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Leveling Up Family Engagement: 4 Learnings from the National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference

by Kimberly Hooper-Twumasi, Rachel Marston, Karima Raharjo, and Sanjay Singh 

The Flamboyan team was thrilled to join over 5,000 family engagement educators and advocates at the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL)’s National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference (CSxFE) in Atlanta!  

We were honored to present our session, “Leveling Up Post-Pandemic: Listening for REAL Family Engagement,” where we explored effective listening approaches in service of better understanding family engagement in the post-pandemic landscape. At the end of our presentation, we released a brand-new resource, Our Listening Philosophy, that outlines how educators can make time for their own listening strategies to build strong relationships within school communities.

Download Our Listening Philosophy

Overall, our conference experience was filled with valuable insights and meaningful discussions inside and outside different breakout and plenary sessions. Below you’ll find our top 4 key takeaways, which underscore the importance of collaboration and innovation in fostering strong school-family partnerships.

1. Educators and family engagement practitioners are eager to share and inspire one another. 

When there are wins, the family engagement and whole-child strategies community doesn’t hold back in championing each other and amplifying the importance of the work. The days were full of enriching sessions that supported the different roles in the ecosystem, from parent and youth leaders to school and district leaders and family engagement coordinators to nonprofit partners like us.

We also realized addressing challenges in community is a way to reflect and learn from the results. Bringing in other family engagement advocates is a great way to pool knowledge and come up with strategies for improvement. 

2. No “one size fits all” solution to family engagement’s most intractable challenges. 

As we came together to share challenges and learnings, we found that there could be different solutions and outcomes needed depending on the circumstances. It’s up to each role in the ecosystem to bring their expertise into the equation for consideration to piece together a meaningful puzzle. The strategies that are crafted by collaboration need to be community-specific as well, which supports that there could be a myriad of different ways to achieve a similar goal. 

Flamboyan recognizes these unique needs of all communities and works to help practitioners come together to hold space and build and strengthen their family engagement practice, individually and as part of a collective.  

3. Leadership buy-in remains to be a key lever in family engagement sustainability. 

No real initiatives can take hold and truly be embedded parts of a school without leadership support. Leadership at all levels (Principal, Vice Principal, District leader, Local Education Agency leader) need to exemplify the work and lead by example.

If everyone in the school sees the family engagement and whole-child strategies as meaningful and worthwhile from their leadership, that energy gets absorbed by students and families. It’s a cycle that can be sustainable once it’s ingrained into the fabric of a school up to the district level. 

4. Listening is happening all around us. 

Our team was humbled to host a full session during our “Leveling Up Post-Pandemic: Listening for REAL Family Engagement” presentation! As we showcased the importance of listening, we felt the weight of our work bear down on our audience as they reciprocated while we discussed best practices for listening and shared specific findings around barriers to #FamilyEngagement. 

Listening is how we garner data from which we build the foundation of our work: relationships and partnerships. It’s connected to our Family Engagement Partnership work in DC but also a springboard for future work when building new partnerships as part of our national growth. 

We’re leaning into our work focusing on REAL Family Engagement strategies in middle and high schools and would love feedback from educators in that space to share. If you’re interested in participating (or know someone who is), please sign up or pass along this link:

Help us delve into the evolving expectations for educators and uncover the challenges to family engagement strategies in middle and high schools!  

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