Family Engagement is an Education Priority for California

By Kathleen Fay, California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant

Springtime brings warmer weather, a week off, and preparations for the future. As school districts tackle budget planning to get ready for the next school year, families are a critical part of that decision-making process.  

Thanks to legislation sponsored by California State PTA and included in California law in 2018,  districts are also required to report on their meaningful Family Engagement efforts as part of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). This article briefly explains what the LCFF is and how it obliges school districts to reach out to parents and families for their input in decision-making and to strengthen participation in the education process.

LCFF Overview

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is hallmark legislation that fundamentally changed how all local educational agencies (LEAs – usually school districts) in the state are funded, how they are held accountable for the services and supports they provide to enable all students to succeed to their greatest potential, and the assistance they receive from the state of California to do so. At the state level, these are the key components and their function:

  • Inform:  The California Accountability Model and School Dashboard provides the community, including families, with information about how LEAs and schools are meeting the needs of California’s diverse student population based on a concise set of measures.
  • Assist:  LCFF Support and Assistance is offered to local educational agencies at the level that they need – either general resources and assistance, differentiated assistance, or intensive intervention.
  • Plan:  The Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) is a tool for LEAs to use to set goals, plan actions, and leverage resources to meet those goals to improve student outcomes. LEAs must explicitly address the needs of consistently low-performing student groups as well as low-performing schools within the LEA.
  • Fund:  Schools are funded through a combination of local property taxes and state funding. The  LCFF is the primary source of an LEA’s general-purpose funding. Funds are also allocated for   Special Education and several other programs. The “Principal Apportionment” is a series of calculations that adjust the flow of state funds throughout the fiscal year as further information becomes known. (Click here for more information.)

California’s Education Priorities 

The way that a school district plans to spend its funds to achieve its goals is documented in its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The governing board of each school district adopts their LCAP to be effective for three years, updated annually, to address these California education priorities:

  • Conditions of Learning – Basic Services, Implementation of State Standards, and Course Access
  • Pupil Outcomes – Student Achievement and Student Outcomes
  • Engagement – Parent Involvement, Student Engagement, and School Climate

Note:  County Offices of Education also address the needs of Expelled Pupils and Foster Youth.

(For further details, click here.)

Parent Involvement:  A State Priority 

Every school district’s local control and accountability plan (LCAP) must address Parent Involvement as a state priority. In California Law, Education Code (52060) states:

(3) (A) Parental involvement and family engagement, including efforts the school district makes to seek parent input in making decisions for the school district and each individual school site, and including how the school district will promote parental participation in programs for unduplicated pupils* and individuals with exceptional needs.

* “Unduplicated pupils” are counted only once (for purposes of additional funding) even if the pupil meets more than one of these criteria: English learner, foster youth, or qualifying for free- or reduced-price lunch.

(B) Family engagement may include, but need not be limited to, efforts by the school district and each individual school site to apply research-based practices, such as welcoming all families into the school community, engaging in effective two-way communication, supporting pupil success, and empowering families to advocate for equity and access. Family engagement may include, but need not be limited to, treating families as partners to inform, influence, and create practices and programs that support pupil success and collaboration with families and the broader community, expand pupil learning opportunities and community services, and promote civic participation.

Why is this a state priority?

Family and community engagement greatly increases the likelihood that students will learn and thrive.  Students are more prepared for school, more likely to achieve, and more likely to graduate when they are supported by schools, families, and communities working together in a coordinated manner. Schools will be more effective at engaging families and communities when they move toward systemic, integrated, and sustained engagement. Thus, school districts must undertake efforts to seek parent input in decision-making and promote family participation in the education process for all students.

(Click here for more information on the importance of Family Engagement to student success.)

During this important time of year, make sure that YOUR family’s input becomes part of your school district’s budget planning and LCAP development process!

Apply now: California’s Parent Advisory Council

By California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

The California Department of Education is looking for parents and guardians of public-school students in Pre-K through 12th grade from a variety of communities throughout California, to serve on the new California Parent Advisory Council. Please share this opportunity with families, caregivers, and your extended school community so that the parent/guardian voice can be included in the conversation for equitable change in California education. (Applications are due by May 5, 2022.)

The Parent Advisory Council’s mission is to advise the State Superintendent of Public Instruction on issues of concern to families of public school students. Members are also expected to help organize and conduct community meetings, attend occasional meetings with the State Superintendent, and participate in parent outreach activities. This is a paid, two-year volunteer position.

The Parent Advisory Council works to: 

  • Actively conduct outreach to communicate with families across the state, to understand and represent parent perspectives about school programs, students’ services, and other policy issues
  • Present recommendations to California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction to support academics, social emotional learning, and family engagement among all public-school children.
  • Ensure that the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s policy decisions are informed by the voices of parents and guardians who reflect California’s student populations

Eligibility: To be eligible for the Parent Advisory Council, you must be the parent or guardian of a student enrolled in a California public school, including Early Education pre-kindergarten schools.

Membership Requirements: Members of the PAC are expected to attend quarterly Parent Advisory Council meetings.

More information can be found on the CDE website and on the Application form.

Summary of the CAAASA Conference

by Family Engagement Commission

The California State PTA is proud to partner with the California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators (CAAASA) to support its statewide professional development summit titled: An Equitable Approach to Aligning Education and Health for the Success of African American and Other Students of Color.

As a sponsor of this event we are pleased to share the valuable information and resources, below, that you can use to build equity, support students, and create family engagement in your PTA and school community:

  • The Equity Blueprint for Action, created by the San Diego County Office of Education over the past few years with the aid of students, parents, teachers, staff, and district administrators. 
    • The blueprint is tied into Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) priorities and could be a model for other districts to look at as they are thinking about their own equity work. Additionally, their website is full of great information that PTAs, as well as schools and school districts, can use in this important work of making everyone feel welcomed.
  • Best Practices for Facilitating College Success for African American Students, by Marlene Garcia the Executive Director of the California Student Aid Commission  
    • New legislation requires all high school seniors in our state to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This document helps students see a few things that are important in determining whether or not they can afford college: 
      •  Gives their family’s expected contribution (FEC) which is the amount that colleges or universities will expect their families to pay toward college 
      •  Shows how much funding they will receive in the form of grants or loans that they will qualify for 
      • Your PTA can support students and families by sharing how to complete the form and/or having a clinic where they can use school or library computers to fill in the form
  • The Palmdale Promise is a document created by the Palmdale School District over the span of a decade, to help their K-8 district ensure that every African American student is successful. 
    • They looked at their testing data and noticed that their African American students were not scoring well in the areas of language arts or mathematics. This document is being used on school campuses to inform their LCAPs and is shared with parents and community members to help them focus on these students and the support they need. 
  • Three experts in the field of early childhood learning spoke about universal pre-K that will finally be fully implemented for all four year old children in the 2025-2026 school year and how that will have a huge impact on Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) children. They also shared with us the state’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care which helps schools, communities and families understand just how critical early learning can be for the success of children. 
  • The conference closed with an extraordinary Plenary Session: Addressing Misinformation and Educational Concerns in Communities of Color Due to COVID19.  Panelists: California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, President of Voice of Our Fathers, Lillie Tyson Head, a legacy foundation founded by the descendants of the African American men who were victims in the Tuskegee Study, and Camila Chavez Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation along with her mom Dolores Huerta, Co-founder of the United Farm Workers Association. 
  • The speakers explained the importance of factual educational information around COVID19 especially in communities with significant historical abuse and medical experimentation. The discussion started by acknowledging that as recently as between 1997 and 2014, over 1,000 women were forcibly sterilized in California prisons, most of them Black. There is a reason for mistrust of medicine in communities of color.
    • Superintendent Thurmond shared how the state is partnering with local education agencies to help increase awareness about vaccinations and COVID 19 safety protocols.  
    • Chavez explained how her organization worked to help Latinx families gain access to Covid-19 vaccines and how they worked to ensure front line workers including farm workers were among the first to be eligible for the vaccines. And she pointed out that a recently 
    • Tyson Head explained some of the history of mistrust among African American families.  Especially toward the medical profession because they have been mistreated and abused throughout history. Voice of our Fathers was formed by descendants of the 623 African American uninformed men from Tuskegee/Macon County, Alabama who were victims of physical and social abuse in the United States Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee and Macon County, Alabama. Her father was one of the men that was used in this experiment for years without his knowledge or consent. Thanks to the advocacy of families such as hers, we now have to complete medical consent forms before any medical procedure.  
  • The panelists all agreed that addressing and acknowledging our history is important as we inform and educate the public about health policies. 

California State PTA is proud to partner with CAAASA. There are great, free, resources, tools, and virtual programming for anyone to enjoy on their website

8 Tips for Families with Young Children 

By California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

Did you know that during the first three years of life, brain development is especially rapid, with more than 700 neural connections created each second? This means that more is learned — at a faster rate — than at any other time in a child’s life. That’s why parent, guardian, and caregiver interactions with infants and toddlers have long-lasting impacts on development and throughout life. As we celebrate the Week of the Young Child, April 9-15th, here are some of our favorite family engagement tips for families with young children:

  • Set up daily routines including healthy eating and sleeping habits
  • Respond to cues and clues by noticing changes in a child’s moods and habits
  • Surround a child with language by talking, reading, and singing to them
  • Encourage safe exploration, discovery, and play
  • Talk to a child about feelings and teach words to describe those feelings
  • Increase outdoor play and limit TV, video game, computer, and screen time
  • Communicate with daycare providers or preschool teachers about how your child is doing
  • Recognize that each child is unique

For more information on early childhood development, including how to select the best preschool for your child, visit our website.

Family Engagement Opportunities at the 2022 Convention

By California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

The Family Engagement Commission is excited to meet you at our upcoming state convention on April 29-May 1 in Ontario! We have been planning workshops to help you take your PTA family engagement to the next level. Bonus: these workshops are also full of information that is valuable to you as a parent. 

Expanding your Engagement is our foundational course in family engagement. Learn more about the National Standards for Family Engagement including ways to use them to evaluate the programs at your school and how to move your school towards being even more inclusive to all families. Our commissioners will share suggestions and resources to engage families at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. This workshop is being presented twice, once in Spanish and once in English.

Family Engagement: Learn, Share, Grow is an interactive, member led table talk where we get to learn from one another! Participants will be able to choose five rotations from ten different family engagement topics. Join us to share your best ideas, brainstorm with fellow PTA members throughout the state, and learn from other convention attendees. At the conclusion of the workshop, every participant will receive the complete list of proven family engagement ideas generated by attendees during the workshop.

Building CommUNITY and Cultural Capacity in PTA. Special guest speaker Jacqueline “Kiki” Bispo, a family engagement specialist from Vista Unified School District, will help participants build cultural capacity by diving into the ability to understand, appreciate and work effectively with culturally diverse groups. This is an interactive session with Spanish interpretation. When you leave this class you will be prepared to strengthen relationships and improve inclusion within your school and community.  

The Path to College/Career A Family Voyage.  During this workshop, you will hear about the college and career experience from a diverse panel of speakers: a student, a parent, an educator, and a college consultant. Topics will include how to help your child find the right college, funding opportunities/scholarships, strategies for finding the best career path for your child, and more! Bring your questions and be ready to take lots of notes during this workshop filled with practical tips and useful information. Note: this is not just for high school parents, you’ll find information and resources on preparing for college and career at all ages and grade levels. 

As an added bonus all participants attending Family Engagement workshops will receive a family engagement ribbon to add to their Convention name badges.  

There are many workshop offerings at the 2022 Convention — whether you are a Convention first-timer or a seasoned PTA leader. You can view the workshop list on our website, then register for your top workshop choices. Attendees will have access to the Convention Program Book and will find the most up-to-date information in the Convention App.

We can’t wait to see you in Ontario!

Celebrating Arts in Education Month at Home

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission and Arts Committee

March is Arts in Education month.  Here are some resources and tips to help you celebrate:

Here are five reasons to make art a part of your family time: 

  1. Art is something that all ages can enjoy together! The entire family, from grandparents to babies, can participate together in song and dance (even if you are holding little ones as you move). Once a child reaches preschool-age they begin to enjoy forms of visual arts including coloring and painting, which are great activities for the entire family. 
  2. Art is calming.  When frustration or stress runs high, participating in a form of the arts can be calming. Taking a moment to listen to a song, write a poem, color a picture, or sculpt something out of clay gives your brain a distraction from its normal thoughts and can lower tension. 
  3. Art can help you express your thoughts. As children grow, they are constantly experiencing new feelings, emotions, events, and situations that can be confusing or overwhelming. When you see your child might be feeling overwhelmed, take a break to paint, play an instrument, write, draw or dance. This allows them to express these new feelings in a way that is developmentally appropriate. This can also be helpful for adults who are dealing with the challenges of loss, grief, or sadness. 
  4. Art builds confidence.  As children take an idea and turn it into a finished product they gain skills of problem-solving, resilience, and confidence. Art allows us to think out of the box we can turn a toilet paper roll into a car or use crayons to make a  color we want to use all skills that are so beneficial to our children in life. There are no rules in creating art.  
  5. Art makes us happy! Think back to the pandemic when we were locked down and isolated where did we turn?  TO THE ARTS!  We watched movies, found new hobbies like baking, photography, or painting. We played our instruments or sang along to our favorite music experiencing art can evoke joy. Incorporating art into your family routine can increase your family’s happiness, too. 

Arts can include:

  • visual art including drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, architecture
  • performing arts including singing, dancing, drama, playing an instrument
  • culinary arts
  • digital/media arts including filmmaking, digital photography, graphic design
  • literary art including poetry, literature

Now that you know how much value the arts can bring to your family, here are some suggestions on how to make art a part of your family’s regular schedule:

  • Have art supplies readily available. Paper, crayons, paper towel tubes, etc. If you have supplies in an easily accessible spot for you, as the parent, creativity doesn’t have to be a chore.
  • Schedule time to do something artistic. Take twenty minutes each day to stop what you are doing and participate in an art activity. Take photos during your evening walk, listen to music and dance, draw a picture, or bake something fun all of these count as artistic activities. To avoid distractions, turn off your phone (or place it in silent mode) so you can be in the moment with your family.  
  • Allow everyone’s creativity to flow. Use this time to free your mind and let go of the rules you adhere to the rest of the day. Try not to say no, or give too many directions/instructions. If an activity is messy move it outdoors, put on old T-shirts as smocks, and leave your shoes inside.  Do your best to remove all barriers that might pull you away from your art time. 

For more ideas on making art a part of your family time, including some fun activities, visit the California State PTA Resource Library



Interview: Ways to Include and Engage the Men in Your PTA

Byline: LaQuisha Anderson, Family Engagement Commissioner

The California State PTA Family Engagement Commission sat down with PTA dad Murali Vasudevan to discuss his experience serving in the PTA at his daughter’s schools, ABC Council PTA, and Thirty-Third District PTA for many years. Watch the video interview to learn more about Vasudevan’s experience and find ways you can include, create engagement, and involve men in your PTA. 

Do you have a great Family Engagement story, practice, or idea for building parent and caregiver involvement? Please share it with us and you may be featured on our social media.

Keeping Family School Partnerships Strong as COVID Challenges Continue

by By Kathleen Fay, California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant

When families are involved in their children’s education they have better outcomes and when families and schools are partners all children do better.  That’s the findings of more than 20 years of research on family engagement.  But the trick is how do you get families involved and keep them involved?  

Keeping families engaged with schools can be difficult even in the best of times, add in a worldwide pandemic and the challenge increases. COVID-19 upended the usual families engagement activities and school district  rules about who can be on school campuses and when. Yet the pandemic also underscored the importance of families and schools working together. 

In Orange County, a forum hosted by Fourth District PTA, included a panel of school district superintendents discussing how their districts are handling family engagement challenges as the pandemic continues. Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Utilize Surveys – Inviting direct input from parents is critical in helping to insightfully determine spending priorities and learn how to meet student and family needs.
  • Adjust – Remain flexible to “meet parents where they are” (such as adjusting schedules, offering virtual options, or providing outdoor meeting alternatives).
  • Reach out to those families we don’t normally see – This is an important time to offer outreach to segments of the school community who face challenges staying in touch with their schools (due to language barriers, technology gaps, or work/childcare time limitations, for example).
  • Offer communication from leaders – As the stress of COVID continues, it’s important for parents to hear from their school community leaders more often and in greater detail than usual, including information on available resources and how to access them.
  • Tech tools – use all available.  Many schools experienced an astonishing increase in participation when parent-teacher conferences went virtual, and PTAs saw big boosts in attendance when meetings and presentations were offered on Zoom or via webinar.  Leveraging technology allows you to reach families in new ways.  Parents appreciate being able to engage in school activities without having to take the day off work.  It’s likely that many schools will keep new technologies that have proven useful even after the pandemic ends.
  • Listen to parents.  It’s important to remember that parents are children’s primary educators:  Listen to them when they advocate for what students truly need.  The voice of the parent is central to all education efforts; parents must be engaged as authentic partners in education.
  • Encourage two-way communication.  Many families are used to having information flow to them from school leaders; promote feedback by encouraging the use of email, for example, to stimulate direct back-and-forth interactions between school leaders and parents.
  • Be patient, kind, and show love when dealing with families during this stressful time.

PTA leaders can encourage their schools, districts, and members to work together, using these ideas,  to ensure that parents and schools remain partners in education. Decades of  research shows when families and schools work together students succeed.


A High School Counselor Shares Tips for Families to Help Preparing Their Child for College or Career

By: Family Engagement Commission

A high school counselor shares tips on how families and counselors can work together for success after high school.  February 7-11 is National School Counseling Week. Kimberly Goller, a counselor at Canyon High School in William S. Hart Union High School District, recently shared her thoughts on the subject with the California State PTA Family Engagement Commission (FEC).  

FEC: How can families help their child prepare for college or career?

Goller: Talk about your job and the things you love about your work. Kids often have no idea what their family members do for a living and they tend to gravitate toward jobs they know. They see teachers and understand what they do, so they think about teaching. They see their doctor and begin to think about being a physician. Help them begin to think about lots of different career options simply by talking to family and friends about their jobs. There are also lots of free online resources to help families with this: 

For kids who want to aim for college, they will need your support with study skills and scheduling. About 30% of students dropout of college after their first year according to the Education Data Initiative. When we ask students why they are leaving college they often tell us that school is so hard. Many of these kids are sailing through high school AP and honors classes because school has always come easy for them. They begin college and don’t know how to take notes, plan their study schedule, and be more independent learners. Parents play a huge role in helping students develop those skills so they can be successful in college. 

Also, I suggest you begin to visit college campuses as early as possible. The idea of college and the reality are two different things — your child might be drawn to a UC school, but when they realize they might be in a class with 800 other students that might be a turn-off. Let them see what different campuses look and feel like to help them determine the best fit for them.

FEC: High school is a big transition, how can families help their children prepare for this?

Goller: One of the big issues we see at both the transition from elementary to junior high (or middle) school and then again from junior high to high school are changes in friend groups. During these transition times, friends change — kids begin to associate more with the kids from their sports team, their fellow band-mates, or their classmates.  Sometimes kids that have been friends for years, find they don’t have as much in common any more and feelings can get hurt. Families can help their children understand that this is normal. In high school, students may feel a lot of pressure and there can be perceived levels of competition. Parents can help remind their children to be kind to themselves and others. 

FEC: How can the PTA partner with the counseling office to support students and families in the community?

Goller: Our counseling door office is always open — we love to hear from families! We are here as a resource to everyone and we could offer parent education on topics including college and career readiness, parenting groups (dealing with high school kids can be challenging), or social-emotional issues like dating or friendship in secondary schools. We also need feedback from families as to what is going well and what we can do better — we want to be proactive as opposed to reactive. Sadly sometimes parent groups (and parents) don’t reach out to us because they don’t want to be judged. We are here to support you and your child. 

Looking for more information on College and Career? Or just looking for more ways your PTA can create and support family engagement in your school community? Visit our blog and search “Family Engagement” for articles and information from the California State PTA Family Engagement Commission.

National School Counseling Week is February 7-11

By: Family Engagement Commission

There are many people on a school campus that families should become acquainted with — one key person is the school counselor. The week of February 7th is National School Counseling Week. To help families understand more about the counselor’s role, commissioners from the California State PTA Family Engagement Commission (FEC) reached out to Kimberly Goller, a counselor at Canyon High School in William S. Hart Union High School District for her thoughts. 

FEC:  Tell us a little bit about your journey to counseling.

Goller:  I began as a junior high and high school teacher, teaching history, reading, Japanese, and Sign Language. Our district was opening a new school to help students who hadn’t been promoted after four years and I was so intrigued. Turns out I was the only teacher in the district who applied, so I got the job. As I was teaching there I came across a lot of kids who had serious life issues and we had no counselor to support them at our site. One day I was helping a student who had been raped —as I was helping her get the services she needed for her mental and physical health I realized that that’s what I wanted to do full-time. I went back to school to get my Masters in Counseling and have worked as a counselor in both junior high and high school ever since. I have been here at Canyon High School for thirteen years. 

FEC:  How is  counseling different  at the high school, junior high, or elementary school levels?

Goller:  Iin elementary school there are a few counselors for the entire district. They focus mainly on group counseling for things like grief and divorce, and they do very little individual work with students. However since the pandemic, funding for social emotional health of students has increased, so I’m hoping this will change. 

At the junior high and high school levels we focus more on academics with our students — helping them to be successful in their courses. In our district, the junior high school counselors do class presentations on things like college and career preparation, in addition to some group work with students. In high school we are mainly working one to one with students to help them remove barriers so they are successful in high school and beyond. 

FEC:  What are some ways that families can connect with their counselor?

Goller:  First of all, children should be encouraged to get to know their counselor. We can be a great resource for them, and we love it when they come to check in. 

In secondary schools (middle and high school), we do talk about students self-advocating and reaching out to us directly when they are in need of help— however, if your child is in need of assistance and they aren’t reaching out—we hope that parents feel that they can reach out to us as well. Sometimes parents assume that teachers are sharing information with counselors, but that isn’t always the case — so please keep your child’s counselor up-to-date if they are missing school for extended periods or if they need any kind of social, emotional, or academic support. 

We want to be proactive with our students, but often we find ourselves in reactive mode since we were late to get involved. Our counseling offices are also judgment-free zones —we know that parenting is hard (especially for high school-aged kids). If you reach out to us to ask for support, we are not judging your parenting —we simply want to help. 

FEC: What’s the best part of being a school counselor? 

Goller:  THE KIDS!!!! Without question, the best part of my job is getting to know the kids. Before I leave every day I write four summons so I know I will get to see at least four kids the next day. I only have four years with your child, so I’m going to do everything I can to move the blocks out of their way to make their future brighter.

Use National School Counselor Week as an opportunity to begin a dialog with your child’s counselor it might just make their day!