PTA Knows Family Engagement! Learn more about the School Smarts Program

by School Smarts Committee

For nearly 125 years PTA has helped parents and caregivers make lasting connections to their school campus to benefit all children.  Over the last ten years our School Smarts family engagement program has helped over 10,000 parents understand the way the educational system works and how they can participate in it, make connections with staff and parents at their school sites, and shown them how to best support their child and their community.  

On August 24th from 10-11 a.m. our School Smarts Program Manager, Bianca De La Torre, will give a tour of the program for interested administrators, school districts and PTA leaders.  Come hear about how the program can increase family engagement on your campus and how this program can directly support student success. 

PTA Leaders – Invite your school principal to learn more about this amazing program and how families at your school can benefit from it. Join us on August 24th from 10-11 a.m.  Register here. 

Standard #1: Welcoming all families into the school community

By Heather Ippolito, VP for Family Engagement

Earlier this month we introduced the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships on the blog. You can view that article by clicking here.  Today we are going to dig a little deeper into the first standard:  

Welcoming All Families Into the School Community

As your local unit begins to think about your back to school events consider these five tips for being as inclusive as possible in welcoming ALL families:

  1. On forms and paperwork remember to be inclusive in your language.  Instead of asking for names of “moms and dads” you can ask for names of parents, caregivers, or guardians.  Asking parents for their preferred pronouns is also a great idea!
  2. Create a “Welcome Packet” for new families.  Include coupons for local businesses, maps of the community, a copy of the school newsletter, how to find the school and PTA on social media, and a list of ways parents can get involved at your school including but not limited to:  
    • School Site Council (SSC), 
    • English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC), 
    • Parent Teacher Association (PTA), 
    • Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and other school or district committees.  
  3. Don’t forget to include a way to join your PTA!   Every time a new family enrolls the school office staff can give them the welcome packet.
  4. PTA volunteers call new families to personally invite them to the back-to-school events, offering to help them find transportation if they need it.
  5. Survey families (in their home language if possible) to see what kinds of programs they are interested in and what kinds of support they need from the school.

We want to hear from you!  What activities have you done to welcome families?  Share them with us and we might feature them here on the blog or on our social media channels– simply fill out this quick form and let us know what you’ve done to welcome schools to your campus.

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Introduction to the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships

National PTA is focused on transformative family engagement which is defined as “a shared effort of families, schools, and community leaders to advance programs, practices, and policies that empower every parent to make their child’s potential a reality.” To that end, the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships will help your school evaluate where you are in your family engagement journey and give you ideas to be more inclusive in your practices.

There are six parts to the blueprint:

  1. Welcoming all families into the school community 
  2. Communicating effectively 
  3. Supporting student success 
  4. Speaking up for every child
  5. Sharing power 
  6. Collaborating with community

Throughout the year we will be sharing with you some examples and best practices in each of these areas, but we would also love to hear from you!  What are you doing to engage families in your school, council, or district PTA? Share your great ideas by completing this form or email familyengagement@capta.org

To learn more about National PTA’s Transformative Family Engagement work, visit the Center for Family Engagement and watch this video:  

Next steps: 

  • Download the complete Guide and begin to read through it or start with the briefer summary document as an introduction.
  • Select one area of focus for your PTA to discuss at your next meeting.  Brainstorm ideas and make a plan to put one of those ideas into action at the following meeting.
  • Show the Guide to your school principal and give it to your School Site Council President.

If you missed last week’s Family Engagement Friday blog post, you can check it out here.

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Family Engagement: It’s the Law

As PTA members, we know how important family engagement is for student and school success. 

Did you know that family engagement is not just good practice? In California it’s the law! 

The California Department of Education’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) gives local school districts a lot of substantial power to make local decisions that affect their communities. Every local education authority (school district) in California has to submit a plan for how it will use the LCFF funding. 

Learn more about the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the state’s required Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) here.

Part of your district’s LCAP includes a description of how the district engages families in decision-making and planning. In 2018, California PTA worked with other state Family Engagement partners to pass AB 2828, which requires school districts and charter schools to describe their family engagement strategies and outcomes in specific ways in their annual Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP).

What does this look like in your school district?

  • Does your district make every effort to seek parent input in making decisions for your school district and your school site? 
  • How does your district plan to increase participation for students with exceptional needs?
  • What is working and not working for your district?

Learn more about measuring and reporting family engagement at “Family Engagement: It’s the Law,” a Convention 2021 presentation, live Q&A and meet-up on May 12.

Next steps:

  1. Use the National PTA checklist to measure family engagement at your own school site;
  2. Check out the National Standards for family school partnerships to get ideas; 
  3. Attend your school site or district Local Control and Accountability Plan planning meetings;
  4. Find out if your district is using the California State Self-Reflection tool; and
  5. Ask your school and your district how they will engage all families in your community.

 

About Kari Gray: A San Francisco resident, public school parent, arts advocate and community engagement specialist, Kari Gray currently works as the Special Projects Manager at ODC/Dance and serves on the Boards of Youth Arts Exchange, the Second District of the California State PTA, and on the Family Engagement Commission and Art Committee for the California State PTA.

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It’s Time for a Renewed Focus on the Old LCAP

This article was written by Kathleen Fay, member of the California State PTA Legislation Team.

A school district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) is an important tool that requires a district to identify goals, address priorities, allocate funds, implement actions, provide services, and measure results to improve student outcomes. The annual LCAP review should provide opportunities for robust parent involvement as a fundamental part of the planning process.  However, this LCAP process was turned on its head last year with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quarantines and school closures necessitated changes in the usual LCAP planning process. First, an Executive Order extended LCAP deadlines, then legislation eliminated the annual LCAP update altogether. Taking its place was the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan – by no coincidence also abbreviated as LCAP – to be used as a planning tool to address issues of distance learning, live student interactions, and attendance. The “new LCAP” included strategies to ensure a full curriculum, train staff, and address resources and technical support during the crisis. And it was all to have been put together with parent input and reported publicly.

As California now looks (hopefully) towards a post-pandemic school year, districts must return to the original LCAP model to examine how students were supported throughout the pandemic, what was done to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and consider the effects of issues such as pupil learning loss; student and staff mental health and social-emotional well-being; pupil engagement and outreach; nutrition; learning continuity; attendance; infrastructure needs; and any ongoing response to COVID-19.

In short, it’s time for school districts to take an honest look at the results of the last year and then make practical plans on how to repair any damage. This is something that PTAs should strongly encourage members to take part in – through multiple public input opportunities. These meetings should be open to input from all parents and community members. It is up to us to speak for every child with one voice.

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