THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
James A. Kadamus
Development of Regents Policy on Family Partnerships
April 28, 2005
Goals 1 and 2
Issue for Discussion
What process should the Board of Regents adopt to review and/or revise its family partnerships policy to strengthen ties among the State Education Department, USNY's member institutions and parents, families and caregivers of students?
Reason for Consideration
This question will come before the EMSC-VESID Committee on May 16, 2005 for discussion. If the proposed action plan is accepted by the Committee, a series of public engagements and feedback to the Board of Regents will begin, culminating in a revised policy statement adopted by the Regents in summer 2006.
In 1991, the Board of Regents adopted a statement of Regents policy entitled, "Parent Partnerships: Linking Families, Communities, and Schools.” The statement of Regents policy included extensive recommendations, based on the leading research at the time, for the manner in which the State Education Department and the entire school community could contribute to building alliances in support of higher academic achievement for all children.
Society and the challenges facing students have changed over the past 15 years. The evolution of an effective family partnerships policy must be informed by our students and their principal caregivers. The initial policy, and subsequent research on parental and family involvement, affirms the practice of institutions collaborating with communities to invite questions and unfold solutions.
The State Education Department recently articulated a platform for Parent Involvement Advocacy, which included these goals:
· Provide technical assistance and support to local school districts to enable districts to implement effective parent involvement activities that support student achievement;
· Ensure that parents receive timely information, in a language they understand, on student and school improvement;
· Disseminate information on effective parent involvement strategies and programs;
· Provide parents with the information and skills they require to effectively teach, support and advocate for their children; and
· Build capacity in schools to increase parental involvement in all activities designed to improve student achievement.
As a budget priority, the Board of Regents requested $5 million per year for three years to achieve these goals. These funds would establish regional parent resource centers and a statewide information hotline for parents, and provide funds to local districts to develop and implement innovative parent involvement programs. These activities will support higher student achievement, increased attendance and increased public support for quality education. This initiative was not funded by the Legislature this year.
To ensure that the policy of the Board of Regents is consistent with current research and leading practices in the field, resonates with communities, and is aligned with institutional priorities and resources, the State Education Department recommends that the Regents endorse the Department's plan to seek comment from constituencies across the State concerning implementation of the existing policy and recommendations for a new policy, to share the results of the public comment, and to propose revisions to the existing family partnerships policy.
Timetable for Implementation
Staff will submit a draft revised policy statement for discussion by the EMSC-VESID Committee in March 2006. A revised policy statement will be scheduled on the Regents agenda for action in summer 2006. Changes in Commissioner's Regulations may be needed as part of implementation of a revised Regents policy.
In 1991, the Board of Regents adopted a Regents policy statement entitled, “Parent Partnerships: Linking Families, Communities, and Schools.” The parent partnerships policy mandates “that each school board develop and implement a comprehensive parent partnerships policy that ensures that every school develop and implement a plan for effective parent participation.” The Regents affirmed two succinct policy statements and provided comment on the need, nature and necessary support for the growth of successful parent partnerships in schools and districts. The Regents policy included extensive recommendations, based on the leading research at the time, for the manner in which the State Education Department and the entire school community could contribute to building alliances in support of higher academic achievement for all children.
The Regents policy calls on the State Education Department to “require a parent participation component in the development and implementation of relevant policy and program initiatives, and evaluate such participation as part of the monitoring and school review process.” The Regents policy statement was made concrete in the adoption of Commissioner’s Regulation 100.11 that requires each district to develop a plan for school-based management and shared decision-making. Districts created planning teams; schools followed suit. Districts funded training and technical assistance. Some districts added administrators and conducted surveys to ensure compliance. Many schools contracted with vendors to speed implementation. Districts even hired independent program evaluators to safeguard the collaborative process. However, implementation of the regulations and the other activities called for in the Regents 1991 policy statement has been uneven.
The Board of Regents this year reaffirmed, by way of adopting a new strategic plan, an ambitious set of goals intended to close the achievement gap and extend the promise of education and opportunity to all students. The achievement gap reflects not the lack of intellectual capacity of children, but rather stark differences in the expectations for and the resources available to support these children. Disparities in per pupil expenditures and other resources such as qualified teachers, library materials, textbooks, etc., adversely and disproportionately affect low-income students in low-performing schools.
Two-parent households with children under the age of 18 describe a mere 10 percent of American households. Grandparents, siblings, teenagers, single mothers and fathers, extended families and foster parents constitute an ever-broadening range of America’s caregivers. Census data indicates there may be as many as 130,000 elderly women providing for school-aged children in New York State. The equation also includes those who care for incarcerated youth, homeless students and those infected with debilitating and oft-fatal diseases. Revisiting the Regents policy affords an opportunity to close gaps in our awareness and renew our commitment to ameliorate conditions under our control.
The State Education Department presently lacks sufficient resources to adequately monitor the effectiveness of school-based management teams and to strongly promote family partnerships. Budget constraints, federal mandates and local litigation affect institutional capacity. Moreover, recognizing and serving an expanding caregiving community will require innovative and significant alliances among USNY, the State Education Department, and social service providers throughout the State.
Emerging strategies such as school choice, academic support services, and curriculum and standards-based parent training for families, should be incorporated into new policy formulations. Federal directives within the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 call for schools and districts to share timely and accurate information with parents. Parents need to be partners in the educational enterprise empowered to make informed decisions based on an ongoing commitment by schools and districts to disclose relevant facts and offer needed assistance. Additionally, the recently reauthorized Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) incorporates multiple ways that parents must be included in all aspects of decision making and programming for students with disabilities.
Equally important to strengthening the dexterity of parents and caregivers in steering their charges through school is the call to the State Education Department to improve financial literacy. In 1997, an independent research team found that 40 percent of Americans live beyond their means due to misuse and misunderstanding of credit. Fifty-eight percent failed a basic quiz of personal finance. In 2002, the United States Departments of Treasury and Education convened a panel to discuss the importance of integrating financial literacy into school curricula. The needs for this approach are several: the rapid decline of viable employment opportunities; steep increases in private and postsecondary tuition; and spikes in personal consumer debt. Caregivers are often in precarious economic positions. Revisiting the policy is an opportunity to extend the partnership beyond the classroom in ways that expand the life chances for our students and their families.
The current Regents parent partnerships policy should be reviewed to determine the extent to which it is aligned with the Regents current goals and institutional capacity, and to assess its appropriateness given the implications of socio-economic change and structural, legislative and policy reform in New York State and across the nation.
Key Findings from Current Research*:
Recent research on parent partnerships confirms many of the keystones that served as the foundation for the 1991 policy statement:
§ Programs and interventions that engage families in supporting their children’s learning at home are linked to improved student achievement.
§ The more families support their children’s learning and educational progress, both in quantity and over time, the more their children tend to do well in school and continue their education.
§ Families and community involvement that is linked to student learning has a greater effect on achievement than more general forms of involvement.
§ Programs that successfully connect with families and community invite involvement, are welcoming and address specific parental and community needs.
§ Parent involvement programs that are effective in engaging diverse families recognize cultural and class differences, address needs and build on strengths.
§ Effective connections embrace a philosophy of partnership where power is shared – the responsibility for children’s educational development is a collaborative enterprise among parents, school staff and community members.
*Source: A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement (2002)
Action Steps Outlined in the Board of Regents Policy Statement (1991):
The second segment of the Regents Policy statement is entitled, “Roles and Activities for Participants in New York State Partnerships.” The Regents included descriptive recommendations for families; schools and districts; communities; higher education; libraries, museums and cultural institutions; and business, industry and labor. It also defines the manner in which the State Education Department “will support the development and implementation of parent partnerships,” as follows:
§ Convene an internal committee to coordinate existing SED-administered parent education and involvement programs and recommend to the Commissioner and Regents new directions and activities.
§ Establish a Statewide Parent Advisory Council.
§ Use interagency mechanisms to increase coordination.
§ Develop a State plan for implementation of the parent partnerships policy.
§ Implement a comprehensive parent partnerships policy that ensures every school will develop and implement a plan for effective participation by all parents.
§ Develop procedures, including variances for State programs, to promote coordinated delivery of services to children and families.
§ Develop a needs assessment to assist school boards in the design and implementation of parent partnership policies and programs at the school and district levels and a plan for disseminating information about effective family, school and community partnerships.
§ Require and evaluate parent participation as a component of relevant policy and program initiatives.
§ Provide technical assistance to school districts, schools and community groups regarding parent partnerships.
§ Modify postsecondary pre-service and in-service programs for teachers, administrators and support staff to improve parent partnerships.
§ Develop a public awareness program to support implementation.
The Regents policy statement of 1991 was crafted at a different time of the fiscal and organizational capacity of the State Education Department. At the time, an Associate Commissioner for Parent Partnerships and Student Development Services led this effort to forge a close collaboration with other institutional leaders. Today, the Department must employ other appropriate strategies for harnessing the collective resources of the Department, USNY and its regional networks if it is to accomplish these goals.
SED Implementation of Board of Regents Policy:
§ Implemented Commissioner’s Regulation 100.11 relating to school-based management and shared decision-making.
§ Convened regular statewide meetings of parents hosted by the Commissioner.
§ Established the New York State Parent Advisory Council to the Office of School Improvement and Community Services (NYC).
§ Established five Parent Centers to provide information and training to parents of children with disabilities.
§ Collaborated with the USDOE Office of Special Education Programs to produce a technical assistance document, Educating our Children Together: A Sourcebook for Effective Family-School-Community Partnerships.
§ Provided funding to districts, schools, community-based organizations and parent advocacy groups in support of effective parent involvement programs.
§ Created the New York State Learns Program featuring PBS broadcasts on education issues.
§ Collaborated with statewide Parent Information Resource Centers to support districts and schools.
§ Developed School Report Cards to provide parents with timely and accurate information on school performance.
§ Designed and developed Just the Facts, a series for parents on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
§ Participated in and supported national and regional Title I conferences and workshops.
§ Implemented, in collaboration with New York University, curriculum-based parent training.
Seven Key Questions:
The review mechanism proposed by the State Education Department is to present the field with guiding questions, intended to elicit comments, suggestions and recommendations. The questions presented below, developed in collaboration with an SED internal workgroup and the Parent Advisory Council (NYC), will serve as the point of departure for our conversations with parents and families, community leaders, teachers, and administrators.
§ How do we define family partnerships and how do we measure their success?
§ Where in New York have we developed successful family partnerships?
§ What are the barriers to successful partnerships?
§ What should be the Regents policy on family partnerships?
§ What is the role of SED and USNY in supporting family partnerships?
§ Given competing priorities, what resources should be committed by the State Education Department, USNY institutions, districts and schools to develop and support family partnerships?
§ What budgetary support should be provided by the State to achieve the goal of creating effective family partnerships in New York’s districts and schools?
Recommended process and timeline to address this issue:
§ Review existing Board of Regents Parent Partnerships Policy. Share preliminary findings and proposed review process with Board of Regents at May 2005 meeting.
§ Conduct regional meetings to solicit comments and recommendations from the field on the Key Questions – Fall 2005.
§ Consolidate, review and report to Board of Regents on public feedback - Winter 2006.
§ Develop a draft revised Family Partnership Policy - Spring 2006.
§ Develop a revised action plan incorporating the resources of USNY to implement the policy statement – Spring 2006
§ Propose adoption of revised Family Partnership Policy – Summer 2006.
§ Implement Action Plan for new Board of Regents Family Partnership Policy – Fall 2006.