There is a Parent Education event coming up on Tuesday, January 15 from 7-8:30 in the Inglewood Middle School Commons Area, sponsored by the Inglewood PTSA to help educate parents about Youth Mental Health Initiatives in LWSD.  There will be Panel Speakers discussing “increasing awareness of youth mental health needs, reducing stigma, and collaborating to eliminate gaps in accessing needed supports.” 

The reason this is being addressed in the Legislative Section of our own PTA is that it involves a rethinking of Family and Community Engagement and its affects.  The Statewide PTSA has set a Legislative Priority for 2019 to help families engage more with student success through Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Coordinators within the schools.  Our goal is to have one in every school.

The reasons for having a FACE Coordinator in each of the LWSD schools are pretty weighty; the outcomes are better for everything from attendance, grades, higher graduation and postsecondary enrollment rates – all regardless of income or background.  The Washington legislature acknowledged the importance of family engagement by adding Parent Involvement Coordinators (PICs) to the prototypical school funding model.  However, in 2016-17, the total number of PICs hired statewide was only 100.4

The Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (EOGOAC), created in 2009 to address the opportunity gap in Washington State, has determined family and community engagement a key component of an integrated student supports model to close opportunity gaps.  The committee recommended in 2016 that all school districts have the funding for at least one Family Engagement Coordinator at the elementary, middle and high school levels.  However, in the 2017 legislative session, the recommended allocations for PICs to be allocated to 1.0FTE in all schools only led to appropriations being made for 1.0FTE at elementary schools.

On January 2017, the WSPTA Family and Community Engagement Director, Judy East, testified in the House Appropriations Committee for Jay Inslee’s Proposed Education Budget.  Alongside two other primary platform topics, Ms. East explained the WSPTA’s platform regarding the FACE program focus as, “A focus on social and emotional health with enhancements for family engagement coordinators, mental health, and counselors.” (Legislative Platform statement of the WSPTA)

 Schools that succeed in engaging families from very diverse backgrounds share three key practices:
• Focus on building trusting collaborative relationships among teachers, families, and community members.
• Recognize, respect, and address families’ needs, as well as class and cultural difference
• Embrace a philosophy of partnership where power and responsibility are shared.

In the 2002 study done by Henderson and Mapp, “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections of Student Achievement”
It was found that this idea of creating connections not just between parents and teachers, but community members as well, created a significant improvement on student scores and behaviors.  The best question they answer in the study is “How can we put these findings into action?  Success started with three key practices:  first, focus on building collaborative and trusting relationships, second, recognize, respect, and address family needs and differences, and, finally, understand that partnership operates on an understanding of shared power and responsibility.  The roadmap looks like this:

• Recognize that all parents – regardless of income, education, or cultural background – are involved in their children’s learning and want their children to do well.
• Design programs that will support families to guide their children’s learning, from preschool through high school
• Develop the capacity of school staff to work with families
• Link efforts to engage families, whether based at school or in the community, to student learning.
• Build families’ social and political connections
• Focus efforts to engage families and community members on developing trusting and respectful relationships
• Embrace a philosophy of partnership and be willing to share power with families.  Make sure that parents, school staff and community members understand that the responsibility for children’s educational development is a collaborative enterprise
• Build strong connections between schools and community organizations
• Include families in all strategies to reduce the achievement gap among white, middle-class students and low-income students and students of color.
(Henderson and Mapp, 2002 P. 8)

It will be exciting to see how the FACE program helps to change our community for the better.  By supporting programs such as the Inglewood MS FACE program for the community understanding Youth Mental Health Issues, you would be moving LWSD forward in their mission to connect community and schools, you would be supporting your student through being better informed and being more deeply involved, and, perhaps even see a way to change a child’s life and future trajectory in the long-term.  



Citations:

1. Most substantive information was taken directly from the WSPTA website.  I did not put this in quotes because all of my research was from the WSPTA.org website.
2. 2019 Legislative Priority - Engaging Families in Student Success
Henderson, Anne and Mapp, Karen.  sedl.org.  “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections of Student Achievement.”  Annual Synthesis 2002  National Center for Family and Community, Connections with Schools.