“If you have no family and community engagement strategy, there will be no school improvement,” Karen Mapp, Ed.D., a community engagement expert, told a room crowded with over 120 people at the Holiday Inn in East Hartford this afternoon. The group of parents, community members, educators, future educators, and administrators attended the Community Forum — Linking for Learning — to learn more about building relationships between schools and communities.
Mapp, a senior lecturer on education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the faculty director of the Education Policy and Management master’s program, said that many times schools don’t tell families all of what they need to know. “A lot of what we tell parents is about discipline and rules,” she said. “They want to know about academics. We need to make academic offerings more family friendly.”
“Help the parents ask the right questions,” she encouraged educators.
Mapp said that parents should understand what their child is expected to master by the end of the year. “If families don’t know that, it means the school is not communicating necessary information,” she said.
When Mapp visited Singapore, she found that everyone she spoke with knew what students should be learning, and knew what the country’s education goals are.
Mapp told participants that their whole school community should understand the school’s educational goals. “Does your custodian know, your school nurse, librarian? Everyone in the building needs to know. That’s where disconnects can happen. If everyone is not on the same page, then you have a gap.”
To get participants thinking about what their school could do to improve community engagement, Mapp shared a rubric with four levels that schools can use to self score. On the rubric schools range from being partnership schools to fortress schools depending on how open and responsive they are to families and community members.
CEA Retired member and immediate past president of the East Hartford Education Association (EHEA) Karen O’Connell said, “I particularly liked the rubric that attendees used to find where their school fell. It was very thought provoking. I thought about all the schools in East Hartford that I visited as EHEA president and thought about how I’d rate each school.”
The forum session this afternoon is followed by an evening session that will reach even more educators and community members. The forum is part of a series sponsored by CEA, the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut, CommPACT, Connecticut Federation of School Administrators, Connecticut National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Connecticut PTSA, Connecticut State Department of Education, Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, and Urban League of Greater Hartford.