Family Engagement Council meets | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Family Engagement Council meets

May 24, 2019

Credit Dale Wetzel / DPI

An expert on encouraging family engagement in schools believes schools need to do a better job in engaging parents to be involved in their children’s education.

Dr. Steve Constantino was in Bismarck to speak to the first meeting of School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler’s Family Engagement Cabinet.

Constantino said families have seen better outcomes, when they’re involved with the schools. But he said it will take some changes in mind-set. For example, Constantino said some schools equate engagement to attendance at events.

"They say, 'We're going to do a better job to get more people to come to, fill-in-the-blank," Constantino said in an interview. "Math night, reading night, back-to-school night, candy night, 'throw-a-pie-in-the-principal's-face-night, whatever it is."

But Constantino said those kinds of events don’t encourage real engagement, nor does involvement in PTA."

"We don't have a lot of evidence from a research standpoint that says, 'If i get you to join the PTA, your kid will do better in school," Constantino said.

Instead, Constantino said schools and families need to do more to encourage two-way communication. As an example, he said one way is for teachers to give parents a heads-up on what their child is doing in school – instead of waiting for a report card every nine weeks.

"For example, the teacher can send an e-mail, saying, 'We studied dinosaurs in school today. Ask your child what he or she learned about dinosaurs, then send me a note or call me, or send me a text and tell me what they said," Constantino said. "If your child say, 'I learned this, and this, and this, you can tell the teacher. But if your child says, 'I didn't learn anuthing about dinosaurs,' that kind of feedback is critical for teachers."

Constantino said he’s excited that North Dakota is taking a step toward encouraging more family engagement with education. He believes it will improve outcomes.