The Benefits of and Barriers to Positive Community Engagement
Family and community engagement greatly increases the likelihood that students will learn and thrive. Students are more prepared for school, more likely to achieve, and more likely to graduate when they are supported by schools, families, and communities working together in a coordinated manner. (https://www.cde.ca.gov/qs/fc/) When there is a strong emphasis on family and community engagement in a school, there is evidence of improved student outcomes, enhanced school reputation, and strengthened trust between schools, families and communities.
Improved Student Outcomes Include:
Better Academic Performance Fewer Behavioral Issues Increased Attendance Better Social Emotional Skills Better Sense of Belonging
Enhanced School Reputation
A school’s reputation is significantly enhanced by its dedication to robust community engagement efforts. By actively involving itself in the lives of its surrounding community, a school transforms into a community hub, where residents gather for more than just educational pursuits. It becomes a center of support, offering resources, guidance, and a safe space for all. This proactive involvement fosters a deep sense of trust between the school and its community, solidifying its role as an integral pillar of the neighborhood. When a school is seen as more than just an educational institution, but as a partner in community growth, its reputation soars, benefiting students, families, and the community at large.
Barriers to Effective Community Engagement
Communication breakdowns happen. How we respond and plan to avoid future breakdowns can mitigate the fallout. Common communication breakdowns include, but are not limited to:
- Failing to respond or communicate in a timely manner. This doesn’t mean that we need to respond at all hours of the day, or even in the middle of crisis, but follow up is key and being mindful of urgency vs. priority can help in making thoughtful decisions around communication.
- Responding when emotions are high. We all feel them, just stop and breathe before responding from a place of frustration. Remember that we are serving someone’s baby.
- Emails. No matter how hard we try, messages can be misinterpreted in emails. Think before emailing about how your message may come across, and if in doubt, call.
Mistrust or past negative experiences.
- Families all come with their own previous experiences around school. Keeping this in mind as we work to build relationships is key when creating healthy communication in our schools and communities.
Socioeconomic, cultural, or linguistic challenges
- Each of our communities has unique needs and assets. Asking our communities about how they prefer communication can help reduce this barrier around socioeconomic, cultural, or linguistic challenges. Not all families have access to electronic communication the same way not all of our families speak the same language. Having a mindful awareness of this as a site leader and considering multiple communication avenues and languages can increase our community engagement and family connectedness.