Dr. Karen Mapp on Building Strong Family-School Partnerships for Reopening and Beyond

FAMILY ENGAGEMENT: Dr. Karen Mapp on Building Strong Family-School Partnerships for Reopening and Beyond

By: Lara Lofdahl, Panorama Education

*This article was originally published on Panorama Education’s blog: https://www.panoramaed.com/blog

Across the country, schools are welcoming students back into buildings for the 2021-22 year—some for the first time in over a year. As we face these changes and challenges, it’s also a time of great opportunity: Educational leaders have a chance to build on the connections made during the pandemic and to strengthen the relationship between schools and families for the better.

karen-mapp-36Dr. Karen Mapp sees the present day as a pivotal time for family engagement: “This is the moment where we can have an impact on changing the practice of family engagement, now and forever.” A senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Mapp has spent the last 25 years researching partnerships among families, community members, and educators. Her work seeks to elevate successful family-school partnerships and help schools build trusting relationships with families as co-creators in their children’s learning.

On a March 2021 webinar with Education Week, Mapp shared her research-backed framework for building family-school partnerships and how to use it to inform reopening plans for back-to-school 2021-22. Explore Mapp’s insights below, as well as strategies and tools aligned to her framework from Demetrius Lancaster of Panorama Education and Elisabeth Stock of PowerMyLearning.  “A full, equal, and equitable partnership.” (Click to Tweet!)

To frame her work, Mapp uses a definition of family engagement that was developed by a coalition of educators, families, and policymakers in Connecticut. The term “families” encompasses all adult caretakers, not just parents.

“Family Engagement is a full, equal, and equitable partnership among families, educators, and community partners to promote children’s learning and development from birth through college and career.”

Through her years of research and practice, Mapp has had countless conversations with educators and families. While both groups are dedicated to children’s success, she has identified the following challenges in the field:

  • Many educators have not been exposed to strong examples of family engagement.
  • Traditional practices often focus mainly on compliance, such as homework checks. In addition, volunteer participation in existing school structures can be inaccessible for some families and perpetuate systems of oppression.
  • Few educators receive training in family engagement, making it difficult to create more inclusive and equitable strategies.
  • Traditional family engagement practices can lead to families feeling disrespected, unvalued, and excluded from contributing—which reinforces the harm caused by past negative experiences with the education system.
  • When strategies fail, the onus is placed on families, creating a harmful, false narrative that families don’t value education or don’t want to be engaged.

Based on her research, Mapp developed and launched The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships. She released Version 2 in 2019 with a revamped graphic to highlight the flow from ineffective to effective partnership.

dual capacity building framework

Pictured Above: The 2019 version of The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships

The framework takes the initially separate groups of educators and families through a process of examining essential conditions and developing policy and program goals. The outcome is an effective, collaborative partnership to support students. “This is all in service of supporting not only student improvement, but school improvement as well,” said Mapp.

“Relational trust is the glue that holds everything else together.” (Click to Tweet!)

“If you skip over the step of building authentic and trusting relationships with your families and the community,” said Mapp, “then all of those wonderful initiatives that you attempt to put into place don’t have a strong foundation on which to sit.” All aspects of the framework are important, but Mapp emphasized that relational trust between families and educators is “the glue that holds everything together.”

 There are four key elements of relational trust: respect, competence, integrity, and personal regard. The chart below from Mapp’s colleague Eyal Bergman, a Harvard doctoral student who co-authored the 2019 Dual Capacity-Building Framework, is designed to help educators reflect on their interactions with families.

relational trust

Pictured Above: Bergman’s questions for examining elements of relational trust

Building these relationships takes time, effort, and an understanding of equitable practices. Mapp offered the following recommendations for educators as we return to school buildings this year:

“To change systems, we have to change the conditions.” (Click to Tweet!)

Once schools have built a foundation of relational trust with families, our work to change conditions can begin. “In order to change systems, we have to change the conditions,” said Mapp. The framework emphasizes two categories of Essential Conditions: process conditions, which focus on the ways in which these changes are made, and organizational conditions, which focus on how the changes show up in school and district operations.

conditions

Pictured Above: Process Conditions and Organizational Conditions of The Dual Capacity-Building Framework

Both process and organizational conditions must be met in order to create system-wide change. An example of an engagement strategy that meets process conditions is relational phone calls between educators and caregivers. Checking in with families this way invites caregivers to participate directly with the educator in their children’s learning and development and demonstrates respect, trust, and empathy.

Changing the process, however, is not enough. Districts must also examine the organization as a whole to dismantle oppressive and non-inclusive practices.

“Family engagement is not a program, it’s a practice.(Click to Tweet!)

To Mapp, family engagement is not something to simply be implemented. Organizational conditions require that family-school partnerships are embraced by leadership and integrated into the fabric of the school. Quoting Mapp’s friend and colleague Michele Brooks, “Family engagement is not a program, it’s a practice.”

One-time events like breakfasts and theme nights may be part of school culture, but they are not enough to form relationships of mutual trust or to involve families as co-creators. Family engagement as a practice means devoting resources towards school-family partnerships; for example, having an office of family engagement with a director focused on instruction, not simply communication.

Through the framework, Mapp hopes educators will be empowered to enter into meaningful, reciprocal relationships with families—and that families will advocate for their children as learners. “Families are already empowered,” she said. “They just need that power to be activated.”

Tools and Strategies for Deepening Family Engagement Practices 

Demetrius Lancaster, equity practice lead at Panorama Education, and Elisabeth Stock, co-founder and CEO of PowerMyLearning, shared some of the framework-aligned tools and strategies that schools and districts are using to partner with families and caregivers.

Panorama’s Family-School Relationship Survey

family-survey-book-1Panorama’s Family-School Relationship Survey elevates family voice to support the development of authentic partnerships. Aligned with Mapp’s Dual Capacity-Building Framework, the survey invites families to share what they need in order to become co-creators in their children’s education. School leaders can then develop actionable, data-driven strategies based on family responses.

“If we can listen deeply to what families are saying they need, we can then identify ways to revise our systems-level support to strengthen those relationships and our partnership in pursuit of equitable student outcomes.”

Demetrius Lancaster–Demetrius Lancaster, Lead, Equity Practice at Panorama Education

PowerMyLearning’s Triangle of Learning Relationships

power my learning line and trianglePowerMyLearning’s Framework for Teachers supports educators in activating the power of collaboration between teachers, students, and families and in using family perception data for school improvement planning.

The nonprofit also has an exciting innovation called Family Playlists, which encourage children to share what they are learning in school by teaching their families. The playlists help solidify the lessons for students, directly involve  parents in their child’s curriculum, and facilitate communication between families. The playlists can be delivered via cell phone and are available in over 100 languages.

“Imagine families, teachers, and students working together with relational trust and what that will do for your learning community.”

elisabeth-stock-powermylearning (1)–Elisabeth Stock, co-founder and CEO of PowerMyLearning

 

See more from Panorama Education’s blog: Keep learning with 5 more family engagement strategies from district leaders!

Hear What Our Partner Schools Say about Family Playlists

Hear What Our Partner Schools Say about Family Playlists

May 5, 2020 | The Stock Report

Ellen Flanagan

Ellen Flanagan
Principal, South Bronx Preparatory

Family Playlists are an extension of the conversation that happens in the classroom. When you think about it pedagogically, there is so much research supporting this: if someone can teach something to someone else, that is the highest form of understanding. The premise of Family Playlists is: “I am teaching. I am the expert.” When we are teaching someone else, it is the best kind of learning and that’s where rigor happens.

Family Playlists also offer an important social emotional aspect. It’s not just about the subject matter, it’s about the students getting a new level of confidence. Students have a sense of pride when they complete Family Playlists. Teachers experience this too when they see that they got 100% participation or receive an exceptional piece of feedback from a parent. There’s an internal motivation piece that happens.

Monique Booth
Principal of Salem Church Elementary in Chesterfield, VA

My three takeaways for why I truly believe in Family Playlists are:

  1. The power that Family Playlists bring to close the gap between school and home and to make authentic connections between students, teachers, and families.
  2. Family Playlists empower my parents. My parents are able to have conversations with their child around the learning that is happening in the classroom. They feel more equipped to have those conversations because they’re able to see and hear directly from their child the steps, the concepts, and the different processes they are learning.
  3. The major difference I’ve seen in my children is their level of confidence. Before, kids would not be willing to participate in class; they were not engaged with what was happening in the context of the school building. Now, as a result of them having to go home and sit down with their parents and explain, justify, and model the learning that has happened in their classroom, they are empowered. They now have a voice that carries over into their interactions with their teacher and their willingness to share and be involved in classroom discussions.

Jean Dalton Encke
Principal of P.S. 279 Captain Manuel Rivera, Jr. in NY

After using Family Playlists, one thing I’ve seen that is different is the stamina in our kids. We had kids skipping lunch and staying late to finish the test. I was almost in tears because I had never seen this before. I was thinking in my head, ‘You should be stopping.’ Prior to this year, kids would give up. Now, we have a bunch of kids who feel like they can push through it.

Alan Baer

Alan Baer
Assistant Principal, South Bronx Preparatory

Our students, our families, and our teachers love it. PowerMyLearning uses technology to meet parents where they are. PowerMyLearning takes in to account the value of the family structure and honors it; engaging parents in a way that is respectful.

Maybe parents don’t want to see the teacher because they don’t have a proper shirt to wear, or they haven’t been to school in ten years, or they don’t like school, but now they have a platform to learn with their children and have their children show that school is important to them—they have a place to share learning and that is huge.

Unlock the Secret to Student Success: Family Engagement

Unlock the Secret to Student Success: Family Engagement

December 10, 2019 | For Educators

Are you ready to engage your students’ families in a way that delivers results in your classroom?

Enroll in our DonorsChoose program, where you can get Family Playlists® supported by a 5X match.

Here are three reasons to enroll today:

1. Engage Families in Learning: Teachers across the country report success engaging even their hardest-to-reach families with Family Playlists. Open a meaningful dialogue around learning with all your students’ families using multilingual, mobile-friendly home learning activities.

2. Drive Student Achievement: A recent study found Family Playlists had a statistically significant impact on state math test scores equivalent to four months of additional learning.

3. Learn from Experts: Receive one-on-one personalized support and valuable PD from PowerMyLearning family engagement experts, who will help you implement Family Playlists and best practices.

What are you waiting for? Start your project while funding is still available!

Introducing Course Companions

Introducing Course Companions

November 5, 2019 | For Educators

We’re excited to announce a new feature that makes it super easy to integrate Family Playlists® into your curriculum: Course Companions!

Align Family Playlists to Your Scope and Sequence

Course Companions offer an easy way to view and access Family Playlists aligned to your curriculum and scope and sequence. Instead of searching for Family Playlists individually, simply go to the Course Companion tab, select the appropriate Course Companion for your grade, and then see all of the Certified Family Playlists that align with the specific units and topics in your curriculum. This makes it very easy to choose which Family Playlists you want to use and get started with your families.

Customized for Your Curriculum

PowerMyLearning has already provided all teachers with access to Course Companions for EngageNY/Eureka Math in grades 3-8. We also are happy to work with your school or district if you are interested in additional Course Companions for a specific curriculum or scope and sequence. Please reach out to Bill Rappel at BRappel@PowerMyLearning.org. Alternatively, if you are already using Family Playlists, you can reach out to us using the simple form on the Course Companion tab.

Save Time and Drive Student Achievement

Save valuable planning time and drive family engagement and student achievement in your classroom! Use Course Companions to map out Family Playlist usage throughout the year. Consistent Family Playlists usage can deliver major results in your classroom because we all know effective family engagement is key to student success. For example, a recent study found students who used Family Playlists made statistically significant gains in math equivalent to four additional months of learning.

2020 Census Update: Your Students Count

2020 Census Update: Your Students Count

November 5, 2019 | For Educators

As you probably know, the 2020 Census is coming up soon. This decennial (there’s a vocabulary word for your word wall!) count impacts federal funds that communities receive for programs and services that are critical for schools, students, and younger children including special education, after-school programs, food assistance, and more. Therefore, it is crucial that EVERYONE is counted, especially children in underrepresented communities.

In order to help spread the word, we are proud to partner with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools (SIS) program, which uses data from the Census Bureau to provide standards-aligned classroom activities and resources. Whether you teach math, history, or geography, we encourage you to check out these 2020 Census K-12 Activities.

In addition, we’ve also added a selection of census-related activities to PowerMyLearning Connect that you can use with your students. Simply type “census” into the Search box and start exploring!

PowerMyLearning Connect Census Activities

Breaking Down Language Barriers

Breaking Down Language Barriers

August 15, 2019 | For Educators

At PowerMyLearning, we are committed to strengthening the triangle of learning relationships between students, teachers, and families. We hear regularly from teachers that language barriers are a real challenge for successful student-family-teacher relationships—and we know that more than 20% of school-age children speak a language other than English at home.

We are thrilled to announce PowerMyLearning Connect is now available in 100+ languages. This feature will allow teachers to connect with students who are English Language Learners (ELLs) and with non-English speaking families.

Translation in over 100 languages

Experts say the best way to communicate with parents of ELLs is to use the parent’s preferred language. Research also shows that when ELL parents get to learn alongside their children, it increases student achievement and attendance. But teachers are limited in time and resources to do this effectively—and especially in a way that is linked to student achievement.

That’s why we’re taking PowerMyLearning Connect to the next level with Family Playlists (also available in 100+ languages).

Family Playlists are mobile-friendly, multilingual homework assignments where students teach their family what they are learning in school.

We all know the adage that “you don’t really know something until you can teach it.” Turns out, this strategy is especially powerful for ELLs.  According to meta-analyses, when ELL students teach their family using their first language, it increases academic success. Plus, ELL parents benefit too because they get to learn alongside their children.

Here’s how Family Playlists work. When a teacher assigns a Family Playlist, the student’s parent (or family partner) receives a text with a link to the assignment in their language of choice. Then, the student and parent complete a fun activity at home where the student plays the role of the teacher. After completing the activity, the parent sends photos and feedback to the teacher on how well their child understood the concept. Then, the teacher responds to the parent’s feedback and uses the data to better meet the student’s needs.

With embedded translation, Family Playlists strengthen teacher-family relationships by opening a meaningful dialogue about learning that previously wasn’t possible. But that’s not all! Family Playlists also have proven impact around student achievement. According to a recent analysis, students using Family Playlists made statistically significant gains in math proficiency equivalent to four additional months of learning.

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