For many, it’s just common sense. The more a student’s family is engaged in their child’s learning and in the improvement of their child’s school, the better off the student and the school. On Wednesday, Secretary Duncan joined more than 80 family engagement thought leaders at DC’s Scholars Stanton Elementary School to discuss the strong correlation between family engagement and academic outcomes, and how the Department of Education can provide more support.
Research supports the common sense idea that family plays a vital role in student performance. Yet despite the evidence and logic, many schools and educators struggle with how to cultivate and sustain effective family engagement initiatives. The Department of Education has taken some steps to provide more support in the area of family engagement, but Secretary Duncan readily admits that it hasn’t done enough.
As part of Wednesday’s event, Dr. Karen Mapp of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a consultant to Department, unveiled a draft framework of new ideas about the possible future direction and focus for family engagement at the Department of Education.
The framework had been a year in the making as Dr. Mapp met with a variety of senior staff members to gauge how a framework embedded with research and modeled after best practices would be operationalized at the Department.
Stanton Elementary is an example of how a school can build positive relationships with families and allow teachers to gain family support in and out of the classroom. Stanton’s family engagement strategy is the type of initiative the new framework would endorse. Through a partnership between the Flamboyan Foundation and Scholar Academies, Stanton utilizes Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT), replacing traditional parent-teacher conferences.
APTT, developed by Maria Paredes, brings parents into classroom more often than once a year and creates an environment where families work as a team to improve the class’s performance, sharing strategies for supporting their students at home and learning techniques from the classroom teacher. Teachers also visit their students’ families at home, too. Stanton’s success with APTT, as well as help from a Department of Education School Improvement Grant, has contributed to a dramatic increase in the academic performance of students and a cultural shift at the school.
During the visit, which included classroom visits, Secretary Duncan listened to a panel discussion with panelists Principal Caroline John, teachers Melissa Bryant and Megan Lucas, and parents Katrina Branch and Michael Hudson. The panelists spoke passionately in support of family engagement and how it has benefited the entire school community. Bryant said that family engagement “made me want to keep being a teacher.”