Parents Engaged in Education have enjoyed a successful and productive year. The 2015-2016 Annual Report is included in this section.

Parents Engaged in Education
Annual Report  2015 – 2016

Parents Engaged in Education

Prepared by: Theresa Pastore
Executive Director
October 2016
www.parentsengagedineducation.ca

Executive Summary

Parents Engaged in Education is a not-for-profit organization established in October 2015.  Our mission is clearly defined in the goals of the organization which include:

  1. To promote involvement and engage parents in their children’s education to increase academic achievement.
  2. To provide resources and skill building opportunities for parents/guardians and school council members in support of children’s education.
  3. To implement a succession plan to have continuity in the school community to engage parents and the school community.
  4. To provide resources to parents to assist them in engaging and supporting their children’s learning.

In the first year of operations, Parents Engaged in Education has made significant progress is meeting our goals. This report provides details of the work accomplished as well as present challenges and plans to address these challenges.

Resources and Skill Building Opportunities for School Councils and Parents

P.E.I.E. produced a brochure series that currently has nine topics specific to the effective operations of a school council. The purpose of this series is to provide simple tools that encourage parents to participate in the school council as well as to become valuable partners with school administrators to improve the educational experience of all students in the school.

The goal of these resources is to assist school council chairs and administrators to offer members meetings which are engaging and valuable to parents that attend.

These resources are posted on our website, however, we have not completed a province wide distribution. In May 2016, PEIE applied for a PRO Grant from the Ministry of Education to produce a “School Council Toolkit” which would include this series of brochures. This application was unsuccessful. In the 2016-17 school year we will include links to these resources in our newsletters to introduce them to parents and administrators across the province.

In addition to the above, P.E.I.E. write and distribute the monthly School Council Newsletter. This newsletter is distributed to every Director of Education and directly to 998 principals directly, we permission of the appropriate school boards. The feedback on this resource has been excellent and we look forward expanding every issue with new writers contributing to content on subjects relevant to parents.

The challenges we face in accomplishing the ultimate goal which is to organize much of these resources into a quick and manageable kit for parents and making that available in a folder and electronically is funding.

Ideally as we develop these and other resources, we would like to do a provincial wide consultation that allows for feedback and contributions from parent leaders across the province. We will always attempt to gather input when possible at events like conferences , however, with sufficient funding we could do a much broader consultation and produce a superior product.

Presently , we fund these projects through advertising. Unfortunately, to secure advertising we need people who can dedicate a significant amount of time engaged in this area and we do not currently have volunteers who are able to commit to this area.

Parents Engaged in Education – Events for parents 2015 – 16

During the 2015-16 school year, P.E.I.E. hosted two events. Both offered free of charge to participants. Below is a brief description of these events.

NOVEMBER 30, 2015

Building Strong School Councils – Inquiry based math strategies for families

This event was very successful both in terms of the number that attended our first event.  Given the fact that PEIE was only a month old and that the sponsor only gave us two weeks to plan and execute the event, attracting slightly over 100 school council chairs was considered a great turnout.

The data collected from participants revealed the following:

  1. The workshop was deemed to be of very good value to school council members, providing them with tools to:
    1. Recruit, Retain and Succession Plan for their school council.
    2. Provided excellent tips on conducting a meeting that was both effective and valuable to members.
    3. Educate parents in the secondary panel about the importance of parent engagement at this level.

In addition, the speaker on Inquiry Based Math Strategies gave parents great tips to make learning fun with their children.

APRIL 30, 2016

Secondary School Survival Skills Kit for families

The goal of this workshop for families was to educate parents and students on the following topics:

Presenter: Theresa Pastore – engaging with your secondary student

Presenter: Maria Garcia (social worker, Trillium Hospital) – Mental Health –recognizing the symptoms and strategies for addressing them.

Presenter: John Park (School Assemblies) – The Power of Perseverance

Presenter: Noah Morris – Ministry of Education Student Financing – presented on the new funding program being offered by the Ministry for post-secondary education.

Attracting families in the secondary level to any event can be a struggle. Even when this type of workshop is held by a school board that has direct access to marketing the event to their schools and parent communities, often there is a lack of participation. For this reason, having just over 150 people in attendance was considered a quantitative success.

As always, we collect data to determine if the event was also a qualitative success as well.

The feedback we received included the following:

  1. Parents were inspired by the presentation on engagement, giving them new strategies to be involved with their “teens” as their relationships change and grow.
  2. The mental health tips and strategies to address issues early were found to be very valuable.
  3. The presentation on perseverance was fun and meaningful teaching both parents and students about the value of pursuing their dreams and ambitions.
  4. Many parents were unaware of the new funding that was now available through the Ministry for post-secondary education and were thankful we had included a presentation on the topic.

Engagement in the secondary level is an area of future focus.  The majority of parents indicate they feel that there is less need for them to be involved at this level, when in fact, their children are making life decisions and need their support more than ever.

COMMUNICATIONS

The original distribution of our newsletter was through our Gmail account. This presented many challenges, the most important the fact that Gmail only allows a specific number of emails to be sent each day. This meant that it took up to 3 days to do a full distribution each month.

In addition, this method did not allow for an adequate method to allow recipients to easily “unsubscribe” from the distribution which is a requirement under Canada’s CASL laws.

To address the need for electronic registration and for surveying purposes we used SurveyMonkey, which is commonly used for these purposes.

In August 2016, we switched our communication tools to “Constant Contact”.  This allows us to do full distribution of materials on a single email.  It also provides recipients the tool to easily unsubscribe simply by clicking a button.  The other advantage of constant contact is that we can do electronic event registration and surveying.

The major impact of using this service is that we now have complete statistics on how many people open our email, which addresses bounced and a list of those who unsubscribe.

The distribution of our 2016 newsletter through constant contact provided very encouraging results:

  1. Of the 56 English school board Directors of Education, 48 of them opened our email.
  2. We directly distributed to 993 principals and parents and had a 48% open rate this month. The average open rate for a non-profit newsletter is 18%, so we had excellent results. In addition, 138 emails bounced due to incorrect email addresses (our principal emails are taken from the list available on the Ontario Ministry of Education website.

PARENT ENGAGEMENT APP DEVELOPMENT

September 2016 was an exciting time for P.E.I.E. as we began the process of developing the first every PARENT ENGAGEMENT APP that connects parents to the curriculum.

Guided by Apple Canada and with the work of two master students from Lambton College Mobile Technology Program (this work is their program requirement to complete their program), we began the process of seeing our ideas come to life.

This app will be a mobile game that have parents entering the game at the JK /SK level and takes them through to Grade 12.  Players will be asked questions based on the curriculum of that grade. Questions will be random and on various subjects.  They need five questions right out of seven in order to move to the next level.  If they fail to get five correct they start that level over again.  If the player gets five questions in a row correct they get a bonus and proceed to the next grade level.  Each question will have a pop-up window once the parent has answered which will give a tip to the player on why their children learn this item and how a parent can do more at home.

Besides introducing parents to the curriculum on a grade by grade level, we believe it will naturally lead parents to work with their children to answer the questions.  If the parents is at a grade which their child has already passed and yet they cannot answer the questions, we hope it will encourage them to have a conversation with their child’s teacher to let them know that there seems to be gap in their learning and address it immediately before it is a problem in future grades.

Challenges in app development

By far, the biggest challenge we face in successfully completing this project is soliciting enough teachers to volunteer to write the questions and learning strategies to complete the app.  We need a bank of 600 questions (50 per grade x 12 grades).

We have been unsuccessful in securing funding from the Ministry of Education to assist in this project.  We sought funding to do two things:

  1. Pay a stipends to teachers to develop the questions.
  2. Consult with parent leaders (PIC’s and School Councils) throughout the province to be sure that we are meeting the needs of parents fully.

We have approached several organizations to advertise in the app in hopes of generating some funding. Since we will need to update the app from time to time, we hope to secure some funding to save for this purpose.

We will be working to identify organizations that may be able to work with us to supply the questions, however, the ideal method would be to get this information from classroom teachers as they may be best to relate to how questions should be posed to parents.

PARENT ENGAGEMENT RESEARCH PROJECT

Research on the state of parent engagement has not been done in an extensive way for more than 5 years. This research largely focused on parent’s opinions about what engagement means and the effect it has on student’s outcomes. A great deal of past reports on parent engagement relies on the theories of Joyce Epstien from the 1990’s.

Ontario, in particular, has changed greatly in the last decade with increased levels of immigration, more single-family homes and other factors which naturally affect the area of parent engagement in their child’s education and school.

PEIE have undertaken the most extensive research project in decades to determine the state of parent engagement in Ontario, in 2016.

This survey will involve Directors of Education, Superintendents, Principals, Parents, School Councils and Students. We want to see if the spirit of engagement that may or may not exist at the top of a board, translates into engagement at the local level. In addition, we need to see how students feel about the effect of their parents being or not being, involved in their education. We also need to know what areas students would like to see their parents more involved.

It is expected that this project will be complete by the end of March 2017.

The resulting report will be used as follows:

  1. To provide all educational partners with the information they need to review existing practices with respect to parent/community engagement.
  2. To assist PEIE in developing new resources that will respond more effectively to the state of parent engagement in 2017.

The most significant challenge we face in conducting this research is that we do not have the endorsement of the Ministry of Education at this time which means that it is difficult to get upper level commitment from school boards.

We intend to address these challenges by requesting an endorsement of the project from the Ministry of Education, working through various professional groups i.e. CPCO and Ontario Principals etc.

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

When seeking formal partnership agreements with external organization, the goal is to work with other companies or groups that are committed to increasing parent engagement that results in increased academic achievement and successful children.

When discussing the possibility of partnering with an organization it is not for monetary gain,, but, for the work we can do together to make a difference in families in the province.

This year we established two formal partnerships:

  1. Toronto Argos – we sought out this partnership due to the Argos “huddle up” program which provides anti-bullying workshops and events for students and parents. Together we will offer resources and events that engage parents to support their children’s education and physical/mental health.
  2. Tin Lid Books – we have partnered with Tin Lids to promote parent engagement in literacy. We will take part in events connected to The Forest of Reading program which Tin Lid provides in connection the Ontario Library Association. We will discuss the possibility of future interactive family literacy events.

CONCLUSION

It has been an exciting a fulfilling first year for Parents Engaged in Education. The feedback we have received indicates that are work if both needed and appreciated across the province.

We have undertaken several large projects which will continue into 2017, but, that we believe will be very successful and beneficial in making a real contribution to improving parent engagement across the province.

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