Supporting Decision Making and Advocacy

Supporting Decision Making and Advocacy

The tools and resources in this module support programs that are committed to shared decision making and advocacy. Empowering families to help solve problems, discuss program effectiveness, prioritize spending, spending priorities, and develop policies, sends a powerful message about collaboration, equity and access.

The findings presented by Henderson and Mapp have shown that schools with parents who are involved in decision making and advocacy have higher levels of student achievement and public support. Effective partnerships develop when each partner is respected and empowered to fully participate in the decision-making process.

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Plan for Involving Families in Decision Making and Advocacy

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Use the ideas on the following page to frame a plan to involve families in decision making and advocacy on behalf of their children.

List four benefits of involving parents in decision making and advocacy.

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Identify four areas in which you can involve parents in decision making and advocacy for their children or the community.

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Name four guidelines to follow which will involve parents in decision making and advocacy.

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List resources that would support parent decision making about an issue that is relevant to them and to you.

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Strategies for Teaming with Parents

Areas for Parental Decision Making and Advocacy for a Student

     Parents should be involved in decisions that are made regarding whether a student:

                       Needs more help than what is provided for in general education

                       Is retained in a grade

                       Attends public school

                       Participates in extracurricular activities

                       Enters an alternative school program

                       Participates in a field trip or other activity away from school

Common Areas for Parental Decision Making and Advocacy for the School and its Programs

     Parents should also be invited to serve on decision making committees such as:

                       Site-based school advocacy management council

                       Parent advisory committee for a program such as Head Start, a reading program, the bilingual program or the school library

                       PTA/PTO or another parent organization

                       Classroom committee

                       Task force organized around an issue

                       Search committee for a principal or program leader

                       Planning committee for the school or one of its programs

Strategies That Promote Team Building with Families:

                       Highly motivated individuals share a common interest.

                       Ownership and responsibility for tasks are shared.

                       Problems are solved effectively.

                       Team members increase communication.

                       Major areas of concern and community needs are identified.

                       Resources to achieve goals are identified.

The Process for Building a Parent Committee:

                       Establish a goal, identified by a needs assessment or a response to a request for funding. The committee should be made up of diverse stakeholders, including families and community members.

                       Be ready to explain the criteria for membership and practice inclusiveness.

                       Seek members from different technical, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds and strike a balance between families, staff and representatives from the community.

                       When the committee convenes, begin the meeting with icebreakers to help members become more comfortable. Ask the following questions: What are the specific goals and objectives of the team? Are results expected? Is the goal to stimulate discussion and dialogue?

                       Establish a time frame to identify goals and make recommendations, as well as, a plan to implement  those recommendations.

                       Encourage members to agree on meeting rules. When disagreement takes place, see that ideas, not members, are the focus. Stress the values of openness, trust and mutual respect.

                       Have a committee member record meeting minutes.

                       Make decisions by consensus.