Flamboyan Names Six D.C. Middle Schools as New Partners in the Middle School Family Engagement Partnership

June 1, 2017 02:16 PM
by / Topics: Improving Family Engagement

Flamboyan Foundation is kicking off the end of the school year alongside Kramer Middle School, Sousa Middle School, Takoma Education Campus, KIPP DC Northeast Academy, KIPP DC Valor, and DC Scholars, the six secondary schools joining the Middle School Family Engagement Partnership (MSFEP).

The MSFEP is an intensive, school-wide partnership designed to support student success by transforming the way teachers and families collaborate. Schools in the partnership receive dynamic principal and teacher capacity-building in the form of training, coaching, and professional development with a focus on relationship-building, academic partnering, and ongoing communication practices.

This partnership provides each school with the resources and tools to implement effective family engagement strategies that positively impact student outcomes. Through their work with Flamboyan, middle school leaders will develop and implement strategies that build a sustainable school culture that welcomes families and their engagement, honor adolescents’ growing independence, and support families to play impactful roles.

Adolescents undergo physical and social changes during middle school years. “Middle school is a tough time for students,” said KIPP Northeast Academy founding vice principal Caitlin Maxwell. “Flamboyan is going to give us the tools to have those partnership conversations with families so that they feel supported to go through these changes with their child while being involved academically.”

In the first year of the MSFEP partnership, teachers will focus on building strong relationships with families to create a foundation for all future family engagement work. School leaders emphasize why relationship-building home visits will set the stage for sustaining family engagement.

“I’m excited that teachers will start the school year off engaging families and building relationships with them,” said Loren Brody, principal of Takoma Education Campus. “Home visits form that connection from the very start [of the school year]. Families talk about what they want for their children and teachers let them know that they can assist in helping them reach their goals,” he said.

Roman A. Smith, principal at Kramer Middle School in Ward 8, acknowledges that many parents did not have a positive experience in school themselves and that hinders parents’ trust in educators. But, through the MSFEP, he believes that both he and his staff will learn strategies that build trust. “Building authentic relationships should assist us in building trust with families. Building trust gives us a leg up in being able to support their children in a meaningful way,” said Mr. Smith.

Effective family engagement ensures families have the school partner they need to bolster student success. Going a step further, though, it requires educators to examine their assumptions about families. Courtney Wilkerson is the principal at Sousa Middle School. “We know our students’ stories, but we don’t always treat our families with empathy,” said Ms. Wilkerson. “Transparent relationship building will help recognize and break down barriers. That’s why I want to dig deeper into bias work because I want staff to be aware of the bias they bring when they interact with families.”

The principal at KIPP Valor, Gillian Conner, taught middle school math before moving the Washington, D.C., where she says she became a “servant leader.” She believes that once you learn family engagement and see its impact on student outcomes, the heart of the practices – vulnerability and kindness – are easy to model. In order to get staff buy-in, though, is to name the behavior.

“Teachers want to do it [family engagement], but there is a skill-gap to be filled,” said Ms. Conner. “It’s not a willingness issue. It’s not that people aren’t willing to walk down the path. We just haven’t shown people the path yet. Being in partnership with Flamboyan is a way to show staff the path,” she ends.

Flamboyan’s Family Engagement Partnership began in 2011 with just five school partners in Washington, D.C. With the addition of these six new schools, the partnership has now grown to 46 schools serving D.C. Public School and public charter school students and their families.