WVFEC: A SEAMless Approach to Family Engagement

Beginning at birth, families are a child’s most influential teacher. Multiple areas of research have shown that families play a vital role in helping to ensure that their student is successful from cradle to career. In West Virginia, recent studies have demonstrated that parent, family, and community involvement in education correlates with higher academic performance, student wellbeing and school improvement. Positive family engagement includes staying involved in their student’s education, focusing on their student’s individual strengths, and having and expressing high expectations of academic achievement throughout their student’s education. Regardless of socio-economic status, parent education, or family structure, ongoing and consistent family engagement contributes to school and community success.

Children do best in school if families can play a variety of roles in their learning: helping at home, volunteering at school, planning their children’s future, and taking part in key decisions about school programs.

Ultimately, when schools collaborate with families to help students learn, and when families participate in school activities and decision-making about their student’s education, children do better in school, and schools improve. Multiple studies show that a family’s engagement in their child’s education is critical in improving academic outcomes for their children. Students whose families and school staff work together to support learning earn higher grades and test scores, are more motivated, and are more likely to graduate and further their education. In addition, through authentic partnerships with parents and families, schools gain improved teacher morale, lower rates of teacher turnover, more support from families, higher student achievement, and a better reputation in the community.

Greater family engagement is needed in all regions of the state of West Virginia but not all schools have developed the capacity to meet that goal. Additionally, too few West Virginia families have exercised their ability to partner with schools to positively impact student achievement. The West Virginia Family Engagement Center believes that the responsibility for building positive productive relationships between school, home, and the community rests primarily with the school staff, especially school and county leaders, and with the West Virginia Department of Education.

The beginnings of the “Hope Wall” to be displayed at Welch Elementary School in McDowell County, West Virginia. The “Hope Wall” will highlight goals and accomplishments of Welch Elementary students.

While many schools have exerted great effort to strengthen family-school partnerships, many school staff are continuing to use former family engagement strategies that do not address the needs of our 21st Century families. Because of this, the West Virginia Family Engagement Center program engages schools, families, and the community to transform family engagement across West Virginia based on current evidence-based practices in the field. Ensuring that parents and school staff understand that the responsibility for children’s educational development as a collaborative enterprise is a key to school improvement and student success throughout the implementation process of our statewide family engagement center initiative in West Virginia.

Through a partnership of schools, students, families, and community partners, the West Virginia Family Engagement Center encourages families to be actively involved in their student’s education at school, becoming full partners in educational planning for their children, and active participants in decision making processes. The family-inclusive tenets of the West Virginia Family Engagement Center program support the idea that an inclusive family-school environment creates a culture of learners that involve families and the school’s community in meaningful contributions to improve the educational results of its students.

The West Virginia Family Engagement Center, West Virginia Department of Education, Family Engagement Specialists, and statewide partners are connecting with families to support their children’s learning and development; encourage positive self image and a “can do” spirit in their children; advocate for improved learning opportunities for children at their school; and model lifelong learning and enthusiasm for education. This SEAMless approach to family engagement in West Virginia schools creates a culture of strong families, and ultimately, stronger students.

For more information on the WVFEC, click here or contact Assistant Director, Dr. Meaghan Cochrane, today.

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