The state of California is in the midst of overhauling public school finance as a result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s local control funding formula, which gives school districts greater latitude in setting priorities for how state funding for education will be used.
One of the requirements of the funding formula is that school districts create a Local Control Accountability Plan, which the county office of education will reference when evaluating whether a school district is using state funding effectively.
One of the eight mandatory elements of a school district’s accountability plan is “parent engagement,” and districts are required to state how they will approach parent engagement in their first such plan, which is due June 30.
The California State PTA envisions parent engagement in these terms: “Well-informed parents make a vital difference. With new academic standards, (statewide standardized online) tests, and the new funding and local accountability systems, it’s crucial that parents engage, not only to support their own children’s education, but to help guide decision-making at their schools,” according to a PTA assessment guide that went out to local PTAs this month.
“Authentic engagement is much more than a one-time check-box on a form. It’s about building a culture at every school where parents and family members feel welcomed, respected and appreciated — a culture where information is freely shared, and input is sought and genuinely considered.”
School districts up and down California are preparing and implementing parent engagement plans as a result. In Davis, a large meeting was held Feb. 4 at North Davis Elementary School, featuring speakers from throughout the school district who shared information about programs that are working at their sites.
“The purpose of our Parent Engagement Night was to increase student achievement by sharing best parent engagement practices from across the district so individual sites can benefit from the work of other school communities in the district,” said Associate Superintendent Clark Bryant.
“Benefits to parent engagement include increased student achievement, school safety and a school culture that supports parents and their children,” he added. This includes “supporting families as they engage in their child’s education.”
Bryant gave a presentation about the new online standardized tests that Davis students will take after spring break; they replace the old paper-and-pencil STAR tests. This year, California students will take a practice test and students and schools will not be rated on the results.
Other speakers included Janet Boulware on the topic of “Engaging Latino Families”; retired teacher Martha Beetley on “Dialogic Reading Project for Preschool, Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten”; Juliana Ramirez, Liza Lopez and Sarah Fonte on “Home Visits Make a Difference”; Carol Stewart on “Parents and Project-Based Learning”; Diana Zaragoza, Kristine Weir and Sue Darst on “Math Nights and the Common Core”; school climate coordinator Kate Snow on “Connecting Conversation — Creating Inclusive Communities”; and Bill Storm on “School Loop.”
Handouts from the Feb. 4 meeting, as well as other information about the parent engagement efforts in the Davis school district, are available online at www.djusd.net/parent.
According to Maggie Steele, the California State PTA’s vice president for family engagement, “school districts should be sure to embed parent engagement throughout their entire (developing) Local Control Accountability Plans. There are no shortcuts to raising student achievement or to building successful parent engagement. Each takes an investment of time and resources and ongoing commitment by school districts, educators, parents and community partners working together.”
National PTA President Otha Thornton points out that “decades of research shows that when families and schools work together, student achievement increases, schools improve and communities grow stronger.”
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or 530-747-8055.