Family-School Partnership Standard #4: Speaking Up for Every Child

by Heather Ippolito, Vice President Family Engagement Commission

October 2021 Family Engagement

The fourth PTA National Standard for Family-School Partnerships calls for empowering families to speak up and advocate for their child and other children to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.  

Families often need help in this area, as many don’t feel comfortable speaking up in school or district meetings. PTA and school administrators can do so much to help build confidence in our parents and caregivers. Here are a few ways you can help build capacity in this area:

Parents need to understand their rights and responsibilities. The California Department of Education oversees rights that are written into law as part of the California Education Code. Many families are unaware that they have the right to do things like review the curriculum their child is learning, observe their child in their classroom and participate in committees or councils at the school and district levels. School administrators and PTA units can help families understand these rights by doing annual information nights in multiple languages, including these rights in newsletters or on the website, and advertising opportunities for parent engagement in the committees and councils.

As issues arise on your campus, your PTA can host discussions for parents, students, teachers, staff, and administrators to come together and work toward solutions. Having all parties in a room together can spark creative solutions to issues and allow everyone to feel heard and involved.

Provide families with advocacy training. Advocacy is a scary term for many parents, but at the school level, advocacy can be as simple as asking your teacher for a resource your child needs or sharing a concern with the school principal. Show parents that all forms of advocacy small at the school site or larger efforts like speaking to legislators are welcomed and needed for our children to succeed. 

Families need to understand how the school system works. Who do they talk to if they have concerns about their child? When should they involve the principal? What offices at the district office are there to support student learning? California State PTA has the School Smarts Family Engagement Program that, over seven sessions, helps families at your school answer those questions and build capacity for greater advocacy and involvement. You can get more information about this program by emailing programsupport@capta.org 

You can download the comprehensive document PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, or get started with this brief summary. You might also want to share our previous blog posts: 

Introduction to the National Standards

Standard 1- Welcoming All Families

Standard 2- Communicating Effectively

Standard 3- Supporting Student Success

What is Family Engagement?

By Heather Ippolito, Vice President for Family Engagement

In PTA we often talk about family engagement, but what does it really mean and why is it so very important?  

Family engagement with schools has many definitions:  

  • The US Department of Health and Human Services: Family engagement is the process used to build genuine relationships with families. Relationships with families support overall family well-being and children’s healthy development. When families are engaged, partnerships are created that have a common focus– helping children grow and thrive.
  • In 2010 the National Family, School and Community Engagement Working Group (now the NAFSCE Policy Council) defined family engagement like this: “Family engagement is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage families in meaningful ways and in which families are committed to actively supporting their children’s learning and development.”
  • National PTA defines transformative family engagement 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.

Research shows family engagement is a major factor in student success, with an encouraging home environment serving as a bigger factor in student achievement than a parent’s income, education level or cultural background. It also tells us that family engagement:

  • Promotes healthy development and wellness in children
  • Increases graduation rates for those students whose families are involved on campus
  • Decreases dropout rates and behavior issues in students whose families participate on campus
  • Increases a child’s academic and social skills

What does this all boil down to for our  PTA unit, council and district leaders? Family engagement is something you do daily. Your programs and events help bring families to your campus and better understand educational issues that impact their children. When you help create and foster relationships between families, the school and the greater community, the students at your school thrive.  

Our goal as the California State PTA Family Engagement Commission is to give you concrete ideas to make this task easier. Every Friday on the blog we will share family engagement tips, best practices, and resources that will help you as you plan activities on your campus. We are so excited to work alongside you this term! 

Next steps:

  • This year at your first executive board meeting set three family engagement goals. Some examples of family engagement goals are:
  • Increase involvement of fathers, grandfathers, and other male family members in PTA and school events
  • Increase parent and family participation in the Local Control Accountability Plan and Local Control Funding Formula meetings
  • Take at least three actions this year to make your existing programs more accessible for families of children with special needs. For example, open up your Fall Harvest Festival 30 minutes early for these families so they can enjoy the activities with smaller crowds and less sensory stimulation.

Share with us your goals and you might be recognized in our social media (or win a prize). Email them to familyengagement@capta.org 

  • We also want to hear about your best family engagement activities. Complete this simple form and your school may be featured here on the blog, in our social media or on our website. 

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