Updated: Aug 9
In June, ParentCorps Director Kai-ama Hamer had the chance to address a national audience of school leaders in the U.S. Department of Education webinar, “How family engagement supports kindergarten readiness and early school success.”
Kai-ama was joined by our long-time partner, David Cintron, former principal of PS 214 in the Bronx and current Superintendent of District 14 in Brooklyn, New York, to discuss several exciting topics in family engagement, including:
The transformative power of authentic relationships with families
ParentCorps' unique approach to family engagement
What Superintendent Cintron saw in bringing this model to his students at PS 214
In her remarks, Kai-ama shared the why behind family engagement: “When we talk about engaging families, we are talking about helping schools create the conditions for families to feel seen, cared for, and valued when they walk into the school building – every time they walk into the school building – setting the stage for real partnership. I am talking about more than pretty fliers and serving coffee.”
Kai-ama also reflected on family engagement from her own personal experience as the Director of ParentCorps, a former educator, and as a mom.
“Honestly, I also know this model works through my own experience. My lived experience IS evidence - how ParentCorps landed on me as a teacher and a mother. I was a tired, burnt out teacher for 11 years when I encountered ParentCorps professional development, living in and coming from the community the model was designed to support. I’ve seen ParentCorps again and again and again reinvigorate educators to engage with families in ways that are culturally responsive and authentic.”
In turn, Superintendent Cintron shared compelling data about how partnering with ParentCorps supported his students at PS 214, and how he plans to bring this model into his vision for District 14 in Brooklyn. Speaking on how ParentCorps helped build community among students, families and school staff at PS 214, he said, “We saw an improvement in attendance in our early childhood grades… We had stronger transitions to kindergarten and beyond. There was a great improvement in our literacy outcomes beginning in kindergarten… We saw a huge drop in special education referrals for those families who participated… For those students participating, we saw significant [literacy] gains.” Ultimately, he noted “the importance of partnership that’s aligned [with families’ values] and mutually accountable.”
Lastly, Kai-ama shared advice for any school system looking to reimagine how they approach family engagement:
“Don’t make negative assumptions. Don’t lean on stereotypes or perceived deficits. Instead, get to really know your families, what they value, and what their strengths are. If you start with this spirit, it will spill over in your family engagement materials, strategies, and conversations, including the difficult ones. Ultimately - do everything with love and honesty. Avoid being the expert. Instead, ask: How do we honor parents’ expertise with their own children and their autonomy to choose what’s best for their families?”
View the full webinar here, and find out more about how your system can partner with ParentCorps to support your family engagement goals here.
Cindy Gray is a Senior Program Coordinator.