Saying Welcome to All Families Comes First for Effective Family Engagement

by Kathleen Fay, California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant

Family Engagement February 2023 Image

Before families are willing to partner with the school and the PTA, they need to feel that they are welcome and belong. That’s why Welcome All Families is the first of the six National Standards for Family-School Partnerships developed by the National PTA.

National PTA - National Standards for Family-School Partnerships

These standards were recently updated to better reflect the perspectives of today’s families, students, and educators. Each of the national standards includes two goals and a set of indicators that provide a roadmap that school and PTA leaders can follow to achieve those goals.

There are a wealth of resources available from both National PTA and California State PTA to help you build family-school partnerships that serve your school and community.

Standard 1 – Welcome All Families
The school treats families as valued partners in their child’s education and facilitates a sense of belonging in the school community.

In its update of this standard, National PTA emphasizes what schools can do to foster families’ sense of belonging, create opportunities to contribute, and remove barriers to participation. That includes using linguistically and culturally responsive outreach, creating opportunities for connection with marginalized families, building staff capacity, learning about families, and using family engagement data. 

The first goal under this standard is to “Build a Community of Belonging.” It asks school and PTA leaders to ponder the question: When families engage with the school and PTA, do they feel respected, understood, and connected to the school community?

Goal number two is to “Create an Inclusive Environment” and asks: Do the school’s and PTA’s efforts encourage engagement with and among the diversity of families in the community?

Click here to see the indicators for each goal under Standard #1, plus a recorded webinar that delves more deeply into the challenges and opportunities involved in welcoming all families. 

Steps Toward Meeting These Goals

School leaders play a vital role in creating a welcoming school environment, a role your PTA can advocate for. A major theme from the National PTA School Leader’s Rubric is the need for staff to receive information and training about steps they can take for welcoming all families. That can range from sharing research about the importance of family engagement to making family-school partnerships a standing agenda item in regularly scheduled meetings. They can also institute effective practices such as teacher home visits and surveys that assess whether families feel respected, understood, and connected to the school community. School leaders should also work with and support their PTA in creating welcoming events and practices.

If your PTA is serious about welcoming all families, the first step might be a bit of self-reflection. Good questions for PTA leaders to discuss, from National PTA, include the following:

  • How has our PTA invited families to be part of our mission and membership?  
  • What are the barriers to families’ full participation in PTA activities? What are we doing to remove these barriers?  
  • How do our PTA’s family engagement practices honor families’ culture, values and identities?  
  • What families and students are underrepresented in our PTA?  
  • How is our PTA learning about and responding to the experience of our families and students, particularly those who have been historically marginalized? 
  • What do families see and experience when they attend a PTA meeting or event? What messages does this send? 
  • What is the role of our PTA in making sure that all families feel like they belong to the school community? 

We’ll share each of the six National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. The California State PTA website also provides more information.