School Breakfast: Reducing Chronic Absenteeism & Supporting Student Success

School breakfast can improve attendance!
Eating school breakfast increases student attendance by an average of 1.5 days of school per year.

Attendance at school is essential for academic success. Yet, chronic absenteeism (missing 10% of more of school for any reason) is negatively impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of California kids.

Visit the California Food Policy Advocates website.

Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA

By: Hayin Kim, Partners for Each and Every Child

Stakeholders – students, families, educators, community leaders and partners — represent the core beliefs and needs of the communities and students they serve, and must play a greater role in ensuring educational equity and excellence. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers local leaders an opportunity to work with stakeholders to shape their state’s educational equity policy agenda. Stakeholders – students, families, educators, community leaders and partners — represent the core beliefs and needs of the communities and students they serve, and must play a greater role in ensuring educational equity and excellence. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers local leaders an opportunity to work with stakeholders to shape their state’s educational equity policy agenda.

ESSA requires each state, district, and school to consult with stakeholders on issues ranging from how best to disburse federal funds, to how to support schools that serve struggling or high-need students. The specific consultation requirements vary across programs, but the focus on engagement is consistent — states and districts have ample opportunity to commit to engagement with all stakeholders in an ongoing and meaningful way.

To support these efforts, Partners for Each and Every Child (Partners for) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) developed Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA — a guide for local education agencies (LEAs) and school leaders as they engage with stakeholders on ESSA and other policy and decision-making opportunities.

What Do We Mean By ‘Stakeholder Engagement’?

Stakeholders refers to the diverse array of community members who are involved and invested in districts, schools, programs, and outcomes for students.
Engagement is the process of communicating to, learning from, and partnering with stakeholders that acknowledges the unique needs and strengths of the stakeholders involved. We believe that stakeholder engagement requires collaboration and should be meaningful: it should be inclusive, clear, effective, and ongoing in order to support educational equity and excellence, especially for our most vulnerable students and schools.

What is in the Handbook?

Part 1: LEA & School Planning: Why Local Engagement?
Part 1 connects engagement around local planning to the new state system under ESSA, aligning engagement with local decision-making.

Part 2: Making Engagement More Effective
Recognizing the differing information, participation, and engagement needs and assets of various stakeholder groups, Part 2 offers a compiled set of engagement resources, tailored to meet the needs of specific constituent groups, including:

– Students and Youth
– Parent, Families, and Guardians
– Educators (Teachers and Leaders)
– Rural Communities
– Tribal Leadership and Native Communities
– Policymakers
– Leveraging Community Partnerships

Part 3:  Tools for Building an Engagement Strategy
Part 3 includes four resources to begin understanding and strategizing around engagement at the local level.

Part 4: Reference Material

Thank you to California Community Schools Network members who helped review the handbook.

For more on how state engagement efforts under ESSA have been meaningful thus far, and how we can continue to share the responsibility for educational equity and excellence, see our review of ESSA state plans submitted in April/May 2017 – Process and Protest.

Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA: A Handbook for LEA and School Leaders

This handbook by Partners for Each and Every Child and the Council of Chief State School Officers provides helpful guidance to local education agencies (LEAs) and school leaders as they engage with stakeholders to think about how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) can be best leveraged locally.

School and district leaders can use this handbook as a source of strategies to employ as they build their comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy. Advocates can use this to inform their efforts to engage with their local political and education leaders.

View on Partners for Each and Every Child’s website.

Family Engagement Toolkit: Continuous Improvement through an Equity Lens

This Family Engagement Toolkit by the California Department of Education strives to help answer the following big questions for districts and schools:

  1. How can we increase the engagement of underrepresented families?
  2. How can we help teachers and administrators become more skilled and comfortable working with all families?
  3. What kind of family engagement activities are likely to lead to the biggest learning advances for students?
  4. How can we know if our family engagement efforts are having the desired effect?

Unique aspects of this toolkit:

  1. Addresses the importance of integrating family engagement with each district’s student learning goals
  2. Includes an explicit commitment to equity in every phase of family engagement
  3. Uses the dual capacity-building framework in planning and implementation of family engagement
  4. Focuses on the role of the district and the district coordinator in leading a process of continuous improvement at schools across the district

Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement

This brief by the Learning Policy Institute examines the research on community schools, with two primary emphases. First, it explores whether the 2015 federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opens the possibility of investing in well-designed community schools to meet the educational needs of low-achieving students in high-poverty schools. And second, it provides support to school, district, and state leaders as they consider, propose or implement a community school intervention in schools targeted for comprehensive support.

How to Engage Families to Improve Student Outcomes

Family engagement is a key factor in addressing the achievement and opportunity gaps – and ultimately achieving equity in education.

Research shows that family engagement makes a difference.

Family involvement in a child’s education is the single most important predictor of student academic success. Research over several decades has shown that when families are involved in their own child’s education, their child does better in school – regardless of family background (e.g. race, educational level, income, marital status). Students with involved families are more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades and test scores
  • Enroll in higher-level programs
  • Attend school regularly
  • Have fewer behavioral problems
  • Pass their classes, be promoted, and graduate

But not all family engagement activities have such a significant effect on student success. So how can schools engage families in ways that really move the needle on improved student outcomes?

6 Effective Practices for Family Engagement

Family engagement practices occur on a spectrum, from participation to partnership. Participation includes many traditional methods of engagement, like volunteering the classroom, participating in school site councils, or attending events. However, focusing on authentic partnerships between teachers and families can do more to ensure academic success for students. These partnerships occur, and have full impact, when family engagement activities are connected to student learning – and when there is capacity building and support for both families and teachers.

How do schools and school districts build systems of practice that foster meaningful partnerships between teachers and families?

1. Districts and school communities adopt a strengths-based vision.
A strengths-based vision acknowledges that each family has something powerful and positive to offer their children, and respects that each family is its child’s first and most influential teacher.

2. Teams (not individual staff) are responsible for planning, design, and quality assessment.
A representative family engagement team includes a school administrator, 1-2 teachers, 2-3 parents, all staff members in coordination of services roles, and at least 2 students in high schools.

3. Family engagement activities focus on student success.
The family engagement team leverages their common interest in student success, using student data to create goals and assess the impact of its activities based on movement toward these goals (e.g. success is measured not by how many people show up, but on whether students are doing better and continue to improve).

4. Family engagement efforts are rooted in continuous improvement.
Family engagement teams develop and test an annual plan through a cycle of inquiry. Using student outcomes to assess the impact of activities, family engagement becomes a central strategy for academic success.

5. Capacity building for teachers and other school staff is a priority.
Employing a strenghts-based approach, teachers are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to actively and effectively engage families. Family engagement is a priority in the overall plan for teacher professional development, and the district commits the necessary resources to build this capacity, including making investments in training and coaching.

6. Capacity building for families strives to address unequal power dynamics.
Capacity building for families is focused on leveraging the assets each family brings to the table. Families are provided the knowledge and tools they need to support their own child’s education at home and at school.

Whenever possible, teachers and families are trained together to promote partnering through equal access to information and to build a sense that everyone is working as a team to support students. Developing authentic partnerships between families and school staff takes a real commitment, and can feel like a daunting task. But with training, coaching, and support, teachers and families can partner in ways that have a tangible impact on student achievement.

For more information, additional resources, and citations for stats provided above, please see our short chapter: Why Family Engagement Matters, co-authored by High Expectations Parental Service and Partnership for Children & Youth.

Think Outside the Survey Box: Creative Ways to Solicit Youth Feedback

Break out of the survey box! There’s more than one way to learn what youth think, care about, want to do, or have learned in your program… so let’s use them! Check out our hands-on guide for youth practitioners to learn about verbal, kinesthetic and visual ways to solicit young people’s input. This guide will teach you to identify creative strategies for data collection in your programs, and understand the pros and cons of these strategies.

Rocking Your Community Needs Assessment – Fact Sheet

Does the term “needs assessment” send chills down your spine? Wondering how you’ll complete the community needs assessment for your next grant proposal? We’ve got you! See our fact sheet about web sites with easy-to-use data about communities. Download this list of the sites we like the most.

Rocking Your Next Needs Assessment – Webinar

To get started on a community needs assessment for your next grant proposal, watch this recording of Public Profit’s 1-hour webinar about easy-to-access data sources. This webinar was hosted by Public Profit on February 24, 2017 specifically for the California Community Schools Network, looking toward the upcoming release of the Request for Proposals for the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund: Learning Communities for School Success (Prop 47) grants. Learn about how to access and use publicly available data to help support your next needs assessment!