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Foster Ongoing Parent Dialogue

In The Magic of Dialogue, Daniel Yankelovich wrote, “It is impossible to conceive of successful school reform without the active support of the community. Knowing how to bring the stakeholders into the tent, rather than leaving them outside, is also best practice for democracy.” While Americans have long spoken about the vital link between public education and a thriving democracy, many decisions are made by school and district leaders in a top-down manner, with little input from students, teachers, or community stakeholders.

Open communication among school community stakeholders strengthens collaboration and facilitates school transformation. Meaningful parent engagement through two-way conversations supports shared decision-making and the development of a shared vision for change. Successful partnerships between schools, families, and communities require democratic collaboration or shared decision-making. Larry Ferlazzo has emphasized the importance of educators encouraging parent engagement in place of parent involvement. Engagement is understood as parents contributing to and taking action in the decision-making process (engaged), rather than educators simply telling parents what to do (involved). Meaningful school-family connections have been associated with improved academic outcomes, including higher grades and test scores, better attendance, and more positive behavior. More specifically, researchers Raquel González and Cara Jackson found that shared parent engagement in decision-making and educator efforts to promote volunteering and open communication were related to positive year-end data on mathematics and reading achievement among kindergartners. Open dialogues create opportunities for learning and change and instill a sense of trust in schools—necessary precursors to meaningful parent engagement.