In the Spring of 2019, Iconico Campaigns partners with Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) to design and implement a family and community engagement model that would be able to work better for both the schools and the communities they are meant to serve. Our work included interviews with administration and staff, focus groups with parents and staff, and a survey to parents and guardians of students enrolled in the District.
Traditionally, family engagement has been measured by an individual’s (usually a parent, and more specifically, mother) attendance or presence at school functions or events. This narrow definition excludes the many configurations of households that public school students find or experience. Our approach was an expansive and inclusive idea of family and community engagement to capture as many families as possible and allow for many modes of communication.
We proposed this concept to the Family and Community Engagement Committee of the District. With the approval of the committee, Iconico worked directly with District staff to develop a series of survey questions and focus groups to capture a wide range of experiences by families and staff. Iconico Campaigns also engaged administrators and community members in one-on-one interviews to understand their needs and experiences with community engagement.
Using input from Phoenix Union High School District staff and reviewing academic literature we prepared an 18-question survey for families of students in the District — we received 127 responses.
Our findings and insights come from reviewing survey data, conversations during focus groups, interviews, and reviewing the available research into family engagement in the education sector.
Based on the research, survey data, and focus groups we recommended Phoenix Union High School District examine and address the following: Communications, Measuring Engagement and Building a Culture of Engagement.
Iconico Campaigns found that families’ preferred method of communication were text to email, and email to every other method of communication. However, we recommended that PUHSD create a tracking system to be able to ensure optimum engagement with every family in the district. Figuring out what percentage of families fall into each of the profiles will allow us to differentiate what levels of engagement each campus has, where they need to focus their efforts, and what are their strengths.
Creating a shift in culture starts with measuring, tracking and reporting data on the different profiles, having opportunities for families to communicate, and get messages that are relevant and evocative, meeting families where they are.
For the culture to adapt and to ensure a culture of engagement and connection with the district, there has to be an effort to share the value of engagement in student’s academic achievement both internally and externally. Finally, we suggested that members of PUHSD receive professional development on the benefits of engagement, strategies, and to be connected with the families who are considered “active”, so they can serve as partners and potential trainers for others.