Millions of dollars have been invested in initiatives that urge families to care more about education. The problem is that a lack of caring is not the problem. Across decades of experience and work with thousands of families whose children attend high poverty schools, we have found that families care deeply about their children and their children’s future. What is often missing is a better way for schools and families to partner so that everyone has a seat at the table. IDRA’s Family Leadership in Education Model aims to captures this approach.
Few people question the value of parents being involved in schools. But many school leaders labor with traditional strategies that have little meaning or success. The underlying assumptions we have about our students have a dramatic effect on our ability to teach. The same holds true among adults. Even with the best of intentions, educators struggle to work with families without realizing that their own deficit assumptions are creating the barriers.
We chose to champion and speak for the inclusive, nondiscriminatory idea that all families are inherently good and worthy of being treated with respect, dignity and value (including those who are economically disadvantaged, minority or speak a language other than English).
IDRA’s goal is bigger than parent involvement in education, rather it is family leadership. This model is a vision of all families as advocates of excellent neighborhood public schools. In this context, leadership is:
- based on peer support and rotating responsibilities,
- ongoing invitation and support of new leadership,
- connecting parents and communities across race, ethnic and class divisions,
- focusing on collective action for the good of all children, and
- building relationships and trust that are essential to the process.
The characteristics we support in the development of leadership are in contrast to some traditional parent leadership models that emphasize individual assertiveness and charismatic advocacy. Our process supports parents in learning to work in groups, planning and carrying out activities, speaking in front of groups, and developing other personal skills and traits that develop the individual. But, our emphasis is on collective action, listening to peers, and revolving tasks and leadership roles.
Classnotes Podcasts on IDRA’s Family Leadership in Education Model
A Expressions of Effective Parent and Community Engagement – January 24, 2012
New Model for Community Engagement in Education – June 27, 2011
Parents as Leaders in Education – May 14, 2010
Effective Parent Outreach – July 23, 2008
Engaging Parents in Education – September 28, 2007
Valuing Families in Children’s Education – April 20, 2007
The Power of IDRA’s Parent Leadership Model – November 10, 2006
IDRA Family Leadership Principles (web)
IDRA Family Leadership in Education Principles, bilingual handout (pdf)
IDRA Parent Leadership Model (web)
IDRA Parent Leadership Model – Four Dimensions, bilingual handout (web or pdf)
“Valuing” and “Deficit” Assumptions (web), bilingual handout (pdf)
IDRA Newsletter Articles (English) (web)
IDRA Newsletter Articles (Spanish) (web)
Other Publications and Links
IDRA Classnotes Podcast – conversational audio program with episodes on parent engagement