The answer to this question comes from Sandy Mendoza, Advocacy Manager for Families in Schools (FIS). FIS works with schools, community-based organizations, and policy leaders to reduce barriers to greater parent engagement in schools and believes that when schools engage families, families get involved and student achievement increases. Sandy has more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit, state government, and business sectors. Before joining FIS, Sandy held leadership positions with Communities for Teaching Excellence and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. Many thanks to Sandy for her contribution and expertise.
What is the importance of LCFF, in terms of parent engagement?
For parent engagement advocates, California’s new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was a significant victory because it made parent engagement one of eight statewide priorities and holds districts to a higher standard than in the past.
LCFF directs school districts to consult with parents in developing their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). It gives districts a lot of flexibility in deciding how they will spend their new school funding. And with this flexibility comes greater responsibility to effectively engage parents – the very stakeholders whose children generate these education dollars – in the budget decision-making process.
What would you suggest that districts do, in order to comply with the law while also seizing this opportunity to partner with parents?
Districts should be very clear and intentional about the strategic ways they will seek out parent input and the criteria they will use in deciding how to incorporate that input into their LCAP and annual update.
Engaging parents is about connection, not compliance. Too often districts in varying degrees will do the bare minimum to communicate, educate, and collaborate with parents. Concerns continue to be raised about how districts across the state are reaching out to low-income, immigrant, foster or disadvantaged families and guardians. Many of these parents face obstacles such as language, lack of work flexibility, financial limitations and limited knowledge of the school system.
So, it should hardly be of any surprise to see parents reacting critically when they feel undervalued and not included in a process that is supposed to support their child’s academic success. For example, when districts release and/or post LCAPs only in English even as half of their families are parents of English Learners, you have to pause and wonder what they are thinking. That is not meaningful parent engagement. Districts must show a willingness to listen and utilize the feedback not just from parent leaders sitting on a committee, but the day-to-day parents who have just as much to contribute. Collectively, their inputs can yield much bigger gains for schools and students.
If LCFF is to deliver the results that everyone hopes for, then offering far more qualitative opportunities and experiences will go far to build mutual trust and stronger teacher-parent-school relationships that will ultimately benefit student achievement.
Why is it so important that parents and guardians be actively involved now, with this first round of LCAPs?
What we are deciding now in year one of the LCAP can potentially start to end educational inequities in school funding. These decisions can create dramatic culture shifts that can vastly improve student achievement in our highest-need schools. But, we have very little time before school boards vote to approve their LCAPs by the deadline of July 1st. We must move forward with a sense of urgency, if we are to take advantage of this moment of historic change.
Could you share some more specific strategies and best practices for districts around meaningfully partnering with parents?
Building a strong parent engagement framework requires that school districts empower parents as agents of change for student success by:
* Giving parents timely, accurate and actionable information in their home language to support learning at home and at school;
* Supporting parents to become advocates of their child's needs;
* Empowering parents to make decisions in the best interest of their child;
* Providing leadership and training opportunities so parents:
- are equipped to provide oversight of school performance and
- have the knowledge, tools, and resources to ensure their child is college and career-ready
* Training school staff and committing resources to proactively and authentically engage parents.
For more information on strategies that school districts around the state are using to improve their community communications and outreach around LCFF, click here.
To learn more about the "Parent Involvement" state priority area for LCFF, please click here.