When the team at Flamboyan Foundation set out to build the first-of-its-kind Family Engagement Assessment Tool, they sought a partner to provide critical support on the data, analysis, and research for the Tool. Enter Dr. Kyndra Middleton, Professor of Educational Psychology and Director of Graduate Studies for the School of Education at Howard University. We sat down with Dr. Middleton to learn more about her background and experience, how she supported the Family Engagement Assessment Tool, and her hopes and dreams for how it will support educators nationwide.
FLAMBOYAN: How would you describe your role at Howard University, and how did you come into it?
DR. MIDDLETON: I’ve been at Howard for 14 years now and assumed the Director of Graduate Studies role in July 2021. I’m responsible for scholarships and fellowships for the School of Education, and serve as a liaison between the Grad School and the School of Ed. I also became a full professor as of last year, which has been my goal in life! Previously, I’ve served as an educational psychology program coordinator, and after I got my M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Iowa, I did my post-doc at Educational Testing Service to gain practical experience.
I love being behind the scenes with data and research – that’s where my true passion is, and it’s one of the reasons why I teach stats and educational measurement courses. And what keeps me here after 14 years now are the students. I care about them learning and being successful.
FLAMBOYAN: You used the word “passion” – tell us more about that.
DR. MIDDLETON: I love the data analysis part. Cleaning the data, doing the detective work like looking at the IP addresses, making sure no one is trying to “cheat the system.” I just love engaging in analysis, and writing up the results for discussion, which I got to do for the Family Engagement Assessment Tool. I am a straight numbers person!
FLAMBOYAN: What was your role in developing the Tool? Can you share more about the science behind it?
DR. MIDDLETON: I was given the first version of the tool created a few years ago and used that as a guide to both pull some of the original questions and create additional questions based on my review of the literature on family engagement practices. Based on those questions plus the first version of the tool itself, I then facilitated two focus groups. I ended up with about 62 survey items, which was far too many, so I split it in half to be “school focused” and “teacher focused.”
After getting feedback from the focus groups, I sent it off to six psychometric evaluators to determine if any of the items could be confusing. Once that was complete, we ended up with the 29 items you now see on the Family Engagement Assessment Tool. From there, we made the survey live to get some initial data and ended up with about 600 responses. I narrowed those responses down in data cleaning, did a confirmatory factor analysis, and tested the reliability. The validity was good – the items measure what we say they measure!
FLAMBOYAN: Did you learn anything about family engagement in this process that surprised you?
DR. MIDDLETON: Some things came out of the focus groups that really struck me, especially listening to the teachers talk. One thing I heard was that family engagement is very important – that’s known. But I didn’t realize that there were so many teachers who felt that their schools weren’t really doing enough to help with family engagement. The school might say it’s important but doesn’t give teachers the time or tools to help do it. Another thing that struck me was about thoughtful communication with families. You can’t just invite parents to a school without thinking about considerations like, “Can they read this message?” or “Is this at a time of day when they can come?”
FLAMBOYAN: One question we encourage educators to ask their students’ families is, “What are your hopes and dreams for your child?” So let us ask you – what are your hopes and dreams for the Family Engagement Assessment Tool?
DR. MIDDLETON: I hope that it will be taken seriously, and I hope that folks will actually use their results. This isn’t just another survey. What will you do with the information you’re given?
I would also love to see that the results are being utilized toward impact and using data to inform next steps for the Tool.
Take the Family Engagement Assessment Tool now at www.engageyourfams.org. Learn more about the Tool and Dr. Middleton’s contributions on the website.