Through a partnership of schools, students, families, and community partners, the West
Virginia Family Engagement Center encourages families to be actively involved in their student’s
education at school, becoming full partners in educational planning for their children, and active
participants in decision making processes. The family-inclusive tenets of the West Virginia Family Engagement Center program support the idea that an inclusive family-school environment creates a culture of learners that involve families and the school’s community in meaningful contributions to improve the educational results of its students. The West Virginia Family Engagement Center connects with families to support their children’s learning and development; encourage positive self-image and a “can do” spirit in their children; advocate for improved learning opportunities for children at their school; and model lifelong learning and enthusiasm for education. This SEAMless approach to family engagement in West Virginia schools creates a culture of strong families, and ultimately, stronger students.
cohort 2 highlight
During Academic Year 2020-2021, WVFEC programming took place in our second cohort of counties, which included Kanawha, Marion, Marshall, Mineral, Raleigh, Summers, and Wood. The WVFEC Program Directors and team of Family Engagement Specialists worked alongside our second cohort of counties and schools to identify core needs related to family engagement such as opioid-use disorder; substance abuse; mental health and trauma; attendance and behavioral support; and support for grandparents, kinship care, foster care, and families affected by incarceration. Project Directors and Family Engagement Specialists additionally provided enhanced supports to our second cohort of counties and schools on innovative means through which to connect with families during the school closures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, each county averaged a minimum of two family engagement related events per month with an average number of participants totaling 35 families; however, this number was often higher depending upon the size of the county, school, and respective event. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, events that would typically have been held on site were held virtually due to school closures and social distancing guidelines. Examples of family-facing events include: Healthy GrandFamilies, Home Visiting Program, Mindfulness and Mental Health Supports; Family-School Yoga and Wellness Wednesdays; nutritional supports and food distribution programming; virtual and on-site academic supports; Academic-Parent Teacher Teams (APTT), literacy and numeracy Events (book vending machine, story walk, Community Math Nights training); professional development opportunities for educators, school staff, and administrators, character education programming, school branding, school pride, and school beautification campaigns, digital learning and technology resources, and a wide range of opportunities for families, students, schools, and communities to engage in the educational process together. Additional information on this family engagement programming may be found in our monthly newsletters: October 2020; November 2020; December 2020; January 2021; February 2021; March 2021.
The WVFEC program offers families a variety of opportunities to participate with their child’s learning inside and outside of the school. The family-inclusive tenets of the West Virginia Family Engagement Center program support the idea that an inclusive family-school environment creates a culture of learners that involve families and the school’s community in meaningful contributions to improve the educational results of its students. Several key events have been held throughout Academic Year 2020-2021 in order to enhance building a statewide infrastructure for systemic family engagement. The West Virginia Family Engagement Center program partnered with the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Appalachia on a series of webinars on Addressing Trauma in Educational Settings, which provided evidence-based professional development to educators and school leaders. Our West Virginia Family Engagement Center team also partnered with the West Virginia Department of Education’s Math4Life initiative and the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Appalachia to host Community Math Nights training events for mathematics educators and administrators in West Virginia.
National Partnership with the Flamboyan Foundation on Rural Family Engagement
The West Virginia Family Engagement Center was selected to participate in a national rural family engagement fellowship with The Flamboyan Foundation. This national fellowship opportunity enables us to partner with one other SFEC grantee, South Dakota SFEC in order to explore the lived experiences of students and families in the rural communities in which we serve, and additionally to develop and disseminate best practices for rural family engagement.
Additionally, multiple evidence-based, high-impact professional development opportunities contributed to beginning to build a statewide infrastructure for systemic family engagement which included support for SEA- and LEA-level leadership and capacity-building, along with support for educators and school staff. Professional development and training included virtual opportunities for school and district level administration, as well as educators and school staff on a variety of topic areas. An archive of these resources may also be found on our website.
family leader focus groups
A new addition to WVFEC program implementation is Family Leader Focus Groups. The purpose of the WVFEC family leader focus group will be to collect, analyze, and disseminate data related to family attitudes and perceptions regarding family engagement in West Virginia schools. These data will be utilized by WVFEC Program Directors, Family Engagement Specialists, the West Virginia Department of Education, and local, state, and national partners to better understand the ways in which students and families within rural communities respond to both successes and challenges around family engagement efforts. Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods of inquiry will be conducted among family representatives and school employees throughout Cohorts 1-4 of the WVFEC program.
Beginning in March 2021, the WVFEC has worked alongside participating county and school administration to create a list of ten potential family leaders per school for participation in the family leader focus groups. This team utilized ZoomWV data to assess the demographics of the school prior to selecting family leaders for participation. Family participants are representative of the diverse range of demographics from each school, and the list of potential family leader participants does not include family leaders who are employed by the school district, SEA, or LEA in order to avoid bias. A randomized selection process has been used to select three family leaders from the list of ten for participation. This new component to our program incorporates family leader focus groups in order to elevate the voices and lived experiences of our students and families in order to best support their needs through our family engagement programming in West Virginia Schools.
We have worked with West Virginia University throughout this process and have received IRB approval through WVU to begin the data collection process with our families in March 2021. We will be discussing a variety of different topic areas during our family leader focus groups including communication, engagement, trust, transparency, and issues of equity and needed supports. We will then triangulate the family data with administrators, educators, and school staff from our participating schools. The information from our families, as well as additional data presented by our schools will help us to better identify and support core areas of need with our programming.