This week, you will continue to develop your Children, Families, and Communities Guidebook by completing the Developing Family Partnerships section. This week’s readings include Chapters 4-7 of the Gestwicki text and focuses on building family partnerships. Chapter 4 presents the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct (Links to an external site.) and Statement of Commitment, specifically describing the nine ideals connected to family involvement. These ideals support an early childhood education professional’s ethical responsibilities and commitments to the families in their settings. Using this chapter, as well as the content in the Gestwicki chapters and the NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct (Links to an external site.), complete the Family Partnerships section and add it to your text-based or electronic Guidebook using the following requirements. An example of this section and requirements can be referenced in the Instructor Guidance.
Guidebook Setup: Last week, you chose either a text-based or electronic format for your guidebook. This week,
you will continue to develop your existing work by adding a new section titled, “Developing Family
Partnerships.” You will continue to build your Guidebook using your chosen format from last week.
Guidebook Developing Family Partnerships Section: For this section, you are going to develop nine personal statements of commitment, including action plans for how you will specifically develop family partnerships in your future or current role. For each of the nine NAEYC ethical responsibilities, specific to the family partnerships section, you will:
Writing and Formatting Expectations:
When the powers that control funding mandate family involvement as a program requirement, there is no longer any debate about whether to have parent participation. Several legislative efforts have included parent participation as part of the required structure in schools and agencies providing services to children. In addition, recent policies and practice guidelines have proclaimed specific directions for programs to follow in relation to families—sometimes in order to win accreditation or professional status. Several examples of mandated parent involvement will be discussed next.
We have already mentioned Head Start as an example of the research linking family involvement with children’s school success. From the beginning, Head Start was required to have “maximum feasible participation” of the families served. Head Start Performance Standards for family support and parent involvement include the following:
Parents are given a concrete means of doing something for their children. The major role of decision maker is emphasized to offer parents opportunities to become competent in running the program. Parents set the standards for the hiring of professional staff—often interviewing and selecting staff. They also participate in decisions on budgetary matters. Parent decisionmakers influence the agency to become sensitive to the culture and needs of the families served.
More recent federal initiatives authorize funds as part of Chapter I of Title I (of PL 100-297), reauthorized by the Literacy Involves Families Together (LIFT) Act of 2000 and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001. Called Even Start, the family-centered education program funds local efforts to improve the educational opportunities for the nation’s low-income children and adults by integrating early childhood education and adult education for parents into a unified family-centered Focusing on children and parents as a unit, with the parents becoming active in their children’s development—not relating separately to parents and children. literacy program. The mandate calls for the following:
Each program funded by Title I funds must have a plan to involve families. Sample activities and services for families that may be funded by Title I include the following:
An example of the mandated involvement for parents can be seen in a Parent/School Partnership agreement signed by parents whose children were participating in a pre-kindergarten program funded by Title I resources. In this agreement, parents agree to the following:
Parents are informed that failure to fulfill these requirements may mean their child cannot remain in the program.
Parent involvement in plans to provide services for children with special needs was first mandated by PL 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. This law requires parents’ participation in planning with professionals to develop an individualized education program (IEP) for their children.
Parents can initiate a hearing if they do not agree with the child’s diagnosis, placement, or IEP. The 1986 Education of the Handicapped Act Amendments and all later reauthorizations and amendments added services for infants and toddlers and required a focus on the family for delivery of services. Parents or guardians are included in a multidisciplinary team that develops an individualized family service plan (IFSP), including a statement of the family’s strengths and needs in maximizing the development of the infant or toddler with disabilities. These provisions are continued in the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act in 1990 and the amendments of 1997. The reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Improvement Act of 2004 (PL 108-446) included provisions to align special education with the NCLB legislation, such as requiring parents to monitor whether the IEP was in line with state standards for achievement. Families are required to be involved with all aspects of planning for the education of their children with special needs. Read more about this in Chapter 14.
The Child Care and Development Block Grants, funded by Congress in 1990 and reauthorized and renamed the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), is legislation that lays the foundation for a national system of safe and affordable child care. Many provisions of CCDF highlight the importance of parental choice and involvement. The bill preserves the rights of parents in the system by stating that nothing in the bill should be applied to “infringe upon or usurp the moral and legal rights and responsibilities of parents.” Parents are given the right to help set child care standards and policies on national, state, and local levels. The legislature sets minimum national standards, including parent involvement, to help parents measure and improve program quality. The bill also funds resource and referral programs to educate parents and the public about child care options and choices, licensing and regulatory requirements, and complaint procedures. These CCDF provisions recognize the importance of including parents in child care systems.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind, was signed into law in 2002 (PL 107-10) and has far-reaching effects on educational systems, schools, classrooms, and the children served. Four main goals are behind the law:
Teachers should be familiar with all provisions of the law, but we will focus on the choices and opportunities for families mandated by the law. In general, the law mandates that schools give parents the tools they need to support their children’s learning, communicate regularly regarding academic progress and available choices for children, provide opportunities for family workshops, and offer parents opportunities to engage in parent leadership activities at school (see Figure 4-11). The intention of the requirements is for parents to play central roles and be actively encouraged to be involved in their children’s education.
Parents of children in low-performing schools have new options for making changes for their children. In schools that do not meet state standards for at least two consecutive years, parents may transfer their children to better-performing public schools, including charter schools, within their district, with transportation provided by the district. Students from low-income families that fail to meet state standards for at least three years are eligible to receive supplemental educational services, such as free tutoring, afterschool services, and summer school. Parents can also choose another public school if the school their child attends is unsafe.
Schools are required to give parents annual report cards that show how well students in each school performed on required standardized tests, broken out by race, gender, disability, and the like so parents can clearly see how well their schools are performing. In addition, parents must be given an annual report about how teacher qualifications at the school meet the law’s requirements.
In addition to these family rights, the law makes clear statements about requirements for parent involvement. The requirements include the following:
Parental information and resource centers (PIRC) are to assist parents of children identified for improvement under Title I. These school-based and school-linked centers are designated to help implement effective parental involvement policies, programs, and activities that will improve children’s academic success. Another purpose is to develop and strengthen partnerships among parents (including parents of children from birth through age five), teachers, and their children’s schools and programs. Fifty percent of the funds designated for PIRC are to serve areas with a high concentration of low-income families; of the funds, a minimum of 30 percent is to be used to establish, expand, or operate early childhood parent education programs. (See the information about the PIRC program at the website noted at the end of this chapter.)
With these provisions and requirements, the act is sending clear messages to schools about the necessity of family involvement programs in all schools. It is important for teachers to understand the requirements of the law and help interpret them to families. Many hope that this is the beginning of a new era of home and school communication and partnership, even while they may have concerns about other aspects of the law, such as the emphasis on testing.
Two resources could be particularly useful to teachers trying to help families understand the implications of NCLB for themselves and their children. A fact sheet titled Choices for Parents is available to download and print from the Department of Education website; see the references at the end of this chapter. Booklets titled Models of Meaningful, Productive Parent Engagement and Success Stories about Family and Community Involvement are available from the Learning First Alliance; see information about this website at the end of this chapter (see Figure 4-12).
Beyond these legislative mandates, clear statements issued from several professional organizations point toward inclusion and involvement of parents in schools for young children as a measure of a quality program.
A tool that is widely used in the United States—and in military child care and other programs around the world—is the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale, now in a revised edition (Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2004). Program administrators, credentialing evaluators, and teachers wanting to identify areas of strength and need for improvement in an early childhood program use the 43 items of the rating scale. One of the items, number 38, is focused on provisions for parents.
The specific indicators identified under this item delineate practices that may be rated from inadequate to excellent. In many states, programs must get at least a good rating to gain a higher standard of licensing or certification. The descriptors that suggest quality are described in Figure 4-13.
The NAEYC has developed standards to accredit high-quality programs for young children. The NAEYC governing board approved revised accreditation performance criteria in 2005. Among the program standards, partnerships with families are included as a necessary component. Program Standard 7 says:
The program establishes and maintains collaborative relationships with each child’s family to foster children’s development in all settings. These relationships are sensitive to family composition, language, and culture.
Young children’s learning and development are integrally connected to their families. Consequently, to support and promote children’s optimal learning and development, programs need to recognize the primacy of children’s families; establish relationships with families based on mutual trust and respect; support and involve families in their children’s educational growth; and invite families to fully participate in the program. (NAEYC, 2005a)
The specifics drawn from the performance criteria in the section related to families (NAEYC, 2005a, pp. 13–15) can be found on the inside cover of this textbook.
You will have noticed that these discussions have centered on American research, American institutions, and American legislature and requirements. Families who enter American schools and preschools having had experiences in other countries may have encountered similar or very different approaches in working with families. Around the globe, early educators are struggling with how to achieve optimum outcomes with children, including working with families and adapting practices to individual communities. Such studies go beyond the scope of this textbook, but interested students can learn more by studying what is happening around the world, including in the countries from which their immigrant families come. A starting place could be the entire November 2007 and November 2010 issues of Young Children [62(6) and 65(6)], in which programs and practices in places as far-flung as Bangladesh, China, South Korea, Estonia, Denmark, El Salvador, and more are discussed.
Read about some of these programs and then reflect on how ideas from other countries can contribute to good practices for children and families with whom you work.
The Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitment, approved by NAEYC’s Governing Board in 1989, revised in 2005, and reaffirmed and updated in 2011, includes a section of ethical responsibilities to families, articulating 15 specific principles governing actions and the following nine ideals:
The 15 principles that are enunciated in this section of the code of ethics are useful in helping teachers determine appropriate professional actions when they face dilemmas in serving families. The principles of the code of ethics related to working with families are accessible online.
As you read this chapter, do you find that your own definition of family involvement is expanding? What was your definition until now? What new ideas are you adding to your definition?
The revised NAEYC Position Statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practice (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009) makes explicit the professional commitment to:
These are the statements most directly related to working with families and their cultures, customs, and beliefs. The most recent revision repeats the emphasis on establishing reciprocal relationships with families. The statement maintains:
Practice is not developmentally appropriate if the program limits “parent involvement” to scheduled events (valuable though these may be), or if the program/family relationship has a strong “parent education” orientation. Parents do not feel like partners in the relationship when staff members see themselves as having all the knowledge and insight about children and view parents as lacking such knowledge. Such approaches do not adequately convey the complexity of the partnership between teachers and families that is a fundamental element of good practice. (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009, p. 23)
Of the five sections in the NAEYC position statement on roles of the teacher, one deals specifically with “establishing reciprocal relationships with families.” The guidelines suggest at least the following:
In 2001, the NAEYC published core standards for initial teacher licensure programs, followed in 2003 by similar core standards for associate degree preparation of teachers. Of the five standards, the second is Building Family and Community Relationships. This requires education to enhance experiences so students:
Specific opportunities to learn these concepts are suggested in the standards, along with ways that students may demonstrate their growth within their college programs.
These standards mean that students enrolled in college early childhood education programs accredited by the NAEYC will be involved in learning about families during their professional preparation.
In 2002, the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) revised the content and title of its family involvement standards. Known as the Family–School Partnership Standards, six standards are seen as essential for any school or program involving parents:
It has long been recognized in American society that parents have the primary responsibility for deciding what is in their children’s best interest. Public policy now seems concerned with safeguarding family authority in the “education, nurture, and supervision of their children.” The increasing official attention to policies involving family matters may lead to more specific mandates regarding family involvement.