Families & the Community

Parent-Engagement Practitioners Gather at National Conference

By Karla Scoon Reid — April 08, 2014 2 min read
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Organizers of the National Family Engagement Conference, which is being held in Cincinnati today, want to do more than tout how critical parent involvement can be to improve student achievement.

They want to provide specific systemic strategies to ensure school districts can infuse their school improvement efforts with parent outreach and education initiatives. It’s a conscious shift from the head-nodding in agreement that parent engagement receives during discussions about education to a roll-up-your-sleeves mentality with detailed plans of attack

The District Leaders Network on Family and Community Engagement at the Institute for Educational Leadership, a Washington-based nonprofit that supports school improvement and education initiatives, is hosting the conference. Karen L. Mapp, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education University and a founder of the network, is slated to deliver a keynote address. (You can follow tweets about the conference on Twitter at #fceconf14.)

About 500 parent-engagement experts, educators, and advocates will attend the network’s inaugural conference at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. Organizers were forced to close registrations for the event, which had reached capacity. The conference precedes the Coalition for Community Schools National Forum, which is being held at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati on Wednesday. More than 1,600 people are expected to attend at least one of the conferences.

S. Kwesi Rollins, the director of leadership programs at the Institute for Educational Leadership, told me that research consistently proves that students are more likely to achieve if they have engaged families. He said what’s been lacking, however, is providing school leaders and teachers with the knowledge to build up the capacity of their students’ families to assist and support the learning process.

The District Leaders Network on Family and Community Engagement, a peer group of district administrators, has been working and collaborating over the past four years to develop strategies to formalize the parent-engagement process, said Michele Brooks, assistant superintendent in the Office of Family and Student Engagement for Boston Public Schools and a founder of the network.

Brooks said parent engagement is not simply the “flavor of the month.” Instead, she said it’s become a vital tool to boost student achievement that is steadily gaining attention for producing impressive results. The conference will feature workshop presentations—including one by Tracy Hill, whom I featured as one of Education Week’s 2014 Leaders To Learn From, on several of these family engagement efforts. Brooks was profiled for the same series in 2013.

Brooks told me that network leaders are trying to “move school districts away from [parent-engagement] programs and think more about practice.” Family engagement, she added, should be embedded into the fiber of every school.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.