Lizet Casas is a family engagement facilitator with the San Antonio Independent School District.
About two years ago, she began incorporating the Right Question Institute’s School-Family Partnership Strategy into her day-to-day work. She’s already seeing results.
Around 100 to 200 parents have been introduced to the strategy, she said, and “they’ve learned a lot from the process.”
Casas has incorporated it into the parent leadership academy, which draws participants from 15 districts in the San Antonio area. She’s also used it with the Fathers in Action Committee, an engagement initiative for dads.
“The families appreciate it because they realize it’s not training you go through, it’s the thinking process,” she said.
The School-Family Partnership Strategy is a way for schools and families to open avenues of communication and forge more trusting and fruitful relationships with each other. The strategy builds parents’ ability to formulate and ask their own questions. It introduces them to a framework for accountable decision-making, and it works with them to play three roles in their children’s education: to support, monitor, and advocate.
A main component of the strategy is the Question Formulation Technique (QFT), which many teachers already use in the classroom with students.
“It’s easy to use” with parents, Casas said. “You can use it in less than 20 minutes,” and it leads to great discussions.
When doing the QFT with parents, Casas uses one of three prompts: “Your child is being held back,” “your child is sick,” or “your child is having challenges with reading.” Parents formulate as many questions as they can around those prompts. Then they improve the questions, prioritize them, and plan how to use them.
“When we do the one with the child being held back they get really passionate,” Casas said about parents in her groups.
“The QFT gives them” — parents — “a little more confidence” to deal not only with schools, but with other scenarios as well, such as trips to the doctor’s office.
Some of the most noticeable results have come from the Fathers in Action Committee. The group includes male role models, noncustodial fathers, and some fathers who “aren’t comfortable reading,” Casas said. In the past, some of the fathers have had antagonistic relationships with school leaders and teachers, and the QFT helped in “redirecting them to questions that might be helpful to their child,” she said.
Now, fathers in the group are some of the best advocates for building improved partnerships with schools, Casas said, and many are assuming more active roles in their children’s education.
Her overall message to both families and schools is that a trusting relationship is a productive one, so it’s worth building those relationships. The QFT and School-Family Partnership Strategy helps, she said. “It’s empowering for families.”
By Chris Orchard: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Ken Lund