National PTA standards support engagement among underrepresented families

Research has long shown that family involvement in a child’s education can have significant positive impacts — particularly among students whose families face barrier to meaningful engagement, be it for linguistic, cultural or logistical reasons.

In California, where local educational agencies are required to demonstrate that they’ve made efforts to meaningfully engage with stakeholders — including families in their community — as part of the Local Control and Accountability Plan development process, it is critical that districts consider what their families may need to be active partners in their child’s education.

In an effort to help LEAs better reach these families, the National Parent Teacher Association on Nov. 1 released updated National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, which provide guidance for building strong partnerships between families, educators and schools to support student success.

The updates were made with input from about 600 families, many of which reflected often underrepresented communities, as well as teachers and students. Overall, survey respondents reported seeing value in family engagement, shared positive ratings of their school environment and said they believe schools predominately communicate in a welcoming and respectful manner.

However, they also noted that schools can do a better job of engaging all families, educating families on engagement policies and opportunities already in place, and providing resources and support that make it possible for all families to engage with their child’s school.

This can be accomplished through an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion; approaching student success through a whole child lens; and designing outreach to be more useful for a variety of audiences. School board members play a significant role as they set the vision for their district and imagine what effective family-school partnerships should look like in their community, according to the National PTA.

Moving forward, the organization recommends schools and local PTAs work together to eliminate implicit bias in family engagement strategies, encourage involvement from historically marginalized groups through linguistically and culturally responsive outreach, remove economic and other barriers to family involvement and “identify and remedy power imbalances” in families’ decision-making roles.