Friday, October 2, 2009

2009 Summit for Family Engagement in Education

On September 23-23, 2009 a Summit for Family and Parent Engagement was held at the Marriott Hotel in Albany, NY. This event is a continuation of a series of dialogues that were initiated last year in Albany to address the issue and challenges of engaging families in their children’s education in New York State. The purpose of the conference was to hold dialogues with a variety of stakeholders on how to "create systemic change in effectively engaging families and communities in closing the achievement gap". The summit is also known as the “On the Same Page Summit for Family Engagement in Education.”

The achievement gap for children in Title I schools (schools that receive special federal funding because of the high numbers of students and families living in poverty) in New York State is well documented. The NYS Board of Regents outlines policies which require and support parent involvement as a way to help close that gap, as well as request schools and agencies to work together toward this end. Research supports parent involvement as an effective method in improving a child’s achievement record, and the Board has recently adopted policies and implementation plans that require more comprehensive collaborative efforts. One of the major goals of the Summit was to provide the Regents with recommendations as to how to implement this policy. To this end, Summit participants were placed into eight “Action Teams” in order to address specific areas outlined by the Board of Regents Policy Statement. The Action Teams were:

Higher Education and Professional Certification Programs
This action team discussed possible ways to prepare teachers, administrators, and school personnel to engage families, utilizing training and assessment incorporated into professional preparation and certification processes.

Professional Staff Development Opportunities
This team discussed the creation of family engagement training and development for parents, teachers, and administrators, exploring the link between parental involvement and student achievement, integrated training and best practices programming.

Family Engagement Assessment Tools
These team members considered options for assessing family engagement such as measures on School Report Cards, self-assessment rubrics for school-based teams, and surveys to gauge public sentiment.

Parent Involvement/Family Engagement Quality Indicators
This team explored ways to improve how family engagement is addressed in current review and intervention processes for schools in New York State, and considered how family and community feedback, cultural competence enhancement, and parent-to-parent outreach can be used in school improvement planning.

Engaging Diverse Families/Cultural Competence
Sinergia's Metropolitan Parent Center participated in dialogues regarding the importance of cultural competence in increasing family involvement. This team will examine definitions of diversity and cultural competence, ways to assess and lessen cultural gaps, and examples of strong cultural connections between homes, community, and school that impact student achievement.

Engaging the Social Welfare/Healthcare Community
The team worked to define potential partners within the social welfare and health care community who can help support engagement of non-traditional families, promote family engagement in education through inter-agency networks, and identify at-risk students in order to provide school outreach programming.

Promoting Partnership with Families of Children with Disabilities
The Metropolitan Parent Center also worked with participants from advocacy organizations to consider the definition of an expanded support mechanism based on collaboration of services and resources, development of standards for parent advocacy on behalf of children; and creation of collaborative online information sources for families of children with disabilities.

Engaging the Business Community
Team members looked at ways to encourage the business community to develop policies friendly to family involvement in education. They will also consider how the schools and businesses can communicate systematically and collaborate to enhance family engagement and to prepare students for the workplace.

The teams met over the two-day summit to discuss engagement issues and then reported their recommendations to the NYS Board of Regents and Summit participants. While the Summit is over, the work of the teams is not. Each group will engage in teleconferences to discuss next steps, review research and to start setting the stage for the next Parent Engagement Summit.

In a future post we will look at specific recommendations made by the Action Teams, please visit us again soon.

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