Involving parents in their kids’ education experience can be a key to student success. More than 300 participants―a mix of parents and educators from K-12 and early childhood programs―came together to focus on the importance of family engagement for equity, empowerment, and engagement at the 22nd Annual Winter Conference for the Oregon Association of Comprehensive Education (OACE). The event took place over a sunny winter weekend in Seaside, Oregon on January 22–24.
This is the first time that the conference focused only on engaging families. With a mix of English- and Spanish-speaking participants, the event was a bilingual experience with a majority of the 33 workshops available in both languages.
“It was so nice to see parents and educators learning side by side and working together to increase the educational success for all of Oregon’s children,” says Education Northwest’s Debbie Ellis of who is also OACE Board member and has been involved in planning the event for almost 10 years.
Education Northwest Researcher Claudia Rodriguez-Mojica delivered an inspirational closing session on her life as a daughter of Mexican immigrants and her experience as the first child in her family to attend college. During questions and answers, she engaged parent participants in a discussion of the concerns they have about what awaits their children in college. This built on her earlier workshop session entitled “Familias Latinas y las Escuelas: What Does Family Involvement Look Like?”
“Family engagement is everybody’s business,” said Education Northwest’s Moses Wambalaba who provides training and technical assistance through the Region X Equity Assistance Center and who led two workshops on topics including family engagement and school partnerships and immigrant and refugee students and families. “Every school board member, superintendent, principal, teacher, custodian, secretary, coach, and counselor, has an important role to play in creating a welcoming school environment where parents and families from diverse cultural backgrounds are acknowledged and treated as viable stakeholders in their children’s schools.”
“Teachers are best positioned to build personal bridges to connect with parents whose children they teach and who may, for one reason or another, feel disconnected from the school or lack the knowledge and skills to fully participate in the education of their children.” —Moses Wambalaba
According to Ellis, many families come back each year to learn additional ways to support their children’s education, and this year’s participants were so dedicated that more than 80 parents stayed for the four-hour closing event that helped them identify the most important things they could do to influence the educational achievements of their children and their child’s success in life. “Those are amazing numbers of families committed to their children during a sunny weekend at the beach,” Ellis said. “I believe we are really making a big impact on Oregon’s families.”