Oscar E. Cruz & Yolie Flores
As education advocates we know the powerful connection between student achievement and parent engagement.
Take any student; no matter what grade they’re in, which school they attend, their ethnic or racial background, their age, what part of the state they live in – take your pick of factors, but when you get their parents involved, that student will always do better in school. The research behind this is well documented and well known.
But like the quality of education those schools offer across the state, the quality and even the commitment to parent engagement is anything but consistent.
That’s one of the reasons why we as education advocates and community leaders are behind Governor Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula Initiative, (LCFF). LCFF is, in fact, a significant victory for parent engagement advocates. The law makes parent engagement one of eight state-wide priorities and holds districts to a higher standard and great level of commitment to parent engagement than ever before.
To begin with, the law requires districts to solicit the opinion of parents when developing their education plans. They are required to solicit parent input through community meetings, parent committees and other engagement strategies. But these types of requirements have historically fallen short of effectively reaching out to parents and addressing the real needs. For example, concerns have been raised about how schools interact with low-income, immigrant, foster, or disadvantaged families. Many of these parents have faced discrimination at their children’s schools and therefore feel undervalued in their child’s education. Many schools fail to provide adequate guidance to parents who are trying to support their child’s academic success. Given these conditions, a handful of community meetings and advisory committees are simply not enough. For these families, authentic parent engagement must also include changing the culture of the school district and each school site. We believe LCFF aims to achieve that.
More importantly, LCFF intends to fundamentally change the way schools interact with parents on a day-to-day basis, from how parents influence regular decision-making in their child’s school to how parents are engaged as partners to support learning. Parent engagement is no longer a “check-the-box” formality. It is an outcome in itself, as important as other statewide education priorities such as improving test scores, maintaining quality facilities, or implementing Common Core.
A critical component of LCFF is the Local Control and Accountability Plan – or the LCAP. All school districts are required to create these plans that essentially describe how they will address the eight state-wide priorities and meet their local educational objectives. The State Board of Education has been working to develop templates for these LCAPs that school districts must complete by July of this year.
Initial drafts of the LCAP by the State Board of Education were very vague and did not explicitly ask school districts to show how they are going to change school culture to better engage parents and families. However, because of the advocacy work of our statewide partners, the LCAP template released last week is more explicit on this LCFF priority. Advocates are asking the State Board and districts to listen to the voices of thousands of families from across the state who are demanding a more parent-friendly school culture; a welcoming environment where parents are treated as valuable contributors to their child’s education rather than mere spectators. Parents demand that schools provide them with resources and guidance so they can help their children and make the right choices for them.
Like the Spanish adage warns, “Del Dicho al Hecho Hay Mucho Trecho” (it is easier said than done). That’s why Families In Schools (FIS) is championing the importance of parent engagement. We invite you to join our statewide campaign and learn more by visiting www.parentsmatternow.org.
FIS and our growing network of supporters will work to keep the State for Board of Education and districts accountable for ensuring the intent of the law is reflected in all guidelines and regulations. We demand and expect a “family- centered” education system that invests in authentic parent engagement to support student learning.
Oscar E. Cruz is President & CEO of Families In Schools, a nonprofit organization working to involve parents and communities in their children’s education to achieve lifelong student success.
Yolie Flores is a Senior Policy Advisor to Families In Schools and a former member of the LAUSD Board of Education