LA education coalition helps parents navigate LAUSD with new Parent Engagement Toolkit
Esmeralda Fabián Romero | January 19, 2017
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Community leaders, parents and even educators across Los Angeles agree that navigating LA Unified can be confounding and frustrating, so on Thursday two groups — United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) Coalition — launched a Parent Engagement Toolkit to help parents understand academic terms, education policies, school budgets and whether their school is adequately supporting their child toward graduation, college and career.
The toolkit, which will also be available in Spanish next week, took a year to develop, said Elmer Roldan, director of education programs and policy for United Way of Greater Los Angeles. It used feedback from parents across Los Angeles about their needs to engage in direct conversations with principals and other administrators about their school’s budget and how to evaluate whether or not school investments are aligned with their children’s needs.
“We developed this tool that gives parents an orientation to navigating LAUSD’s complex and intimidating system, so we really developed the best tool possible to give parents something tangible, so parents can have educated conversations with their principals,” he said.
The toolkit explains with images how school budgets work at the state and local level. It also includes a glossary of common terms, academic benchmarks by school level and suggested questions that parents can address with educators and school administrators about their children’s academic progress.
The 35-page brochure can be accessed online and is available for download. Also, 5,000 printed copies will be distributed by the organizations that are part of the CLASS coalition, including United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the core organization of CLASS, Families in Schools, Educators 4 Excellence, Community Coalition, Center for Powerful Public Schools, Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), InnerCity Struggle, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Los Angeles Urban League, Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), Promesa Boyle Heights and others that represent over 150,000 constituents in Los Angeles.
CLASS is a coalition of parent, student, educator, community-based and civil rights organizations that is dedicated to ensuring all students in Los Angeles receive an equitable, high-quality public education.
“United Way is committed to helping communities become active – knowledgeable – participants in the education of our children,” Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said Thursday. She also stated in a news release on the launch: “This is why we’re continuously working with partners to identify the best ways to present helpful tips and information to parents, in a linguistically and culturally sensitive way, that can make a real impact in their children’s education. We are driving change in our communities by empowering parents with the tools they need to advocate on behalf of their children.”
“The Parent Engagement Toolkit is the resource guide that has been missing from previous parent engagement efforts,” the news release stated from Maria Elena Meraz , executive director of Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), a nonprofit that builds partnerships between parents, students and educators to improve educational outcomes.
Roldan said the toolkit is reaching parents when many of them need it the most.
“We feel the timing is right given the climate in the country, given a lot of the anxiety and fear and uncertainty that exists, and while a lot of attention is given to the national context we know there are fights happening locally that we need to pay attention to, so the toolkit allows parents an opportunity to channel that fear and that anxiety by getting involved at the local level and to become their own advocates for their child,” he said.
The toolkit, according to Roldan, got finished thanks to the collaboration with parents, community engagement experts and educators who shared with the coalition areas where parents struggle the most to become informed and to help their children with their academic performance. “This will provide parents a foundation to act on behalf of their child,” he said.
Cristina Castañeda, Los Angeles PSP program director for MALDEF, shared that the most common concerns among parents, particularly in the Los Angeles southeast area, are the reclassification of English learners, the availability of after-school programs and tutoring, large class sizes and A-G requirements.
“Parents in the area we served have seen a huge achievement gap in college admissions, so that becomes a bigger concern as well as special programs for English learners,” she said. “I think this toolkit will be really useful for all families to improve not only their schools but their communities.”