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Building the Capacity to Engage All Families

Sherri Wilson
 | Jul 11, 2017

Family EngagementWe have 50 years of research that proves family engagement is an important strategy to improve student outcomes—so why is it still so hard to achieve? Educators, just like families, don’t get an instruction manual on how to build effective home–school partnerships. That’s why it is so important that schools and districts spend time building the capacity of all the key stakeholders to work together in meaningful ways to improve student achievement.

Building the capacity of families and teachers to work together begins by planning purposeful family engagement events that provide families with literacy strategies they can use at home to support their children’s learning. Those events must contain five essential elements that help families and educators develop the capabilities, connections, cognition, and confidence to work as partners to improve student learning.

  • Family engagement events or activities must contain a relationship component. Trusting, respectful relationships are the foundation of true partnerships.
  • Every training event or activity should leverage the strengths of families. They should be partners in both the planning and the implementation of every event and all of the events should be differentiated to meet the individual needs of families.
  • All of the events and activities should be designed to support student learning. Providing families with new strategies they can use at home to support what students learn in the classroom is one of the best ways to link families to their children’s learning.
  • Every event should include opportunities to work in groups. The best family engagement events provide many opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and dialogue.
  • Finally, every family engagement event should provide opportunities for practice and feedback using a variety of strategies. Families who feel more confident using new strategies are much more likely to continue using them at home, and confidence increases with practice.

Family engagement increases student achievement, but it doesn’t happen overnight and there is no single strategy that will work for every family or every school. Taking the time to build the capacity of both families and school staff to build effective partnerships is the only way to move from random acts of family engagement to truly engaging all stakeholders.

Sherri WilsonSherri Wilson has worked in the field of family engagement at the local, state, and federal level for more than 20 years and is a founding board member of the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement. She is currently the director of Consultative Services at Scholastic.

Sherri Wilson will present a workshop titled “Building Capacity to Engage All Families” at the ILA 2017 Conference & Exhibits, held in Orlando, FL, July 15–17.

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