Family Engagement: More than PTA Meetings

Happy New Year! Welcome back from a year-end break. While the blog has been quiet for a few weeks, plenty is happening in 21st Century Education. We invite you, our loyal readers, to send us your ideas and happenings to spotlight through the year in this blog!

We start by sharing some excellent research on family engagement in Washington DC in both charter and district schools. The Flamboyan Foundation, led by Kristin Ehrgood, a Teach for America alumnus, did focus groups and built “learning partnerships” with 11 DC schools, charter and district. They discovered that different family engagement has different impact. The traditional PTA or potluck dinner doesn’t do it anymore.

As summarized by David Osborne in his column in US New and World Report, the Foundation research highlighted five key roles that families play:

  • Communicating high expectations and the value of learning to their individual child
  • Monitoring progress and holding their child accountable
  • Supporting learning at home
  • Advocating for their children
  • Guiding major decisions to college or career


The problem is, teachers aren’t trained to help parents do these things. So what would happen if we invested in training teachers to guide the parents? Actually, a lot!

Flamboyan reports that one study showed “teachers who reached out to parents through initiating face-to-face meetings, making phone calls, and sending information home about how to support student learning had higher student test scores than teachers who did not conduct this outreach.”

So why aren’t educators doing more of this? Why is parental engagement the biggest challenge for teachers?

During focus groups, the Flamboyan team found “across the board distrust” between parents and schools in DC—even in charter schools—based on parents’ past experiences with schools. So the answer appeared to be in training teachers to do home visits to build relationships.

These aren’t ordinary home visits. There are no checklists. It is a conversation. “Tell me about your child.  What are your hopes and dreams for him? What are your expectations of me as your child’s teacher? How do you want to be in touch with me?” The teacher leaves the parent with one expectation, like attendance or homework completion.

Do home visits like this work? Check out results Thursday.