A recent High School Matters blog post, Family Engagement for High School Success Initiative, shared information about the United Way Worldwide’s Family Engagement for High School Success (FEHS), which aims to support disadvantaged high school youth by increasing family involvement in their education. This initiative is part of United Way Worldwide’s strategy to significantly reduce the nation’s high school dropout rate by 2018. Washoe County School District (WCSD) in Reno, Nevada is one of the initiative’s success stories, and attributes much of its progress to engaging parents in data use.
According to D’Lisa Craine from the Department of Family-School Partnerships in WCSD, when the project was initiated in 2009, WCSD had an on-time graduation rate of 56%. An action plan was developed in early 2010 to work with the families of ninth grade students at risk for not graduating on time. An AmeriCorps parent involvement facilitator was hired in each high school to help parents access their children’s data online. As a first step, facilitators identified and held workshops for parents who did not activate their accounts. To ensure that parents understood how to analyze the data, the workshops used hypothetical student data to show examples of credit accumulation, unexcused absences, and exam scores, and asked parents to determine whether the student was on track for graduation or not.
For many parents, access to their children’s data was an eye opening experience. Craine described the reaction of a parent: “I don’t understand why my child is not attending. I drop him off at school every day but it says right here that he is not attending class.” After accessing her child’s data, the parent formed a plan with the school counselor to ensure the student went to class every day. After one year, more than 50% of the targeted parents began accessing their child’s data on a regular basis at home or at computers made available to them by the school.
This success story resembles other efforts around the nation. New Visions for Public Schools also realized the need to engage parents in accessing and analyzing their children’s data. New Visions provided schools easy-to-read color-coded tools to communicate accurate and timely student data to parents. Early in the process, schools realized that simply providing access to the data was not sufficient. School staff received training for working with parents, then initiated conferences with families of students who were falling behind to review the data from the tool, and subsequently create student support plans that utilized both school and family supports.
To learn more about strategies for building partnerships with families, see the Center on Innovation and Improvement’s recently released Handbook of Family and Community Engagement.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.