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Issue 48 | Parents as Consumers

Past Editions

Dear Social Innovations Journal Reader,

The recently published book by Sondra Myers titled, “The People's Choice: Public Education and American Democracy,” makes it very clear that “public schools will educate nine out of 10 American students so there is no choice but to invest in them if we are to prepare informed and engaged citizens to shape the destiny of our nation.” As a journal focused on innovation, we urge all education stakeholders to work in partnership with parents to ensure that all of our children have their educational needs met.

This edition provides schools and educational institutions with a repository of ideas, models, and knowledge to both engage and partner with students’ parents and families. Hopefully, this edition inspires leaders of schools and educational institutions to engage parents as partners and educated consumers, as many consider family engagement the most critical component to a students' academic success.

Readers of this edition will better understand how students, parents, and educators can become partners in co-constructing the educational experience; the importance of community oversight in the delivery of services to students with special needs; the perspective of immigrant students in public education; the need for grief education in our schools to support our students and their families; how to effectively engage parents of students who are deaf or hearing impaired; how to cultivate social and intellectual capital; and how unwavering determination, perseverance, and courage are essential to overcoming odds and achieving success. Finally, this edition provides a snapshot of parent engagement innovations occurring internationally and nationally.

We hope as you read the articles (summaries below) you gain a sense of the promise and future of our evolving Educational Sector and the critical role parents fulfill in supporting the success of their children academically, socially, emotionally, and eventually, as contributors to society.


Nicholas Torres 


Article Summaries


Feature Articles

A Social Innovation to Rethinking Parent Engagement
Harris Sokoloff, Ph.D.

This article focuses on rethinking what we mean by “engagement,” to lead us to evaluating the roles of “producer” and “consumer” in education. Through the author’s guidance we focus on how “reciprocal engagement” can in turn, lead us to think of education as a “platform” in which the role of “consumer” and “producer” can shift among students, parents, and educators. This ultimately will enable us to not think of “buy-in” and instead begin to think about the ways in which students, parents, and educators can become partners in co-constructing the educational experience of each, respectively.


The Need for Community Participation and Oversight in the Special Needs Service Delivery System
Michael Owens

As in the era of institutionalization, the current service system providing community-based supports for individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) has become increasingly self-serving and financially top heavy. Currently, the bulk of the funding, despite the current needs-based approach to services, ends up supporting and perpetuating the service delivery system. The support for individuals at a direct needs level appears to have been minimized with the growth of the provider structure. The corporate culture associated with the needs-based community support structure appears to have maintained the control and choices originally meant to go to the individuals and their families. In addition, the services that are provided are unequally distributed based on eligibility standards, level of needs, yearly legislative budgets, and government priority lists. This article is proposing the need for the development of a knowledgeable, informed citizenry to act as a conflict free and socially inclusive systemic watchdog group. The primary mission of this group would be the redirection and equalization of community supports and services to better service and empower all individuals with ID directly, and/or through natural/family and community supports. 


Engagement Model Articles

The Slippery Slope of the Summer Slide 
Alejandro Gibes de Gac and Amanda Hamilton Roos

Alejandro Gibes de Gac is the CEO and Founder of Springboard Collaborative. As the son of immigrants who sacrificed everything to give him educational opportunities, Alejandro learned firsthand the potential in parent engagement. Amanda Hamilton Roos is an education consultant specializing in family engagement and literacy. As an experienced teacher and parent of three, she knows the power of parental love from both sides of the classroom door.

To help all elementary aged students read on grade-level, Springboard Collaborative builds on an underutilized and undervalued natural resource in education – namely, the parents and families of our students -- with promising results. Springboard Collaborative creates successful partnerships with families by: acknowledging and valuing the unique position that families hold in the life of a child; explicitly teaching literacy skills to all families; providing resources; and training teachers and leaders to work with families. By maintaining high standards, Springboard Collaborative leverages strong family partnerships in three different offerings: Springboard Summer, Springboard Afterschool, and Springboard Schoolyear. The success of these initiatives is not confined to their participants. They have seen firsthand how school communities begin to transform as families share resources and knowledge with one another.


English is Not Friendly
Mary M. Schuler M.A.

Parent Reading Coach™ offers an evidence-informed, virtual training, and early literacy platform for students. The program is both accessible and affordable, and is targeted directly towards parents and caregivers. Research shows that this type of learning system offers promising, new ways of learning that could transform those currently labeled as “non-academics” into flourishing, confident self-learners. Ultimately, Parent Reading Coach™ envisions a world in which all children are literate. This model also pushes for motivated teachers to acquire early literacy training, which is often excluded from their higher education degrees. Parent Reading Coach™ might not ensure literacy for everyone, but it does provide the essential knowledge and tools necessary to eliminate the hopelessness that many parents experience when their child does not fit into the traditional educational system.


Innovation Model Articles

Lanzando Líderes: Realizing the Potential of Latino Youth Through Family Engagement in Afterschool Programming 
Yaneli Arizmendi1, RN, BSN, Alexa Salas2, BA, Camilo Toro2, BA

Lanzando Líderes (Launching Leaders) is an afterschool program for high school students in South Philadelphia’s Latino immigrant community that aims to advance the educational attainment of youth through leadership development, personalized academic support, college mentoring, and parent engagement. Working in partnership with Puentes de Salud (Bridges to Health), a community-based health and wellness center, they have developed a culturally grounded program model that has made parent engagement and empowerment a priority. Their work in the community acknowledges and seeks to address the various issues that limit the engagement of immigrant parents in their children's education. In the past year, Lanzando Lideres has listened, sought feedback, and consciously reflected on their abilities as practitioners to foster deeper, more meaningful involvement of parents in their children’s educational success. In sharing their journey as practitioners, their model, and reflections, they hope to inform community members, social entrepreneurs, and policymakers interested in promoting immigrant parent engagement in various settings.


Education is Liberation
Quibila A. Divine, M. Ed; EE, ECE/President of The Educational Advocates Reaching Today's Hardworking Students, Inc. (EARTHS) and Advisor to PARENT POWER (What Will You Do With Yours?)

This article provides a list of ten things that administrators, educators, education advocates, and policymakers should focus on to ensure that all children are provided with equal access to education by ensuring that their families are welcomed and actively engaged in their children's learning. It questions the effective use of trillions of Title I dollars that have been distributed to school districts and schools for the purpose of eliminating academic achievement gaps for low-income, low performing students, while highlighting the discriminatory practices of some education advocates and policymakers, and makes the point that all children can learn when caring adults work together to teach them.


Planning for Loved Ones with Special Needs: Familial and Societal Considerations
Lori M. Leathers, M.S.

Parenthood is a challenging and rewarding experience. Becoming a parent of a child with special needs both enhances these experiences and presents unique circumstances. A common thread among parents is the desire to adequately provide for their children so they can achieve their maximum potential, possess self-esteem, and enjoy meaningful accomplishments throughout their lives. For parents of loved ones with special needs, obstacles to achieving such goals exist at both the family level and that of the greater community and society. Acknowledging, understanding, and adequately preparing to manage these challenges empowers parents as caregivers, while allowing their loved ones the best chance possible to obtain and maintain the quality of life envisioned.


A Grieving Family’s Route to Resilience
Joe Primo, CEO, Good Grief, Inc.

One hundred percent of students will grieve and face adversity. Very few students, though likely none, receive education on this complex and contradictory emotional response that permeates life. Grief is a response to adversity and therefore the catalyst of many risk factors. However, supportive and responsive environments mitigate the majority of risks, thereby requiring grief education will promote prevention and emotional agility in students. Schools are chief among the critical places that influence a child’s outcomes and ability to adapt. In order to promote more resilient environments, Good Grief, Inc. is mobilizing its greatest ambassadors -- grieving parents -- to change a dysfunctional culture and promote its resilience curriculum.


Listening to Learn: Family Engagement When Children are Deaf or Hearing Impaired
Marguerite Vascconcellos, Ed.D, LSLS Cert. AVT Related Services Program Director, Bucks County Intermediate Unit 22; adjunct professor at Drexel University and The College of New Jersey

There is a growing body of research that shows correlation between family engagement and enhanced student outcomes. Federal legislation regulating special education (notably IDEA, 2004 and ESSA, 2015) has placed an increasing emphasis on family engagement with each iteration. Furthermore, it is commonly understood that family engagement is crucial when a child has a hearing impairment. Recognizing that connection, this study explores the practices that parents of children who are deaf or hearing impaired perceive as facilitative of, or obstacles to, engagement in the special education process. The intent of this research was to spotlight strategies to enhance their deployment among stakeholders in special education. Findings of this study represent a call to action to promote transformational leadership; necessitating the investment of time, resources, and energy that focus on family engagement as the foundational component of all educational endeavors.


Parents: Consumers, Not Just Case Numbers 
Mary L. Wilson

This article brings awareness to the necessity of treating parents as consumers and investors in the educational and human services realms, the services/resources which are provided for quality of life, while giving suggestions for moving from the traditional structure of both systems to a more parent/family-centered approach to produce better outcomes. Data from research journals is utilized to provide different perspectives on the needed support to treat parents (specifically those who are low-literate/at-risk) as consumers, and not just as assigned cases, by collaborating with them in decision-making to gain a full understanding of the families being served. This article also seeks to bring a fresh perspective to how both education and human services can establish a unified purpose through cooperative efforts to address all aspects of the needs and wants of their consumers (parents) and to establish solid and productive relationships with families.


The Power of Advocacy
Carolyn Purcell Reichenbach, Esq.

In 2010, shortly after being sworn in as the Governor of the State of New Jersey, Chris Christie decided he would aggressively pursue a program that would affect close to 1,000 of New Jersey’s developmentally disabled residents. While some families perhaps welcomed the relocation news, most did not; and the majority of families who would be affected opposed it immediately. They realized that the resulting disruption to their loved ones’ lives caused by relocation would be profound. Organizing hundreds of families across New Jersey (and, in a handful of cases, other states, due to family relocations over the years) to oppose the program was not easily accomplished. Yet, in attaining a long-sought after victory, the families learned an invaluable lesson: advocacy works but unwavering determination, perseverance, and courage are essential to its success.


Engaging Families: The Power of a Whole School, Multi-Strategy Approach 
Maria S. Quezada, PhD

This article outlines the transformative power of having everyone at a school understand and endorse family engagement as a core strategy. The content is designed to motivate school and school district leaders to consider implementing research-based family engagement practices that create inclusive and diversity-responsive relationships and collaborations within, among, and between families, teachers, school/district administrators, and other school personnel. This type of family engagement program builds effective communication bridges with families by cultivating their social and intellectual capital bringing family engagement to a higher level. Through a well-designed family engagement program, schools ensure families gain access to the human and cultural capital they need to fully participate in the school’s educational program with their children. Families learn of their role in reinforcing their children’s learning and of the importance of becoming partners in the schools’ reform efforts to ensure their children’s academic success.


Lessons Learned Nationally and Internationally Articles

Groundbreaking Program Achieves Educational Success through Stabilizing Housing for Homeless Students
Erin B. Ryan, MSW, MPH, Senior Vice President, The Night Ministry

Homelessness and housing instability greatly impact a student’s ability to stay in school and achieve educational goals. The urgency of this problem motivated The Night Ministry to partner with three other local organizations -- Empower to Succeed (an independent nonprofit of Old St. Patrick’s Church), North Lawndale College Preparatory High School, and Youth Outreach Services -- to launch Phoenix Hall last year. Phoenix Hall is an innovative new residence for high school students experiencing housing instability in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. It is one of the first housing programs in the country, and the first in Chicago, designed to improve educational outcomes by providing housing for homeless students in a particular high school. This project has already raised awareness of housing instability faced by high school students, as well as understanding of its complex causes. Partnership with families as well as the school is integral to the success of Phoenix Hall. Providing safe, structured housing to the student, while working with the entire family toward stabilization and reunification, if possible, gives the student the best chance for successful educational outcomes, including graduation. The program’s impact is measured at the student and family levels, as well as school and community levels. It is the intention of Phoenix Hall to serve as a model for student housing in the community and beyond. 

Issue 46: Groundbreaking Program Achieves Educational Success Through Stabilizing Housing for Homeless Students


Recognition and Inclusion of the Native Communities of Argentina
Dr. Germán Pollitzer

In Argentina today, multiple cultures and social realities coexist in a complex context in which urban majorities ignore the existence of ancestral minorities. These ancestral minorities find themselves excluded from most basic rights. The reality of the haves vs. the have nots is also reflected in the differences between the large cities and the remote areas, all further exacerbating the experience of the Native people. 

The Native communities who inhabited these territories before Argentina´s birth as a nation, especially on the northern region and in Patagonia, are still not fully integrated into the Republic. With some individuals who have obtained title deeds for their land and are no longer besieged by neighboring landowners, and others who are still harassed and denied basic rights. Yet, it remains a fact that Argentinian society, and the nation itself, still owes a huge debt to these communities. This article advocates for policies that will facilitate and promote full-integration of the Native communities by tapping into the nation’s identity as both multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. 

Issue 45: Recognition and Inclusion of the Native Communities of Argentin


Your Child’s Love of Reading Begins with You
Jenny Bogoni, Executive Director, Read by 4th, Free Library of Philadelphia

Right now, two out of three Philadelphia school children enter the 4th grade unable to read at grade level, a critical milestone in the development of any child. Those failing to meet it are more likely to stay and even fall further behind in future grades, as classroom instruction shifts quickly from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn. Low achievement. School dropout. Joblessness. Research shows clear correlations between these and failing to read by 4th. We as a city must do better. And now there are clear signs we are doing just that. 

With Philadelphia’s youngest readers posting standardized reading scores that outpace state gains for the first time, we’re showing what’s possible when we come together and embrace our collective responsibility to give children their best shot at success. This article explores the success of the citywide Read by 4th coalition, convened and managed by the Free Library of Philadelphia, founded on the principle of shared responsibility. 

Issue 42: Your Child's Love of Reading Begins with You


Building the Network: The Impact of Sparking Civic Engagement in Low-Income Communities
Eric Leslie, founder and lead organizer of Union Capital Boston

We know social capital and civic engagement are powerful drivers of opportunity and upward mobility. This article explores how we can build these networks in low-income communities using tools in our world today.

Issue 41: Building the Network: The Impact of Sparking Civic Engagement in Low Income Communities


Elevating Parents’ Voices to Tackle the Challenge of Retention
Susan Covitz MSW and Jill Brevik, MS

As a long-standing parenting education organization, Families First is always looking to innovate in order to improve its service delivery. Thus, it recently transformed its program model to provide three times more hours of support for each participating parent. While necessary to accomplish the intended outcomes of stronger parent-child relationships and increased parental access to social supports, this shift to longer-term programming requires a greater commitment from parents who are facing poverty and related stressors. This creates additional pressures on parent recruitment and retention strategies. In collaboration with Social Venture Partners, Boston’s expert consultants, Families First’s staff has addressed the undeniable challenge of retention head-on by incorporating the unique voices and leadership of parent participants. The comprehensive five-tiered strategy described in this article is already showing promising recruitment and retention results as parental needs and experiences are assessed throughout the program.

Issue 41: Elevating Parents Voices to Tackle the Challenge of Retention