Washington, DC office:
1730 Massachusetts Avenue, NW | Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 315-2410

Puerto Rico office:
P.O. Box 16699 | San Juan, PR 00908-6699
Tel: (787) 977-5522

Family Engagement in Washington, D.C.

We define family engagement as the collaboration between families and schools that drives student achievement. A strong body of research shows that students do better in school and in life when their parents are engaged in their education.  Teachers are only with children an average 14% of their time, so it is essential that families reinforce messages about learning outside of school.

The most important roles parents play in their children’s success include having high expectations, constantly reinforcing the value of education, monitoring performance and holding children accountable, supporting learning, guiding children through important decisions, and advocating for them.

Schools’ family engagement efforts should focus on equipping parents to play these roles by giving them timely, individualized and actionable information about what children are learning in school, how they are learning it, and what families can do to support that learning at home. Educators should communicate regularly with families to understand their hopes and dreams for their child, to co-construct academic goals to help achieve those hopes and dreams, and to report on the student’s progress in meeting those goals.

While many service providers, funders and policymakers focus on training families so that they can play these roles, often teachers and school administrators do not receive support and training to engage families in ways that improve student learning. As such, much of Flamboyan Foundation’s work focuses on building the capacity of schools, principals, teachers and districts to reach out and partner effectively with families.

Our Processour process

Understanding the Local Environment
Landscape Assessment & Selection
Developing a Deep Understanding
Proposed Outcomes & Strategy
Selecting & Working with Partners
Evaluation & Results

Understanding the Local Environment

We began our work in Washington, D.C. in 2008 by having a series of conversations with local experts on education.

We were specifically interested in education reform strategies that impact student achievement but that weren’t receiving adequate attention in the District of Columbia. So, we asked the question of everyone we spoke with, “if you had time, energy and some money, what would you work on in education locally?”

From the responses we heard, two clear patterns emerged: “Family Engagement” was a common issue that people felt was important but inadequately addressed and there wasn’t a common definition for “Family Engagement.” So, we set out to learn more.

Landscape Assessment & Selection

We contracted with the Endeavor Group to help us learn:

  1. Whether  Family Engagement does, in fact, lead to student achievement.
  2. Who is doing what in Family Engagement both nationally and locally.

From the results of this landscape assessment, we heard a resounding “yes” that Family Engagement does lead to student achievement.  We also collected valuable information about the major players working on this issue in the district and across the nation, and the various strategies they are pursuing to improve family engagement.

More importantly, we learned that people mean very different things when they say family engagement, and there were actually two interdependent but quite different issues that needed attention.  Family Engagement is the collaboration between families and educators that improves an individual child’s learningwhereas Education Advocacy is about mobilizing families to demand high quality schools. We decided to work on both issues and began building a local team with expertise in both areas.

Developing a Deep Understanding

Having chosen to work on Family Engagement and Education Advocacy, we needed to learn more.  So, we asked the Endeavor Group to conduct focus groups with 150 families from all wards in Washington, D.C. to understand the sentiments, concerns, and suggestions of local residents.

Once the Flamboyan team came on board, we conducted further research to understand what types of family engagement actually lead to student achievement.  To do so, the team reviewed over 200 books, peer-reviewed journal articles and policy briefs and interviewed dozens of experts in the field.

From this work we developed research briefs and synthesized our learning into a framework of effective family engagement with both classroom and school rubrics.  We set out to test these documents in partnership with teachers, local school and district leaders, and other experts in the field.

Over the course of a year, we discussed and tested our framework, refining and adapting it to the specifics of Washington, D.C.’s environment. At the same time, we began crafting and refining the outcomes we wanted to see from our family engagement work, identifying the barriers to achieving those outcomes, and developing strategies to overcome the most important barriers. Our theory of change lays out how we believe our work in family engagement will improve student achievement over the long term.

Proposed Outcomes & Strategy

Our outcomes and strategies for Family Engagement focus primarily on training and support for educators in order to create a productive and supportive environment for families now and in the future.

Long Term Outcome 

Washington, D.C. families are guides, partners, and advocates for their children’s education, so that Washington, D.C. students achieve at higher levels.

Short Term Outcomes Strategies
Washington, D.C. teachers are trained in effective family engagement.
  • Develop an open source curriculum and tools on family engagement for teachers.
  • Create a fellowship program to identify and promote champions of family engagement.
  • Pilot and evaluate the curriculum in schools.
  • Provide professional development and coaching to teachers in partner schools.
  • Offer home visit training for teachers and create local capacity to provide home visit training going forward.
Washington, D.C. principals are trained in effective family engagement.
  • Develop an open source curriculum and tools on family engagement for principals.
  • Lead a professional learning community for principals in partner schools.
Washington, D.C. principals and teachers are held accountable for family engagement.
  • Work with D.C. Public Schools, charter leaders and partner schools to build effective family engagement practices into performance evaluation systems for principals and teachers.
  • Support D.C. Public Schools, charter leaders and partner schools to develop family engagement expectations for principals and teachers.
  • Support D.C. Public Schools and the D.C. Public Charter School Board in developing school scorecards that are family-friendly.
  • Integrate family engagement into processes for principal and teacher recruitment and selection.
Washington, D.C. schools receive support to implement effective, school-wide approaches to family engagement.
  • Support Learning Partnerships in 11 D.C. schools.
  • Create tools to adapt data systems for family engagement.
  • Support comprehensive family engagement partnerships in 5-7 schools, including support for:  home visits, strategic planning, professional development and coaching, professional learning community for principals and data-sharing initiatives.
Washington, D.C. families receive training and support to effectively engage.
  • Support local parent training programs.
  • Explore bringing parent leadership programs to Washington, D.C.
Stakeholders and influencers understand and support effective family engagement.
  • Share learning with local and national education funders.
  • Share learning with local and national education reform thought leaders.
  • Support D.C. Public Schools to create systems and structures to spread effective family engagement work.


Selecting & Working with Partners

We work towards achieving our desired outcomes in partnership with organizations with complementary missions and expertise.  It is our pleasure and privilege to work with the following organizations:

Outcomes Flamboyan Foundation partnered with:
Family engagement teacher training curriculum is developed, piloted, and evaluated.
  • Teach For America to develop open source family engagement curricula for teachers. Created and piloted with a professional learning community of second-year teachers, in SY2011-2012 all D.C.-area Teach For America first-year corps members and second year early childhood, elementary and special education teachers will be trained using this curriculum.
  • The Center for Inspired Teaching to develop open source family engagement curricula. Inspired Teaching Fellows and Institute participants received the training in SY 2010-2011.
  • The Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium to develop and integrate family engagement curricula for teachers.
DCPS and public charter school teachers are trained on effective family engagement. The Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project in 2011 to train hundreds of DCPS and public charter school teachers on home visiting. Home visits are transformational experiences that change teachers’ mindsets about families and families’ mindsets about teachers. Home visits help parents and teachers get to know one another and to develop relationships of mutual respect.
There are visible models of D.C. teachers effectively engaging families. Nine teachers who we have awarded Family Engagement Fellowships in recognition of their excellent work engaging families as partners in student learning. Throughout the year, Family Engagement Teacher Fellows will share their expertise with others and strengthen their own family engagement practices.
Family engagement principal training curriculum is developed, piloted, and evaluated. New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS) to develop and pilot an open source family engagement curriculum for principals. NLNS is piloting this curriculum with its resident principals in Washington, D.C.
D.C. schools receive support to implement effective, school-wide approaches to family engagement.
 Stakeholders and influencers understand and support effective family engagement.

Evaluation & Results

Since we have only been making grants since June 2010, we are currently focusing our evaluation efforts on monitoring implementation and evaluating short-term outcomes, including impacts on beliefs, knowledge, and behavior. Would you like to receive occasional updates on our progress via email?