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Family Engagement in School

Parent Leadership

A key aspect of family engagement is including parent and caregivers in the decision-making process at their child's school. Karen Mapp’s Dual Capacity Framework for Family Engagement emphasizes building the capacity of families to negotiate multiple roles as part of an effective school – family partnership. This partnership includes families as decision makers and advocates. Joyce Epstein, a leading expert on family engagement, also lists “decision making” as one of the six ways to engage in your child’s education.

Decisions that were once considered to be the domain of the educator are now a part of a shared governance mandate….Educators and parents need to learn to govern together, because doing so will inevitably improve the quality of decisions.

- 176 Ways to Involve Parents: Practical Strategies for Partnering with Families, Betty Boult

For school, family and community partnerships to be successful, parents must be heard and share in the decision-making that takes place at their child(ren)’s school(s). However, this is not always an easy or comfortable role for parents. This may be challenging for families from diverse backgrounds who have been excluded from, overlooked or may not feel prepared for a leadership role. Therefore, it is important to train and support parents and other family members to take on a parent leadership role so they can be a meaningful participant. Here are resources that can be used to educate families and staff about parent leadership at schools.

PACER Resources

  • Parent Leadership and Systems Change
    Parent leadership occurs when parents gain knowledge and skills to take on leadership roles and represent the parent voice. Here are some tips for effective parent leadership to bring about change in policies, programs, or systems that impact families.
  • Special Education Advisory Councils (SEAC)
    To increase the engagement of families of children with disabilities in district policymaking and decision making, school districts must have a Special Education Advisory Council. Find out more about what the SEAC is and how families can get involved.
  • Tips for Emerging Leaders
    Many families bring leadership skills to the table because of their experiences at work, other service in the community, or simply the skills and traits that they have developed through life experiences. Other family members may be looking at ways to increase their leadership skills so they can take on new responsibilities. Here are some tips that may be helpful for you as an emerging family leader.
  • Telling Your Personal Story
    Through well told stories, parents can encourage and motivate others to understand the challenges and needs of youth with disabilities and their families. This resource article provides information to help parents tell their story, from personal experience to influencing change.

PACER Parent Leadership Sections

Other Parent Leadership Resources

Organizations That Provide Parent Leadership Training