Through our work with local schools, the terms involvement and engagement are heard quite often. While they may be similar in meaning there is a strong distinction between the two that must be clearly defined if we are to be most effective when interacting with parents. To best show the distinction between these terms I want to refer to the words of Educator, and Author Larry Ferazzo. “When schools involve parents they are leading with their institutional self-interest and desires When schools engage parents they are leading with the parents’ self-interests (their wants and dreams) in an effort to develop a genuine partnership. When we’re involving parents, the parent is generally directed towards completing tasks selected by the school staff — or the parent may be a client who receives services and information. When we’re engaging parents, the parent is considered a leader or a potential leader who is integral to identifying a vision and goals. He/she encourages others to contribute their own vision to that big picture and helps perform the tasks that need to be achieved in order to reach those goals.”

While both involvement and engagement are beneficial and needed at the school level, too often do we sacrifice the impact of engagement for the easiness of involvement? Recognizing the need for stronger family engagement at our local schools, the Grassroots community organizing team has recently started work with staff at Alta Vista Elementary to train teachers on best approaches to conduct high impact family engagement strategies on their campus.
Content covered during the training included; Reasons for Family Engagement, 4 Core Beliefs that school’s should possess when engaging with families, the roles of parents at the school and how they can support their children’s learning through setting high expectations for their child and serving as advocates. These topics, along with several others, were derived from resources such as the Flamboyan Foundation, a leading organization focused on addressing inequities within education and the book “Beyond the Bake Sale” which highlights strategies for achieving effective family engagement

Going forward Alta Vista teachers, are ready to implement what they have learned and team up with parents to form a core group to develop family engagement strategies that they can begin to implement campus-wide during the 2019-2020 school year. Several strategies are being considered going forward including; how to create a welcoming environment for all visitors to the school, and activities that help parents and community members gain a better understanding of the learning that is happening within the classroom.

It is our belief that through this approach, we will not only see stronger family engagement, but we will also see stronger partnerships between teachers, parents, and the community making for a more successful school.