SBOE #EdPolicy Roundup: March 2021 – Family Engagement to Lead Education Policy

By Rachel Duff, Policy Fellow

This month, The D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) continues its efforts to make education research and policy concepts accessible to all stakeholders in our communities. The March 2021 #EdPolicy Research Roundup features a key event from the Brookings Institution examining the merits of family engagement in education specifically amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As we have done previously, the State Board will discuss the key findings of this research event and explain the implications on the State Board’s work and priorities. 

“Can Family Engagement Be a Gamechanger for Education Post-COVID? Survey findings from the Family Engagement in Education Network” Brookings Institution, March 2021

Summary: This virtual event was facilitated by Rebecca Winthrop, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Universal Education. The mission for the Family Engagement in Education Network through the Brookings Institution is for parents, families, and communities to have a real seat at the table of educational change. 

The Family Engagement in Education Network is an international initiative that encompasses 14 jurisdictions and over 41 project collaborators. 


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Brookings Institution administered a survey to over 25,000 parents with children in Pre-K through 12th grade formal education settings. They administered the survey in 15 languages. 

Their top three takeaways were: 

  • Parents’ aspirations: A “new” kind of education
    • Parents want a mix of traditional & academic outcomes of education.
    • Parents would like more interactive/engaged styles of teaching and learning.
    • Parents decide high quality school indicators varying from elements of academic rigor to levels of social-emotional learning opportunities. 
  • Parents’ Influences: Teachers and their children
    • Parents desire a stronger alignment/relationship with the teachers of their children.
  • Parents’ Differences: Communities are distinct 
    • Educational leaders must make sure that their school staff gets to know the parents in their respective community. 

A panel of Family Engagement in Education members discussed what the context of parents’ engagement has been for them in their communities:

  • Paul Lorette: Assistant Superintendent of Sea to Sky School District from the British of Columbia (BC), Canada
    • Approximately 12 percent of the student population in Sea to Sky District are indigenous students of First Nations Indigenous Ancestry. About 10 years ago, there were concerns that the graduation rate for indigenous learners was around 45-50 percent. School leaders embarked on an ambitious transformation plan of community engagement with indigenous community members and elders to improve graduation rates for indigenous learners. The graduation rates for indigenous learners in Sea to Sky District are now at approximately 95 percent. 
  • Moitshepi Matsheng: Co-Founder and Country Director of Young Love, a nonprofit in Botswana & Chairperson of the Botswana National Youth Council 
    • There was an initial increase of parents interested in the programs offered, so Young Love started bulk outreach text messaging and regular phone call check-ins. There were many government-distributed E-Learning programs during the pandemic but the rates of internet access in Botswana is very low. As a result, Young Love really leaned into phone-based services as most families did have access to at least one household cellphone. 
  • Kerry-Jane Packman: Executive Director of Programs for Parentkind in the United Kingdom (National Parent Union) 
    • Parentkind is the largest PTA network across the United Kingdom (UK). Parents should be listened to on a local, regional, and national level. Parentkind represents parent voices to policy makers. A few years ago, they found that Parentkind had a wealth of data from parents and subsequently produced a blueprint for “Parent Friendly Schools” that is largely driven by a parent perspective. 
  • Samar Bajaj: Program Manager of India Programs with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation 
    • The last 12 months have really transformed parent engagement, there has been an increase in interest/ownership for parents in their children’s learning. Before, the focus was on teachers and administration, now parents are an integral part of their child’s daily education. 
State Board Context:

The State Board of Education engages community members and parents in a number of ways, including but not limited to monthly Public Meetings for community members to testify on relevant matters concerning education as well as administering surveys to gauge interest and concern for various topics in education. Individual State Board members also interact frequently with their respective ward-level education councils and other related organizations.

Furthermore, at the February 17 public meeting, the State Board voted to approve SR21-2, a resolution that established a new committee structure for the State Board. These committees are dedicated to serving the community through research and advocacy, specifically targeting the distinct areas of interest for each committee. 

The updated standing committee structures are as follows: 

  • Assessment and Accountability Committee: Chairs, Ruth Wattenberg (Ward 3) and Jacque Patterson (At-Large)
  • Education Standards Committee: Chair, Jessica Sutter (Ward 6)
  • Educator Practice Committee: Chair, Frazier O’Leary (Ward 4)
  • Advocacy and Outreach Committee: Chair, Carlene Reid (Ward 8)

While these new standing committees are in their initial planning stages, the Advocacy and Outreach Committee intends to create a Parent Advisory Committee to help improve parent and guardian voice in education policy in the District.

Stay up to date with the State Board’s work by signing up for our listserv and following us @DCSBOE on social media! 

Published by DC State Board of Education

The DC State Board of Education is the District's elected voice on educational issues and advocates for a world-class education for D.C. students.

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