The Lesley-Brockton School and Community Engagement Project, supported by a five-year grant from the US Department of Education, was created to address two challenges: a lack of teachers who can effectively respond to the linguistic and academic needs of English learners (ELs); and the need to engage EL parents and community members who, because of the language barrier and lack of familiarity with schools, cannot meaningfully participate in their children's education.
The project focused on these challenges by developing teacher and parent leaders in the local Cape Verdean, Haitian, and Latino communities, whose combined skills could enhance students' educational experiences, as well as those of school colleagues and community members. This was done in three ways: teacher preparation, family and community engagement, and evaluation and scholarly research.
This would result in teacher-leaders who would be familiar with values and skills learned in students' homes, appreciate the uniqueness of the bicultural child, and embrace the relationship with EL families as one of learning and sharing.
Components of the Project
Teacher collaboration with parents and family and community members has long been understood as beneficial to the academic advancement of all students, but especially English Learners (ELs). Participating teachers in the project completed a four-course Graduate Certificate in Parent and Community Engagement in Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Education.
The program strengthened their knowledge of applied linguistics, second language acquisition, and culturally responsive teaching in relation to their understanding of the role of families and communities in schooling. Teachers used a critical lens to examine existing barriers to effective parent, family, and community engagement in schools and applied an ecological model, in which families and communities were centrally involved in the various aspects of school life.
Family and Community Engagement
To insure that a substantial number of family and community members participated in school-related academic, policy and social activities, Lesley collaborated with SABURA, a non-profit community organization whose mission is to educate, engage, and empower youth and families through carefully designed, culturally and linguistically tailored programming. SABURA provided learning experiences through mentorship and targeted events for family and community members to improve their leadership skills, English language proficiency, and most important, their children's academic achievement.
SABURA identified five target areas:
- Build immigrant parent and community leaders by collaborating with different agencies in the community.
- Offer Adult ESL classes for the Cape Verdean, Haitian, and Latino immigrant community in collaboration with Lesley and Harbor One Bank.
- Collaborate with Cape Verdean Women United Inc. to conduct a Raising a City of Champions workshop with the purpose of reducing the impact of youth violence in the community.
- Work with experts on immigrant parent leadership to assist with the training of parent leaders.
- Maintain a presence of advocacy for immigrant parents/families in Brockton schools.
Evaluation and Research
The evaluation design featured data collection and analysis of EL student achievement, parent and community engagement, and classroom and school strategies that involved family members in their children’s education. Both quantitative (standardized achievement tests) and qualitative data (surveys, interviews, focus groups) were included.
In addition, the project incorporated a small control trial that examined if and how collaborative homework assignments might be used as a vehicle to increase parent engagement. The study employed the Teachers Involve Parents in Schooling (TIPS) program, developed at John Hopkins University. In the trial, volunteer teachers were randomly assigned to either the treatment group implementing the TIPS intervention or a control group that continued practices and homework as usual.
Once a week, students in the TIPS intervention group engaged in interactive homework assignments designed by their teachers to connect school and home on curriculum-related activities.
Teachers oriented parents to the process, explained TIPS and family involvement to students, conducted follow-up activities in class, and maintained homework records. Students completed the TIPS assignments and involved their parents or other family partners as directed in the activities. Parents or family partners learned about the TIPS process, set aside time each week to discuss TIPS homework activities, and provided weekly feedback on the experience.
Participation in TIPS was entirely voluntary. Our goal was to involve approximately 70 Brockton teachers (35 treatment and 35 control) and more than 500 students and family members in the study.
Overall Project Impact and Outcomes
According to the final report to the Department of Education, 74 participants completed the four-course certificate, and over 500 parents took part in community activities. The project offered rigorous course work and professional learning that expanded the knowledge and skills of a wide range of educators in Brockton in the areas of English language acquisition, culturally responsive teaching and family engagement. While the research/evaluation plan was interrupted due to COVID and recruitment problems, there were indicators that students, teachers and parents developed relevant skills and knowledge in effective two-way communication and collaboration.
The project facilitated the development of:
- Teacher leaders who are familiar with values and skills learned in students' homes, who appreciate the uniqueness of the bicultural child, and who embrace the relationship with EL families as one of learning and sharing.
- Parent leaders who are engaged with the workings of the school system, the curriculum, and classroom, and who contribute to the knowledge base of the district and collaborate with educators to effect positive change for students and families.
Brockton Public Schools learned much through this project. For instance, educators beyond core content teachers (such as music and art teachers) and non-teaching faculty (such as counselors) desired to develop their competencies with working with multilingual learners and their families. Teachers also developed more powerful and productive relationships with students and their families, resulting in more adults in the community taking ESL classes, and in the district strengthening resources for parent communication and engagement.
- Laura Schall-Leckrone, Associate Professor
Meg Burns, Assistant Professor