Research shows that families are key influences on student academic success and on college matriculation and retention. P-TECH families may need guidance about successful ways to support their children along the challenging path they have chosen.
Family members need to understand that this program has high expectations for both them and their student. Family members should be included in their student’s journey as much as possible. They should ensure students keep up with homework, avoid taking them out of school for long periods of time, and allow and encourage students to come to weekend and summer activities. For this reason, it is important to identify the messages, information, and types of support that families will need prior to the start of the program, as well as in each year of coursework.
During the student recruitment process, for example, open houses not only educate families about the school, but also about the job skills the students will be expected to learn and the types of jobs they will be qualified to fill upon graduation. During these sessions, inviting industry professionals to speak to their job experiences and college faculty to describe the associate degree requirements have helped families better understand the school and the value proposition.
Likewise, in subsequent years, seminars that dive deeper into career development skills (e.g., interviewing skills) can help families better understand how they can ensure a child’s success.
Family engagement requires an ongoing effort to be successful. A family member could, for example, serve on a school leadership team and be responsible for school-based planning and shared decision-making. This team member provides the family perspective and can communicate to other families in general, including the PTA, so they have a better understanding of school decisions. The school also could provide more than the mandated teacher conferences each year.
Creating a Parents’ Academy offers one approach to providing ongoing support to families and keeping them engaged in the child’s success. To tailor trainings to their interests, family members are surveyed early about topics such as computer literacy or college finance. Classes are held at convenient times in the evening or Saturdays.
Schools are members of a larger community and play an important part of a neighborhood’s identity. Once a P-TECH school knows its location, a first step to engaging the community is understanding the most salient issues in that community.
Attending community hearings and council meetings can be an excellent way to engage. The meetings could be used to survey the community about how they would like to engage with the school and where they see possible partnerships that are mutually beneficial.