How to Revitalize Your School-Parent Compact

By Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D.

Parent groupWe can no longer argue that family engagement is essential to student academic, social, and emotional success. It's been proven over and over again by excellent research. So what's the problem? Why aren't we getting more parents engaged in their child's learning?

While we agree on the importance of family engagement, there is not wide-spread agreement on how best to accomplish this goal. That's because there are many approaches to engaging families and each school and district must assess and decide on the best ones.

Take for example, the idea of the School-Parent Compact. In Section 1118 of Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, every school receiving Title 1 funds is required to jointly develop such a compact with parents. This compact is a written agreement of shared responsibility to improve student achievement and meet academic standards.

Sounds like a straightforward and promising way to engage families - a catalyst for collaboration between parents and school staff. Or does it? That depends a great deal on the quality and depth of engagement as well as the commitment of schools to work as partners with parents.

When Dr. Judy Carson, Director of School-Family--Community Partnerships for the Connecticut Department of Education reviewed the School-Parent Compacts in her state, she found a wide variety of approaches. Mostly, she discovered compacts were generic, overly simplified, and aimed at "fixing" undesirable parent and student behavior rather than building on collaborative strengths. She questioned:

  • Why weren't compacts directly linked to the school improvement plan? (Wouldn't that be how most effective businesses would approach strategic collaboration?)

  • Why did so many schools have similar, boilerplate compacts if indeed they were jointly developed by parents and schools? (Did schools see these compacts only as an expedient route to meeting Title 1 funding?)

  • Why were compacts focused on parent and student behavior rather than on key strategies to support student learning? (Did schools truly see themselves as partners with parents or in a position of power and authority over them?)

These are excellent questions! How would your school answer them?

The result of Dr. Carson's inquiry resulted in the Connecticut Department of Education launching a three-year pilot program to revitalize School-Parent Compacts. Using proven methods of collaboration, parents and teachers reviewed data to identify areas of weaknesses in student skills. Then they shared strategies to strengthen those skills both in the classroom and in the home. The project was so successful that the effect is being expanded throughout the State and many exceptional resources are available to assist schools.

Listen to Dr. Carson's video for a great introduction to why compacts can be an effective way to engage parents.

 

Want to revitalize your School-Parent Compact?

Regardless of where your school is located, you can use the resources developed in Connecticut to turn Title 1 compacts into effective reform tools. Check out the following resources:

Rather than a dog-eared School-Parent Compact, wouldn't you rather have one that works? Kudos to Dr. Carson and the Connecticut Department of Education! What a wonderful collection of resources for schools!

Posted on May 15, 2012 by Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D.

Marilyn is co-founder and president of the National ParentNet Association. A developmental psychologist and researcher, her work focuses on positive youth development, youth civic engagement, and family-school-community partnerships. Follow her blogs at Psychology Today and Roots of Action.  Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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