UBUNTU – I am because we are..
It was six years ago today, April 22nd that I assumed the role of Assistant Superintendent in the Office of Family and Student Engagement. This has been a journey of collective efforts. Our team has evolved over time but has never wavered in our passion and persistence for partnerships to support student learning and school improvement.
We approached the adaptive challenge of family engagement as a capacity building proposition focusing on building the capacity of families, students and school staff to engage in effective strategies that focus on student learning. We employed multiple strategies, implemented simultaneously, to begin to shift the engagement practice in schools and in the district.
We are so very proud of the work that has been accomplished through the Office of Family and Student Engagement. Our student voice work has supported the efforts of Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) in their efforts to secure student input in teacher evaluation and a more just Code of Conduct. Our Parent University is a national model, for building the capacity of families to partner for student success. Our capacity building work was one of the major influences for the US Dept. of Education's new Dual Capacity-Building Framework Family – School Partnerships . Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Boston in 2012 to see the capacity-building work in action; the BPS cross-departmental collaborations, the teacher tools and professional development, the school-based engagement strategies focused on student learning and the supports provided to ensure effective implementation.
While the successes have elevated the engagement work in BPS, the challenges remain. Even though we have many schools that serve as exemplars of effective engagement practice, the majority of our schools continue to struggle with implementation. The new MA educator evaluation rubric includes clearly defined expectations for engagement practice and our team has aligned supports and resources to assist educators in developing proficient/exemplary practice. Our greatest challenge has been time and access to educators and school leaders to provide the critical supports.
Perhaps the most bittersweet development in this six year tenure is the phasing out of the Family and Community Outreach Coordinator Initiative. I began my career in education as a family coordinator and am keenly aware of the critical nature or the role for bridging the gap between home and school. The individuals who serve as FCOCs today, as well as their colleagues who have served over the last decade, have performed amazing work, often under challenging circumstances. The lessons we have learned from the FCOC Initiative have profoundly informed and influenced our approach to engagement as a capacity-building proposition. We have been able to clearly identify the 'conditions for engagement' that must exist to foster effective school and district-wide practice. Their work has confirmed capacity building as the focus for our work and that to be successful, everyone must assume responsibility for the engagement of families and students as part of their role. One of the most important things that we learned was "Leadership Matters" – this is not a surprise, as all of the research points to strong leadership as a necessary factor in school improvement.
As we move forward with establishing the new BPS Office of Engagement, bringing together Welcome Services, the Office of Community Engagement and Circle of Promise and the Office of Family and Student Engagement, we do so anticipating the great opportunities that lie ahead. Each of these offices brings a track record of successful engagement practice that provides a strong foundation for the work of the new office. We have embraced our collective work and have begun to envision the potential for supporting the implementation of effective engagement practice 'from pre-entry to post-graduation" – look for more information regarding the Office of Engagement in the coming months.
All in all, the last six years has been a blessing. To be given the opportunity to work with a team of passionate, talented and dedicated individuals has enriched my life both professionally and personally. Our team is committed to our families, students, schools, community and each other as we move together into the Office of Engagement.
The Work Continues..
Parent University is an opportunity for parents to sharpen their skills as they work in one of life's most important and demanding roles. Sessions focus on child development, what children are learning in schools, advocacy, parent leadership and effective parenting skills.
Launched in 2009, Parent University was established by the Boston Public Schools Office of Family and Student Engagement as the primary strategy to build the capacity of parents to be actively engaged in their children's education.
The goal of BPS Parent University is to "educate and empower parents as partners, advocates and lifelong teachers in their child's education through educational courses and leadership opportunities."
For a slide show of Parent University highlights, click here.0 Comments
Jose Maldonado started his journey with Parent University two year ago. He is now co-teaching at Parent University, hosting Parent University information tables at schools, and speaking with other parents and city officials across greater Boston about the opportunity that Parent University represents.
Two years ago, Jose's son was accused of being a "bad boy" in school. However, it was discovered that he was not "bad." Rather, as the "new" kid in school was targeted and bullied some of his peers. This experience inspired Jose to become more involved at the school including connecting with his son's teachers and principal regularly.
Jose's eagerness to be involved landed him at Parent University, and on various committees at the Tobin School. He has spoken openly about anti-bullying and ADHD in students, as these were the issues facing his child. Having participated in several trainings and workshop on these topics, he has now become an advocate for anti-bullying and supporting students with special education needs.
Jose graduated from Parent University in 2011 and delivered a speech as the representative for parents in his graduating class. This opportunity helped to build his self-confidence and public speaking ability. It also opened the door for him to share Parent University across many platforms, as he has been asked by a number of the public officials attending the graduation to speak at an event.
When asked about his experience with Parent University, Jose said, "Parent University has helped me grow and made me believe in myself. Today I reach out to help others whenever and where I can."
Jose continues to support Parent University by recruiting fathers to participate in sessions, volunteering during the large learning sessions, and serving on the Parent University Alumni Committee. He also continues to give back by serving as a parent volunteer and leader in his son's school and in his local community.
We are excited to present the revised 2013-2014 School Site Council Manual. From nuts to bolts the manual will guide you to manage a successful School Site Council.0 Comments
We recently kicked off our 5th year of Parent University with a large convening, October 12th at the Northeastern University Curry Student Center. We were thrilled to welcome over 200 BPS parents to our event! Parents went to sessions including "Setting Our Boys Up 4 Success" and "From Book Drive to Board Room: Fundraising for Schools and Families", and we all had a blast. Here are some of the things parents said about their day at Parent University!
"This was a great opportunity to learn different skills and strategies to make sure my boy is succeeding socially, academically, and emotionally"
"It's time to come and learn about Parent University because I've never been here"
"I wanted my kids to have a better future"
"I wanted to be more active and involved in my children's education"
"I wanted to be more active and involved in my children's education"
"I learned better tips on how to communicate with my child, and look at things from the point of view from my child"
"I learned the rights of parents, and the importance of advocating for my child's needs"
"I learned different approaches to deal with conflict"
"I learned how to change my attitude for helping my kids with their homework"
"I learned about saving money, and that it's never too late to educate yourself"
Thank you to all of the parents who joined us, to the Interim Superintendent John McDonough for welcoming our parents, and to all the volunteers and BPS staff who helped make this wonderful event possible. We hope that you had an enriching, empowering and engaging day, and we look forward to seeing all of you at our Parent University winter session, January 18, 2014! Save the date!