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Six Root Causes Introduction & Background

Historical Context

In the years following LCFF implementation in California, many wondered, “Have LEAs realized the full potential and promise of meaningful family and student engagement?” In 2018, the Defend and Mend Coalition, made up of 19 organizations led by Californians for Justice, worked together to deeply examine the engagement of families and students in the LCAP process across California. After several years of LCFF implementation, the coalition hoped to illuminate areas of growth by examining the root causes of ineffective engagement with families and students. The outcomes of this coalition and their root cause analysis eventually led to the emergence and funding of the California Community Engagement Initiative (CEI).

The Defend and Mend Coalition developed a definition of meaningful student and family engagement:

And, they analyzed what root causes were contributing to ineffective community engagement in LCFF implementation. The Community Engagement Initiative adopted this Root Cause Analysis as one of the guiding frameworks for collaborative work with districts across the state. In using this framework, CEI Lead Agencies and participants have also reframed the original focus on what is not working (Six Root Causes of Ineffective Family and Student Engagement) to view the root causes through the lens of what is effective. The diagram below reflects this shift in view, indicating the six essential components at the root of effective engagement.

LCFF/LCAP and All Engagement in Decision-Making 

Recent California History in Community Engagement

The LCAP, SPSA, and other plans reflect California’s commitment to engaging families, students, staff, and community organizations in decision-making. The statutory and recommended requirements span a range of school and district-level plans and programs. Here are some reminders of how public education in California has embedded community engagement in the system. 

  • LEAs must consult with Education Partners in LCAP development and implementation (staff, families, students)
    • School districts “shall consult with teachers, principals, administrators, other school personnel, local bargaining units of the school district, families, and pupils in developing a local control and accountability plan” (Ed Code 52060)
    • Charter schools “shall consult with teachers, principals, administrators, other school personnel, parents, and pupils in developing the local control and accountability plan and annual update to the local control and accountability plan. (Ed Code 47606.5)
    • County Offices of Education shall consult with a parent advisory committee, an English Language Advisory Committee, and a Special Education Local Plan Areas Administrator. (Ed Code 52068)
  • LEAs must present the LCAP to a parent advisory committee, an English learner advisory committee, and a student advisory committee (or student representatives embedded in other advisory committees) to gather input on meeting the needs of students in the community, especially those from historically underrepresented or low-achieving populations.
  • In their LCAP, LEAs must discuss 
    • How they engage their community, and how LEAs consider that engagement in developing the LCAP
    • What feedback on the LCAP was received from specific education partner groups, such as parents/families, students, and staff?
    • What aspects of the LEA’s LCAP are influenced by input from education partners
  • Must engage the School Site Council (SSC), composed of families, staff, and students in decision-making on school goals, metrics, and budgets. SSC must co-develop and approve the SPSA
  • When applicable, must engage the English Learner Advisory Committee to review, certify, and revise the SPSA
  • LEA’s definition of community schools includes “youth and community engagement”
  • Work closely with educators, students, and families to understand, build, and implement a community school program
  • Pillars 4 and 5 require LEAs to focus on family and community engagement and leadership
  • Community Schools’ Key Conditions for Learning include LEAs fostering relationships with community members
  • LEAs enact shared decision-making and participatory practices as a cornerstone commitment
  • Plans must consist of community collaboration and support
  • Parent/family understanding of options and choice are required
  • Districts must engage the community as they review and revise the plan every three years
  • Based on the evaluation of data, which includes input from educational partners, an LEA uses the self-reflection tool to report on its progress, successes, and area(s) of need related to family engagement policies, programs, and practices.

Districts and schools across California seek ways to effectively and authentically engage their communities in decision-making and collaboratively examine and grow these efforts. The following content provides information and a resource that can support these efforts. With a strong shift in mindset about the power of collaboration with our communities, growing these Community Engagement Essential Roots will lead to powerful positive impacts on your students and your community.  

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