Increasing Family Engagement

In our first survey, parents gave feedback that they felt very connected to the school division and to their students’ learning. In fact, 85 percent of CCPS parents said they talked about school with their children each day. We found that parents were doing a lot at home to support their kids’ education. We had had a hunch that this would be the case, but we were surprised by the high numbers. We definitely considered this a “glow.”

In CCPS (as in any school district), though, there are always barriers to family engagement to overcome. The first “grow” that we pulled out of the survey data was that parents didn’t feel they had a lot of time to be engaged at school—but other data points told us that they wanted to be engaged with their children’s schools.

One simple solution was to look at different times to schedule events to make them easier for parents to attend. For example, Friday night is typically seen as off-limits for school events, but this year we had a movie night with popcorn, and it was a big success in terms of family turnout. We have also held events where we provide dinner, since that’s a time when families are already together. We have seen a clear uptick in parents attending meetings based on these scheduling changes.

Fall Festival CCES 2017.

Another successful event was Superhero Reading and Math Night. To get into the spirit, teachers dressed as superheroes all week, and we had an event later in the week where students chose a superpower (reading or math), wore masks, and showed their parents what they could do.

We are constantly providing parents tools to help them understand what their children are learning, so they can be more effective at home.

Looking forward to our next round of data-gathering later this year, we are shooting for an even higher response rate and even more representative data from our community. It helps that we’ve already done one survey, so parents will be expecting the next one. The partnership is there, and our stakeholders have seen that we respond to what they tell us.

In Charles City Public Schools, our work is never finished. We are on a journey of establishing a strong culture of continuous improvement, and our biggest “grow” is to take the sort of improvement we’ve seen in family engagement and make it the norm.

About the Author:

David W. Gaston has served as a classroom teacher, elementary, middle, and high school assistant principal and principal, and central office administrator with the York County School Division, Hampton City Schools, and Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools for the past 24 years before being named the Division Superintendent for Charles City Public Schools in Charles City, VA.