During our recent visit to San Antonio, we had the opportunity to learn how community organizations and schools are working together to engage families in education.
We heard from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro how the community has rallied to support the expansion of pre-kindergarten education. In November, San Antonio residents approved funding for Pre-K for San Antonio that will provide over 22,000 four year olds with high-quality pre-K. President Obama has put forth a “Preschool for All” proposal in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which calls for a partnership with states in making access to high-quality early learning a reality for every four-year-old in America. Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in school.
We joined a family engagement convening hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and we were able to see first-hand the work of two-generation approaches to education development at AVANCE and the Intercultural Development Research Association.
During our visit to the Eastside Promise Neighborhood we learned how family and community engagement efforts being led by the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County are moving forward the three goals of Together for Tomorrow:
- They are laying the groundwork by dedicating staff and volunteers to cultivate and sustain partnerships;
- They are focusing on the ABCs, Attendance, Behavior, Course Performance, and College Access through things like parent volunteers doing visits to homes when students are repeatedly absent; and
- They are celebrating and inspiring families and community members to get involved through events that are organized and executed by parents.
We also organized a community discussion to share about Together for Tomorrow, to learn more about local promising practices and examples of school-family partnerships, and to gather feedback to shape the Department’s family engagement efforts. Hedy Chang from Attendance Works joined us to announce a new toolkit, Bringing Attendance Home: Engaging Parents in Preventing Chronic Absence
The event was live streamed and the video is available here. We were joined by our partners, the National Center for Family Literacy, and will be working with them over the coming months to deepen our family and community engagement efforts with Together for Tomorrow.
Brenda Girton-Mitchell is director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education