Federal grant will expand Colorado family engagement in schools

Leadership at the helm of Colorado’s Alamosa School District, with Assistant Superintendent Luis Murillo at the forefront, has long championed a culture of collaboration for both educators and families. Here, teachers engage in professional development in a conference-style approach to share ideas.

Editor’s note: This article appeared Friday on co.chalkbeat.org.

When Luis Murillo started leading parent academies as a principal in Center, he prepared presentations on how school boards work and where school funding comes from — the things he thought parents needed to know.

He quickly realized parents were looking for something different. They wanted to know how to deal with bullying and racism their children experienced at school, how to know if their kids were on track to graduate, and even how to check grades online.

The parent academies that Assistant Superintendent Murillo conducts now in English and Spanish in the Alamosa School District show parents how to navigate the school system, know their rights, and understand the copious data schools collect.

“There is a disconnect between a portion of our community and the school district,” Murillo said. “We want to create a more connected community, and when we get there, we’ll see better outcomes for students. I don’t just mean academic achievement, though that is part of it. It’s about transparency. It’s about trust. It’s also about getting off our pedestals.”

This is the kind of family engagement work that Colorado education leaders hope to see spread around the state with the help of a new $4.7 million federal grant. Parent engagement is key, they said, to addressing some of the most pressing issues facing students, from reading challenges in the early grades to poor attendance in high school.

Colorado was one of eight states to be awarded money this fall from the U.S. Department of Education. The National Center for Families Learning will lead the work to create a Colorado Statewide Family Engagement Center. Local partners include the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Education Initiative, the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition, and the Black Parent Network.

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BY Special to NextSteps