The Parent and Family Engagement Connection – A Workshop for Ecosystem leaders
This workshop was held in April 2019 at the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice Spring 2019 Convening.
Speakers: Debbi Stone, Tampa Bay STEM Network; Larry Plank, Tampa Bay STEM Network; Mitchell Whittier, STEM-NM (Albuquerque, NM); Tunde Onitiri, South Jersey STEM & Innovation Partnership (SJSIP)
Leaders from the Tampa Bay STEM Network, STEM-New Mexico (STEM-NM), and the South Jersey STEM & Innovation Partnership (SJSIP) offer an overview of parent engagement strategies and partnerships.
Baking family engagement strategies in from the start
The Tampa Bay STEM Network uses six goals to guide the ecosystem’s work, including family engagement. One of Tampa’s foundational partners was a parent engagement organization, which allowed their ecosystem to intentionally build family engagement into everything they do.
Tampa’s leadership believes that in order to take family engagement seriously, it must be a stated goal with measurements set from beginning around progress. Family engagement initiatives must also be focused, meaningful, genuine and inclusive.
Tampa’s ecosystem operates a Parent University that is completely STEM-focused and equips parents with the skills and knowledge to understand three key questions:
- What does my child do all day at school?
- What can I do at home to support what my child does all day?
- What do educators think about what’s going on in education and what should happen for my child?
Educators and families speaking the same language
STEM-NM’s program, Math FACESS – Families and Communities Engaged in Student Success – works to close the achievement gap in math, in Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico. By getting teachers and parents speaking the same language, they are able to be on the same page, supporting kids in the same way.
Schools host professional development for teachers and workshops for parents happen concurrently as part of Math FACESS, which enables relationship- and trust-building between both groups. Families and educators are able to see each other and realize that they are all working toward the same goal – to better serve their students.
Funded by the school district, Math FACESS is operated in Community Schools, with special family liaisons that act as intermediaries between teachers, outside organizations and families. These liaisons help bring families in, with a more personalized touch and pulse of the community. To expand access for families with time and means constraints, family workshops are also available online.
Not all families are the same
SJSIP leaders stress that families have different needs, therefore, providers should not be treating everyone the same. Five stages and entry points were identified to allow parents to participate in ways that best work for them.
As an example, SJSIP looks at the use of the app Bedtime Math as an effective family engagement strategy and an alternative to the traditional bedtime story. Bedtime math is a way families can practice numeracy together to inspire a love and mastery of math.
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