Family and community engagement is key to improving outcomes for students, families, and schools. Ohio’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, and Each Child, Our Future: Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education both highlight partnership with families and stakeholders as a “core principle.” As Ohio implements their ESSA plan and launches Each Child, Our Future, the Department and our partners must support birth to grade 12 education programs as they plan and implement effective family and community engagement practices.
The Department has also partnered with The Ohio State University which is now home to the Ohio Statewide Family Engagement Center. This opportunity allows Ohio to create a technical assistance and training center dedicated to supporting family engagement efforts including direct training and resources to families and school personnel.
State Support Teams aid in the development and sustainability of relationships between educators and families. Some of the ways we engage with educators and families include:
- Partnerships for Literacy builds infrastructure within a school to develop/improve family engagement practices that have an impact on how families, school staff, and community partners support literacy development. The National Network of Partnership Schools Model is being implemented in several schools in the region.
- Parent Cafés are physically and emotionally safe spaces where parents and caregivers talk about the challenges and victories of raising a family. Through individual deep self-reflection and peer-to-peer learning, participants explore their strengths, learn about the Protective Factors, and create strategies from their own wisdom and experiences to help strengthen their families. Cafés are structured discussions that use the principles of adult learning and family support. They are highly sustainable with training reinforcement, institutional support, and a commitment to an approach that engages and affirms parents as leaders. Participants leave Parent Cafés feeling inspired, energized, and excited to put into practice what they’ve learned.
- The Ohio Statewide Family Engagement Network is a group of dedicated education professionals from across Ohio, comprised of representatives from each of Ohio’s regions along with organizations whose work supports families of diverse learners, including students with disabilities. The network collaboratively researches, develops, and supports the implementation of tools and strategies for regional teams and school districts to effectively engage and empower families and communities. Through the Network’s activities to support strong family-school partnerships, family and community needs and strengths are recognized and prioritized at every level, resulting in improved student and family outcomes and better school climates.
- Parent Mentors are not employed by the State Support Team but do work collaboratively with the State Support Team, parents, and school districts to improve the quality of education for children with disabilities. The role of the parent mentor is to guide families through the special education process. If you need Parent Mentor assistance and your district does not belong to the Parent Mentor Program, you should contact Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities.
- Surrogate Parents address the needs of students with disabilities who don't have parents or a legal guardian to represent them as their individualized educational plan is developed. The Program is designed to help school districts implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA 2004) parent surrogate regulations. SST 16 maintains the surrogate parent directory for the region.
- A Guide to Parent Rights in Special Education is now available for district and parent use in English and 11 foreign language translations. This publication replaces the earlier procedural safeguards notice, Whose IDEA Is This? As of August 1, 2017, districts may no longer use the Whose IDEA publication. Individuals with disabilities can obtain a accessible format (e.g., braille, large print, compact disc) version of A Guide to Parent Rights in Special Education by contacting The Center for Sensory Disabilities.
- State Policy and Guidance for Family Engagement information are shared with districts. Ohio has both a law and a State Board of Education policy providing guidance for family and civic engagement. Local school boards, districts, and schools are encouraged to adopt The State Board’s Parent and Family Involvement Policy and its recommendations, which will help them meet and exceed the requirements of the Ohio Parent Involvement Law, as outlined in Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Sections 3313.472 (A), 3324.04 and 3324.06; No Child Left Behind parent involvement policies and guidance., Title I, Section 1118; and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) 2004 Sections 650 and 664.