to elicit feedback from the larger network of parents

  • A joint invitation from the agency and a local parent organization is more likely to be inviting to other parents than one solely generated by the agency.

  • Personal invitations may make the difference in a parent’s participation

Planning improvement activities

Planning improvement activities

  • How can individual parent leaders be meaningfully involved in planning & implementing improvement activities?

  • How can parent organizations at the school or district level be meaningfully involved?

  • How can parent organizations at the state level be meaningfully involved?

Engaging in evaluation

Engaging in evaluation

  • How can individual parent leaders be meaningfully involved in planning & implementing evaluation activities?

  • How can parent organizations at the school or district level be meaningfully involved?

  • How can parent organizations at the state level be meaningfully involved?

Essential elements

Essential Elements

  • Mutual respect for skills & knowledge

  • Commitment to shared leadership

  • Trust & honesty

  • Cultural reciprocity

  • Mutually agreed goals

  • Shared resources

  • Mutual sharing of information/clear & open communication

  • Shared planning & decision-making

  • Shared evaluation of progress

  • Other elements?



How is my practice

How is my practice?

  • To what extent do you currently involve parent organizations in your work that brings you to the OSEP Project Directors’ conference?

    • Consider (on a scale of 1-5):

      • Identification of the need for the project

      • Planning the project’s parameters

      • Implementing the project

      • Sharing in project resources

      • Evaluating the project

    • Identify 1 area & 2 strategies where you could enhance the involvement of parent organizations

    • What support do you need to make it happen?



  • Regional Parent Technical Assistance Centers

    • Region 1: Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (NJ)

    • Region 2: Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (NC)

    • Region 3: Partners Resource Network (TX)

    • Region 4: Family Assistance Center for Education, Training & Support (WI)

    • Region 5: PEAK Parent Center (CO)

    • Region 6: Matrix Parent Network & Resource Center (CA)

  • Parent Training & Information Centers & Community Parent Resource Centers

    • Link to parent center network website

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