Flamboyan Foundation’s inaugural National Family Engagement Collaborative Fellowship participants have been working in five jurisdictions across the country to identify the evolving barriers that hinder effective family engagement practices. Over the past two months, 19 fellows, who come from Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Tennessee, conducted landscape assessments to deeply understand the context that will inform the design of the unique family engagement intervention that each cohort will pilot in the coming year. Each group will present their in-depth landscape assessment at this month’s second National Fellowship Convening, which launches today in Denver.
The landscape assessment consisted of five major components including (but not limited to) research on history of race and equity to how the situation shows up today to empathy one-on-one interviews and focus group interviews with students, families, teachers, administrators, and policy leaders.
“When asked to describe their vision for authentic family and community engagement, every interviewee paused to think,” as reflected by the Baltimore cohort. “No one had ever asked them for their opinion, their perspective, or their dream for real engagement between the district, schools, and families. That pause was everything.”
At the Denver Convening, fellows will expand their knowledge of family engagement through learning and discussion about Denver Public School’s approach, specifically considering systematic change through a district lens and opportunities for a state-level approach. The fellows have committed to the year-long fellowship to write a one-to-three-year strategic plan for family engagement based on landscape assessment, short-cycle pilots, and deepened perspective on race and equity.
Landscape assessments and this analytic approach is not new to Flamboyan Foundation. At the very beginning, Kristin Ehrgood, Flamboyan Foundation president and board chair, knew that she wanted the foundation to take on education, but it was through landscape assessments that she identified the problem and, consequently, the area of focus – family engagement.
“This was important to really ground the foundation of our work at Flamboyan,” said Ehrgood. Nearly ten years ago Flamboyan started a “local environment” in the District, identifying key players leading the charge in family engagement and diving into research findings that supported the notion that family engagement improves student learning. Flamboyan led focus group interviews with 150 families to understand their perspective on the issue and aligned with schools and partners that would help Flamboyan achieve its outcomes.
“Much like the participants in the National Family Engagement Collaborative Fellowship, we identified the barriers and the systematic issues that hold us back from achieving effective family engagement here in DC. Then we evaluate our results, constantly asking ‘what did we learn,’” said Ehrgood.
Over the course of the three-day convening, fellows will also utilize the design thinking process to define the problem that the team will focus upon for the fellowship year, brainstorm and construct mini-pilots, and reflect on personal beliefs about race and equity.
To learn more about the National Family Engagement Fellows, read their bios here.