Leadership magazine March/April 2018 V47 No. 4 | Page 15

shifting away from broad , districtwide meetings to either school-based meetings or increased use of representative committees . Some describe the latter as a shift away from “ quantity to quality ” and , as a result , report seeing more “ rich discussions ” between community members and educators .
District leaders also attempted to engage parents in more informal ways , such as hosting “ principal coffees ” or “ piggybacking ” LCAP conversations with other meetings and events , such as family reading nights , and viewed them as more authentic processes .
One superintendent explained , “ Parents want input into a child ’ s education . … They don ’ t want to come to a meeting and listen to us with acronyms and jargon they don ’ t know . They are busy and they still don ’ t understand what the state has implemented . They do understand what a good education is ; their dreams and aspirations are for their kids to go to college . It ’ s our job to create the path .”
There is no “ right way ” to engage your community . However , the rich data we collected suggests there are important questions worth asking .
Reflective questions for leaders 1 . How does data inform community engagement efforts ?
Who are your foster youth ? What are your ELL reclassification rates ? In deeply engaged districts , leaders knew the answers to these questions . They used data to engage stakeholders . They held community forums , with translators . They clearly and openly shared performance data – the good , the bad and the ugly – using parent-friendly formats , including graphs and charts . They used data to build trust , showcase improvements , celebrate successes and highlight student needs .
In your efforts , take inventory of the kinds of data you are sharing with stakeholders . Is there more you could share to further surface opportunities for improvement , particularly for target groups ? And are you doing enough to ensure the data are clear and easy to understand ?
2 . Whose voices are reflected in your LCAP ?
In the end , we have to ask , how meaningful and democratic is a process that omits particular voices ?
This is a good time to reflect on how participatory your engagement process has been . In our research , we found these frequently omitted voices : migrant parents , non-English speakers , foster youth guardians , low-income parents , community advocates / organizations , teachers , union staff and students .
We heard similar challenges to inclusivity , such as parents who don ’ t attend meetings because they ’ re working night shifts and low survey response rates . Yet , several case districts were able to solicit wide stakeholder input . Not only does this get closer to the intent of the law , but more importantly it results in richer discussions and meaningful engagement .
In the next year , why not try something new ? Move community meetings to the school level , and perhaps tag onto curriculum night or PTA meetings . Hold meetings right after school or during lunch to accommodate parent and student schedules .
Personally invite parents you never hear or call on the usual attendees to bring a friend who typically does not participate . Enlist translators to make personal phone calls . Think creatively about how to overcome challenges limiting participation , particularly from hard-to-reach stakeholders . 3 . What is your role as a leader in the LCFF ? LCAP is not just another compliance document to check off your list ; although we noted that , across the state , the onerous LCAP template was a frequent source of irritation . Your district ’ s LCAP is a communication vehicle , a needs assessment , and a plan targeting student equity .
Your role is to communicate to parents , students , superiors and subordinates about the importance of allocating state dollars to meet student needs , which sometimes means giving more to higher-needs students . This is a huge shift , and one many still do not understand .
Talk about the LCFF , articulate your district or school needs with stakeholders , and keep the conversation going . You are an opinion leader and a local expert . You should also be the local expert of the LCFF , listening and gently guiding the conversation back to student needs . 4 . Is your focus on needs or wants ? Perhaps the greatest area for improvement is the focus of community engagement . So often , we saw evidence of shallow engagement based on the desires of the few . Parents were concerned about programs that affected their own children ; unions had a different agenda . Community-based organizations had varying interests , as well .
All of these wants are valid , but must be mediated by an educational leader , as the intent of the LCFF is to support all students , but also those with greatest needs .
So how can you steer the conversation to the needs of the whole district , instead of the wants of particular groups ? In our research , we found that openly sharing data , while highlighting the needs of particular subgroups , was useful . Increased participation and broader representation , particularly of high-needs groups , also helped the focus of
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