WHAT IS AUTHENTIC

STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT?

 

LETTER FROM US DEPT OF EDUCATION  (JUNE 2016)

The purpose of this letter is to highlight the importance of ENGAGING IN A MEANINGFUL WAY WITH ALL STAKEHOLDERS including parents representative of all students and subgroups, community members and community-based organizations, teachers who serve different grade levels and diverse students, principals, related service professionals, paraprofessionals and instructional support personnel.

 

Meaningful stakeholder engagement starts at the beginning of the process, when initial planning is getting started; not at the end, when a plan is nearing completion. Districts should develop and support high-quality systems of engagement and remove systemic barriers that could prevent meaningful and broad engagement. In particular, States, districts, and schools should seek to enhance participation by:

 

Holding meetings or hearings at varying times during the day, including after the work or school day or on the weekends and, if possible, offering child care, so that working parents, teachers, school leaders, and other professionals are best able to participate;

 

Ensuring meetings or committees include a broad range of stakeholder voices, including those who have been traditionally left out of such conversations;

 

Facilitating broad participation beyond the representatives that will be attending the meetings or hearings in person (for example, by working with trusted stakeholders to gather input from other stakeholders who may not be able or inclined to attend a hearing);

 

Allowing all stakeholders who are participating in meetings or hearings to provide substantive input; providing accommodations and supports to ensure meetings or hearings are accessible (e.g., translators, interpreters, materials in alternative formats);

 

Ensuring transparency on the process, timeline, and opportunities to engage at different levels of policy development by providing advance notice and clear descriptions of the opportunities for feedback on implementation of the new law, including by sharing information on the district’s website.

 

Engagement does not end when districts move from the initial input phase into the policy development stage of the process. Throughout all stages of policy development and implementation, it is essential to provide continuous updates to stakeholders and to facilitate their feedback.

 

The Every Student Succeeds Act provides a framework for improving education systems across the country. To make that a reality, we all need to work together and include all of our stakeholders in the transition to and implementation of the ESSA.


(Note: The preceeding summarizes a June 23,2016 letter from John B. King, Jr., US Dept of Education)

 

WHAT IS SHARED DECISION-MAKING?

 

Some Districts Approach LCAP Community Engagement as a Checkbox,

Instead of as a Meaningful Process for Shared Decision-making

 

A MAJOR PROMISE OF LCFF is the dawn of a new era of partnership among district‐ and school‐level decision-makers with community stakeholders, especially students, parents and educators. Unfortunately, whether due to lack of capacity, know‐how or an unwillingness to break with traditional top‐down structures, many districts and schools are missing the opportunity to shift boldly to a culture that authentically values student and parent voice. Too often districts and school sites continue to approach such engagement with a compliance mentality.

 

Districts need support to diversify their outreach and ensure that engagement is meaningful. Absent eyes and ears on the ground, it can be hard to assess whether the involvement of parents, students and other stakeholders reported in the LCAP development process was truly authentic and impactful.  Aside from a handful of actions and services, parents and students struggle to understand how their input was valued and incorporated into district plans.

 

Meetings that were poorly attended nonetheless result in official recommendations to the school board!  In some instances, the actual draft LCAP and Annual Update was only made available weeks if not days before the final public hearing, which provided minimal time to make meaningful recommendations on actions and spending.

 

Parents and students may be asked to provide input on multiple actions and services that they were only seeing for the first time at a meeting.  Some districts make decisions to spend significant sums of money, including supplemental and concentration dollars, that were not presented and discussed with parent and student advisory committees.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Districts must promote authentic partnership with students and parents in site and district‐level decision-making, including designating staff to engage students and parents at school and district levels.  They must provide high quality training on what meaningful engagement looks like, in settings that bring school leaders together with parents and students.

 

The production of the LCAP document may tax district capacity and leave minimal time for translation of draft documents for non-English speakers.  Some school districts still have not translated their final LCAP documents or summaries for significant non-English speaking populations.

 

RECOMMENDATION: The State should also make clear that school districts are obligated to provide translation and interpretation for engagement of non-English speaking parents and caregivers in LCAP development not just in light of the Education Code but also federal civil rights guidance and the requirement for community engagement and consultation.

 

In some school districts there is no distinct Parent Advisory Committee to the LCAP in which parents are a majority, as the LCFF regulations require. While it is fine for school districts to assemble advisory committees with a broader range of stakeholders, the law requires that there be an advisory committee in which parents and/or caregivers have a majority voice. As a recent report from Families in Schools concluded, while school leaders appreciate the value of parent engagement, “most of them readily admit to not doing it consistently, authentically, and meaningfully.” Districts and school sites need much greater support to build their capacity to engage families meaningfully in shared decision-making and promoting student success.

 

RECOMMENDATION: For “local control” to work, the State must invest to build capacity of school districts and stakeholders to make real the promise of local accountability and meaningful community engagement. We especially support more resources focused towards community engagement for LCAP development at both the district and school site.

 

That means the State will need to improve the quality of the planning, the depth and reach of the engagement, the readability of the LCAP, and the ability of local communities to understand what they find there. We must develop better models to engage students, parents and other stakeholders on the broad range of actions and services in LCAPs and obtain meaningful feedback.

 

The state priority on “parental involvement” requires districts to measure the efforts the school district makes to seek parent input in making decisions for the school district and each individual school site.

 

Sheer quantity — whether through the number of meetings, attendance at those meetings or responses to a survey — does NOT necessarily signify quality engagement regarding decision-making input and participation in programs for high-need students.

 

*****

 

The preceding summary was taken from a report found here:

http://publicadvocates.org/sites/default/files/library/report_public_advocates_keeping_the_promise_of_lcff.pdf