by the Family Engagement Commission
When families, schools, and communities effectively work together as partners, family engagement is a powerful strategy that boosts student achievement and better prepares our children to lead healthy, happy, and productive lives. That’s the thinking behind PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. As research-based family engagement standards, they provide a framework to build stronger connections between home and school.
The first pillar of PTA’s Standards for Family-School Partnerships is “Welcoming All Families.” PTA-school partnerships have two goals in welcoming families. In December we focused on the first goal: Building a Community of Belonging.
Here we provide ideas for the second goal, Creating an Inclusive Environment.
In the standards, “families” and “parents” are used interchangeably to refer to adults who are responsible for a student. For example, “Families from all backgrounds and neighborhoods.” Diverse families include families from all races, ethnicities, cultures, religions, family structures, and economic levels, as well as those with physical or mental challenges.
The goal of creating an inclusive environment encourages schools and PTAs to embrace the diversity of families in the community. This work is often done through a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Your PTA may just be beginning to identify the barriers to participation and working to remove them, enabling families to engage fully. Your school staff may see engaging all families as their responsibility, actively fostering an inclusive environment.
School staff and families can discuss together whether classroom materials and resources reflect the diversity of the community. These conversations can foster a partnership that works to identify and break down barriers related to race, ethnicity, class, family structure, religion, and abilities.
Consider also the economic obstacles. Your PTA can make a commitment to keep family events free or low-cost, ensuring accessibility for all. Fundraising and community contributions will help your PTA to be able to offer free family and student activities.
Many families with children with disabilities may feel excluded from your school community and your PTA. Consider recruiting parents to your DEI committee who can share their own experience and help you identify ways to support others. For some children and families, an invitation to attend an event is not enough. They may need some additional accommodations in place in order to participate. For example, something as simple as posting the label for the food items at an event can make your community more accessible to families with children with food allergies.
By actively participating in these practices, we can create an environment where every family feels valued and included. Together, let’s continue to build a school community that celebrates diversity and promotes a sense of belonging for all.