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Family Engagement Is Topic of PD

Representatives from every school in the district gathered Wednesday for the first of a two-day exploration of ways to improve family engagement with the goal of improving student achievement.

“This is not just feel-good work,”  said Scott Ratchford, who oversees the district’s Family and Community Partnership office. “We have mountains of evidence that tell us that building productive relationships with families pays critical dividends and leads to better student outcomes.”

The session at MCC on Main included training and support from staff from Scholastic’s Center for Active Family Engagement, which earlier this year conducted a Family Engagement Assessment in the district. The assessment included visits to each school, staff and parent surveys, even “secret shopper”-style phone calls to each school to determine how welcoming staff members are.

Consultants from CAFE presented results of the assessment at the district level; analysis of the individual school results is part of Thursday’s agenda.

Ratchford noted that family engagement initiatives are most effective “when they are woven into professional practice, not separate from it” and the presentation included a variety of insights and strategies. “Teachers work really hard already,” said Ratchford. “The idea isn’t to do more work, but to consider doing some things differently that will help students learn more, be more successful.”

(The accompanying photo shows a Robertson contingent -- Principal Stuart Wolf, literacy coach Jennifer Westfort and teacher Claudine Polochanin -- discussing district-level strengths and weaknesses.)

Ron Mirr (who works for Scholastic, which recently absorbed CAFE into its educational empire) shared four signs of attributes of an “engaged” family.

  • They know what their child should know and be able to do in core subjects (math, reading and science) by the end of the year.

  • They know how well their child is doing.

  • They know what they can do at home to support what their child is learning in the classroom.

  • They take action.

He noted that an “engaging school” welcomes families into the school and the learning process, communicates using multiple methods that encourage two-way dialogue, inform families about learning and empower families to take action.

Superintendent Matt Geary said that “it’s about partnerships.” He added: “every single time we have an interaction (with a family member), we have an opportunity to build trust and make things better for students."

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