One of the things that frustrates me most is that most of us agree family engagement is a critical component of school success, after all we have 40 years of research that says so, but we still lack true family-school partnerships in many schools. How do you know if your school is really open to truly partnering with families?
Beyond the Bake Sale by Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, and Davies identifies four core beliefs that schools must hold in order to form authentic partnerships with families.
- All parents have dreams for their children and want the best for them.
- All parents have the capacity to support their children’s learning.
- Parents and school staff should be equal partners.
- The responsibility for building partnerships between school and home rests primarily with school staff, especially school leaders.
Why are these beliefs so important? Before they can build trusting, respectful partnerships with families, schools must believe that parents want their children to succeed and that partnerships can be done!
Often the barriers to achieving those beliefs are caused by fear and misconceptions, particularly when faculty and staff do not share the same cultural or social background. Beyond the Bake Sale offers an entire chapter on dealing with issues of race, class, and culture. Here are a few tips!
- Recognize, learn about, and affirm all of the cultures in the school.
- Connect family cultures to what students are learning.
- Work with “cultural brokers” from the community to connect families to school.
- Recognize and support different forms of parent involvement.
- Support learning at home.
- Address the language barrier.
For more information about diversity and inclusion, check out the National PTA eLearning course on Cultural Competence at http://redirect.pta.org/local_leader/elearning/cultural/index.html and the wide variety of resources available through the Every Child in Focus Campaign at /home/programs/Every-Child-in-Focus.
ENGAGE! is a weekly column on Family Engagement written by Sherri Wilson, Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at the National PTA. Sherri is the former Director of the Alabama Parent Information and Resource Center and is currently responsible for developing and implementing programs related to family and community engagement at the National PTA.