In 2016, A Family Engagement Strategy was created in response to the community’s request for an authentic commitment to engage our students and their families. Family engagement was occurring in many pockets across the district with varied levels of success. Through the creation of the Office of Family Engagement, we are now able to tailor support to address the unique needs of schools. On January 9, 2017, the Atlanta Board of Education adopted the Family Engagement Policy to affirm that family engagement is key in achieving the mission of the Atlanta Public Schools System and should be an integral part of the work of every district staff member.
The strategy has two parts: Warm and Welcoming Environments, a districtwide initiative and three school-based initiatives called Family Engagement Choice programs. The districtwide initiative provides parent liaisons, front office, and other parent facing staff with professional development on customer service and cultural competency. The school-based Choice programs are comprised of three family engagement models that include Academic Parent Teacher Teams, Removing Barriers, and School Designed. This initiative has allowed schools to opt into the family engagement model that best matches the distinctive needs of students, families, and the community. The school based strategy has an accompaniment, Teacher Home Visiting that builds a bridge of trust and collaboration between home and school.
At the start of the 2017/2018 school year, there will be a rollout of a districtwide Warm/Welcoming Environment and the school-based Family Engagement Choice program.
Warm and Welcoming Environment, Districtwide Initiative
At the core of Atlanta Public Schools’ authentic commitment to Family Engagement is ensuring that each school campus is a warm and welcoming environment for students and their families. The districtwide Warm and Welcoming Environment program will provide professional development on customer service and cultural competency to parent liaisons, front office and other staff who interface with students and their caregivers. The professional development starts with Customer Service training which provides skills and unique techniques for meeting a range of parent/caregiver needs and expectations. Cultural Competency training provides each participant with the tools to explore their own journey of (1) defining their own culture; (2) exploring normative behaviors; (3) bridging cultural gaps; and (4) fostering positive interactions with diverse populations.
Family Engagement Choice, School-Based Initiative
The school-based Choice programs are comprised of three family engagement models that include Academic Parent Teacher Teams, Removing Barriers, and School Designed. Creating this menu of options allows schools to target the distinct needs of students, families, and the community while still leaving room for flexibilities. The school based strategy has an accompaniment called, Teacher Home Visiting that builds a bridge of trust and collaboration between home and school.
The Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT) model of family engagement strengthens teacher-family relationships by focusing on student academic growth and achievement. The APTT Model elevates the efforts of traditional parent-teacher conferences by inviting all families of the same classroom teacher to meet together rather than individually for 75 minutes, three times per year. All parents receive materials for the practice activities to take home. After 60 days, the parents are invited back to a second meeting to receive an updated graph of every child’s progress and learn about another skill.
The Removing Barriers Program was designed to grant schools the flexibility in “meeting families where they are.” This Family Engagement Choice is a community based, partnership approach to meet families’ core needs while promoting the academic wellbeing of the student. It is recommended that an assessment of student, family, and community needs and dynamics are taken into consideration when adopting this option.
The School Designed Program was created with school based innovation in mind. This Choice option is school-based with the hopes of utilizing GO Teams as ambassadors to draw other parents through personal stories and experiences. The School Designed Program is a great match for schools who desire to draw parents onto the campus through innovative methods. Methods that include GO Team parents serving as true ambassadors in their respective neighborhoods and school community. This is designed to be a program that is rolled out for the entire school.
The Teacher Home Visiting Model serves as an accompaniment to the school-based Family Engagement Choice programs. This model builds a bridge of trust and collaboration between home and school. It typically includes two home visits, one at the beginning of the year to establish rapport and to set student academic expectations. Teachers are often the first point of contact for both students and their families. This high impact student, teacher, and family engagement method builds relationships, skills, and engagement from pre-K to 12th grade. Teacher Home Visits also stop the cycle of blame and catalyze real relationships between home and school — all in support of student success.
To learn the Family Engagement Choice program for your child’s school, click here.