Families in Schools created this graphic to describe the essential ingredients for successful parent engagement (click the image to view the PDF):
Why does parent involvement matter?
Having increased parent involvement and communication has been shown to improve student attitude, on-task behavior, homework completion rates, and levels of class participation. Parent involvement is particularly important for students who are English learners and who come from low-income families -- two of the groups that LCFF specifically aims to improve outcomes for.
• In its document, "A Parent's Guide to School Funding," our partner, Families in Schools, gives an overview of the LCFF priority areas and the Local Control Accountability Plan process, focusing on key information that community stakeholders need to know. It also includes recommended questions that community members can ask school district officials to ensure that LCFF funds are targeted toward the intended student populations. You can access the guide, here.
What does parent involvement mean under LCFF?
LCFF addresses parent engagement in two important ways:
1. LCFF requires school districts to solicit and incorporate parent feedback at various points in the implementation process. Districts must reach out to parents for their feedback and incorporate that information into their plans (LCAP). Additionally, districts must create formal Parent Advisory Committees made up of parents and guardians of low-income, English language learners, and foster youth. (Districts whose student body includes at least 15 percent English language learners will also require an English Learner Parent Advisory Committee.) School districts must present their proposed plans (LCAPs) to these committees for input prior to school board approval. Once LCAPs have been approved, they will be submitted to the County Office of Education (COE) and the COE will also seek input from parents and community members.
2. Parent engagement is one of the eight State priority areas. (Learn more about the State priority areas.) School districts must devote resources to improving schools’ levels of welcoming, engaging, and working with parents. The specific actions that school districts will take toward those goals must also be detailed in their LCAPs, especially in terms of how engaging parents relates to supporting student achievement.
• The California PTA has parent-friendly LCFF resources, including flyers in Spanish and Chinese and is piloting a new parent engagement program, School Smarts, aimed at empowering parents with the tools they need to advocate for a quality education.
• A coalition of organizations, including PICO California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Parent Organizing Network and many others, has developed guidance around best practices for authentic parent engagement and shared decision making.
How can parents get involved in the process?
• Ask your district how you can be part of the Parent Advisory Committee and English Learner Parent Advisory Committee.
• Ask your principal about how local school site councils will be part of the decision-making process under LCFF.
• Review our list of “10 questions to ask your school district about LCFF” (PDF), also available in Spanish, “10 preguntas para hacerle a su distrito escolar sobre LCFF” (PDF)
Approaches That Work
Keep reading for several approaches to help parents become involved with their children's schools.
Improved Parent Communication
• What is it? Schools can tailor their outreach programs to meet the needs of today’s parents. That means holding meetings at convenient times for working parents, making materials available in the languages parents speak and read; and offering translation, child care, transportation and food at meetings. Parents want schools to rely less on automated "robo-calls"; and e-mails and more on personal outreach from trusted sources, such as other parents or Promotoras. Parents also want schools to form partnerships with community organizations that they already know and trust.
• Where can I learn more? You can read tips for how teachers can communicate with parents from Edutopia.
• What is it? Parent centers are places on school campuses that parents can go to volunteer, network with other parents and learn skills to help their families thrive. Educators can use the centers to teach parents skills to help their kids succeed, like how to help with homework assignments. Parent centers can also be used for adult classes, such as learning English as a second language or developing computer skills.
• Where is it working? The Los Angeles Unified School District recently invested $20 million to improve 576 parent centers throughout the district. These parent centers provide opportunities for parents to assist teachers with copying and related tasks and places to meet with teachers and other parents.
• Where can I learn more? You can learn more from this article in the Los Angeles Times.
Parent Teacher Home Visits
• What is it? Home visits are an innovative practice in which teachers visit the homes of their students to build better relationships with parents and families. The trust and support generated through these visits can result in increased student attendance, higher test scores, and lower suspension and expulsion rates.
• Where is it working? The movement for parent teacher home visits began in Sacramento and continues to be a great success there today. More than 3,300 home visits were conducted in 2012 in the Sacramento area.
• Where can I learn more? You can learn more about parent teacher home visits from the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project.
How is my district doing when it comes to parent involvement?
Parental involvement is hard to measure, but the indicators listed in this PDF from Families in Schools are a great place to start.
Pay special attention to items like:
• Percentage of schools with staffed parent centers.
• Percentage of schools conducting annual parent satisfaction surveys.
• Percentage of parents participating in school site councils and advisory groups who report feeling like they are equal partners with school staff.
How can you improve parent involvement?
• Find out if your school or school district is adopting the approaches described in this paper. If not, ask them to start. They work!
• Ask school districts to measure parent involvement and document the dollars and resources devoted specifically to engaging parents.
• Assess the language and communication needs of local parents and make sure the district is speaking to parents in a way that works for them. Make sure districts are reaching parents in a language they can understand and holding meetings at times and places that are convenient for them.
• Recommend that school districts create partnerships with trusted parent and community organizations as part of their outreach strategy.