Taking a New Approach to Family Engagement at Charlotte County Public Schools
For district leaders at Charlotte County Public Schools (Fla.), giving families a voice is more than just “checking a box.” By collecting family survey data and sharing it with school communities, CCPS is able to spark meaningful conversation about how the district can help families better support students’ learning.
But it hasn’t always been this way for CCPS. Although the district has traditionally valued family input, this marks a new approach—one that embraces collaboration and action.
Over the last year, Renee Wiley, Title I Resource and Family Engagement Liaison at CCPS, has been working to help educators and families at CCPS’s 13 Title I schools build stronger relationships. She’s facilitated partnerships among principals, school staff, and families—known as Parent and Family Engagement Teams—to open up lines of communication and inspire school-wide improvement.
Here’s how CCPS is taking family engagement to the next level with research-based family surveys and data-informed collaboration.
“Embracing Change” in Charlotte County
In the past, family surveys at CCPS were conducted by paper, and a district evaluator scanned, uploaded, and organized the data by hand. Given the effort required, each school received only 200 surveys to hand out to a small subset of families. Not every family was able to fill out a survey, and many voices were missing from the conversation.
Renee saw a huge opportunity to streamline the survey process and—most importantly—give all families a chance to participate.
“We needed a survey tool that would not only comply with Title I, but also give us the in-depth feedback we need for our schools,” Renee said. “We wanted to make it a meaningful effort instead of just checking the ‘compliance’ box, because we know that engaging families is critical to student success. That’s why we partnered with Panorama.”
In the spring of 2017, CCPS administered Panorama’s research-backed Family-School Relationships Survey across all of their Title I schools. For the first time, they were able to run a survey entirely online and in multiple languages.
The strategy worked: CCPS received over 1,400 completed surveys, with families sharing feedback on Family Engagement, Barriers to Engagement, School Climate, and School Safety.
Want to gather family feedback at your school or district? Download Panorama’s free Family-School Relationships Survey.
Exploring the Family Engagement Gap
After the survey closed, Renee and school principals had easy access to the results right in the Panorama platform. They could see the data broken down by topic, school, student grade level, and more.
The survey brought several strengths to light:
- The majority of CCPS families (85%) reported that they didn’t have many barriers to engaging with the schools.
- Families generally had positive attitudes toward school climate (70%) and school safety (86%).
One piece of data, however, was a call-to-action for Renee and the team: only 23% of families responded favorably to the Family Engagement scale, which measures parents’ involvement with their child’s school.
The results were even more thought-provoking when they viewed the Family Engagement topic by student grade level. As shown in the chart below, families of middle schoolers reported lower engagement levels than those of other families.
Renee visited each school to start a dialogue about strengths, areas for improvement, and what they could do to make families feel more involved and engaged.
“Rather than just sending the results to principals and saying ‘read it and weep,’ I went to each principal and their Parent and Family Engagement Planning Team to present the data and talk through it,” Renee said. “It was a great way to start conversations with our schools and our families.”
From a middle school perspective, principals and families brainstormed ways to create more family activities and increase contact between parents and teachers. When discussing one survey question (“How often do you meet in person with teachers at your school?”), they came up with the idea to provide times for parent-teacher conferences every few months.
“Parents were sharing that they needed more flexibility,” Renee said. “So the Parent and Family Engagement Team realized that if they did the parent-teacher meetings at the end of each quarter, that day would be more flexible for teachers and parents. Both sides are excited to try this out.”
The Road Ahead
District leaders, principals, and parents at CCPS continue to share the data and talk about ways to engage families as partners in their children’s education—through events, innovative scheduling, and “professional development” classes for parents.
For the district’s upcoming annual Parent and Family Engagement Planning Day, which brings together teams across all 13 Title I schools in Charlotte County, Renee anticipates that the Panorama data will play a key role in planning for the year ahead. They also plan to carry out another family survey next spring, ensuring that CCPS continues to foster a culture of feedback and measurement.
To hear the whole story from Renee, listen to this webinar about her work with Title I families at Charlotte County Public Schools. Then download Panorama’s free Family-School Relationships Survey to implement the survey at your own school or district!