Enhancing Achievement through Family and Community Relationships

Mar 14 2019

These abstracts showcase student work from a doctoral course at Hunter College School of Education-The City University of New York titled, "Enhancing Achievement through Family and Community Relationships."

Community Reads: Using Picture Books to Build Authentic Partnerships between Students, Families, Teachers, and School Leaders

By: Mallory Locke, CUNY Hunter College, Adjunct Lecturer, P.S. 171, Literacy Coach

Enacted in a pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade public school in East Harlem, New York, the Community Reads project fosters authentic partnerships between families, students, teachers, and school leaders through a monthly read-aloud shared among all grades. On the last Friday morning of each month, all students and their families come together to discuss, reflect on, and react to the Community Read. Because families each have their own unique educational histories and literacy backgrounds, texts that facilitate equitable access is crucial; picture books, which use both images and text to communicate ideas, are well suited to engaging diverse families. During the monthly Community Meeting, each class and its families read the text, discuss its themes and real-world connections, and collaborate to respond through a shared activity. Texts and shared activities for the 2018–19 school year include: 1) Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, with self-portraits highlighting unique qualities and letters to ourselves about “making our mark”; 2) How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham, with service projects such as donations to Operation Gratitude and East Harlem’s New York Common Food Pantry; friendship bracelets for the American Cancer Society; and thank-you cards for the FDNY and NYPD; 3) Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, with friendship recipe cards, friendship no-bake pies, and friendship snack mix creation; 4) A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson, with classroom identity quilts and “why culture matters” video PSAs created by the seventh and eighth grades.

Engaging Multicultural, Multilingual Immigrant Families in Public Education 

By: David A. Housel, LMSW, Associate Director, CUNY Language Immersion Program (CLIP), LaGuardia Community College.

The proposed activities in this plan are aimedat building bridges among schools, communities, and multilingual/multicultural immigrant children and their families. The activities combine creating welcoming, mutually respectful spaces for parents of immigrant youth in the schools and encouraging school personnel to go out into immigrant communities to engage with community members and parents. Professional development sessions to help schools dismantle any barriers to fuller parental involvement are critical. These sessions could be built around testimonials from immigrant parents, dramatic presentations by immigrant students, or online video modules followed by facilitated discussions. Community activities could include school personnel connecting with adult English-language literacy programs, offering intergenerational bilingual classes in the schools (so children can maintain their native languages at academic levels and parents can learn English), using school libraries to promote family literacy, and providing community fairs in the schools to heighten awareness about relevant community resources. These diverse activities confront the “one size fits all” approach and the “deficit model” surrounding immigrant parents who are English-language learners. Giving voice to and treating these immigrant families equitably could have a synergistic effect that enriches the overall functioning of public schools and the communities and families they serve.

Collaborative Family-Professional Partnerships across Settings for Students with Disabilities

By: Melissa Jackson, M.S.Ed., Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Special Education, Hunter College

Family-professional relationships have been shown to be effective in enhancing outcomes of students with disabilities receiving therapeutic services in the home and at school. Not only does this partnership foster student growth, but it also enhances program planning, goal-setting, and decision making for the families. An important factor in the success of these partnerships is the way in which all parties involved perceive each other and work together. To help foster these relationships in a small private school for children with disabilities, a 10-month plan involving teacher and family training is proposed. The long-term goal of the plan is to develop collaboration between teachers and families to target and tailor goals and interventions for students in the home environment through shared decision making.

The plan would involve teacher and family participation in professional learning communities (PLCs). That is, they would participate in weekly sessions where results-oriented teams of educators would be focused on learning, professional collaboration, and iterative cycles of reflection. These PLCs would be focused on teachers increasing their knowledge in fostering collaborative relationships with families, gaining insight into parent perspectives regarding life at home, carry-over of interventions, facilitation of parent-mediated decision making to best fit individual family needs, and reflections about the process. Initially, this proposed plan would start with a small set of teachers and parents to pilot and make any necessary revisions.

Family-School Communication in the 21st Century: One School’s Journey 

By: Maya Severns, Doctoral Student, Hunter College

Relationships between schools and families have been the subject of much federal legislation over the past few decades. However, despite calls to action, very little has fundamentally changed in the traditional parent involvement paradigm. Many schools continue to operate from a predominantly Anglocentric, Western approach, although researchers continue to engage in studies that challenge that norm as inappropriate for the changing demographics of American schools. Our families are culturally, linguistically, and socioeconomically diverse, and as such require new paradigms to replace those that are outdated and irrelevant. 

After examining models of parent involvement and research grounded in parent involvement as a ritual system, ethic of care theory, womanism, post-colonialism, and issues of equity, I worked with colleagues at my school to redesign some of our parent events in an effort to shift the existing relationships between faculty and families. In conjunction with faculty and administration, I engaged in a division-wide action research study to address the disconnect between the deeper sharing and connections built in our signature character-growth events and the business-like atmosphere of traditional events. This study was based on the very specific needs of my school and would not be reproducible in another setting or generalizable to multiple settings. However, it does offer a unique perspective on what worked and did not work in one middle-school setting. 

Final Paper Topics

Communication and Collaboration

  • Family Engagement and the School Library: Writing on an Empty Slate
  • Family-Centered Partnership Initiatives
  • Family-Student-Teacher Conference: Putting Students at the Center
  • Integrating and Supporting the Engagement of Multicultural, Multilingual Immigrant Families

Family Engagement and Student Learning and Development 

  • Engaging Families in Social and Emotional Learning
  • Family and Community Engagement for High School STEM Learning
  • Effective Communication with Families to Increase Student Attendance during High -Leverage Instructional Units and Assessment
  • Literacy Building Blocks: Increasing Parent Engagement through Daily Routines
  • Enhancing Student Learning and Community Engagement through “Citizen Science”
  • Fostering Authentic Partnerships and Social-Emotional Learning through Parental Participation in Restorative Justice Circles

Family Engagement and Special Needs Students

  • Increasing Meaningful Involvement in IEP Meetings
  • Engaging Families of Students with Disabilities: Taking Care of Children While Empowering Families
  • Culturally Responsive ABA
  • Career Readiness and Action Plan for Students with Disabilities

Family Leadership

  • Family and Community Leadership Plan
  • School Leadership Team: A Catalyst for Inclusion, Equity, and Voice