Juneau School District Learns About Family Engagement at Harvard Institute!

This past summer, a team of eight Juneau School District employees had the opportunity to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Family Engagement in Education Institute alongside partners from AASB. Our cohort of principals, district office administrators, counselors and family engagement specialist learned about cutting-edge family engagement research and strategies among hundreds of others from around the country and around the world. In addition to working as a team to solidify our understanding of what family engagement means and should mean in Juneau, based on the Dual Capacity Building Framework that we already know and love, we dipped into a variety of really valuable workshop sessions that informed our thinking and continue to inform our work this Fall.

One of the really useful sessions at the institute was put on by Luz Santana from the Right Question Institute. The session taught educators how to use the deceptively simple and really powerful Question Formulation Technique (QFT) to empower families in their one-on-onedealings with the school system. In the workshop, we practiced forming our own questions around a prompt (i.e. “my child is struggling in math”), then adjusting and ranking the questions until we had several clear, focused, crucial questions to ask a teacher or school administrator.The exercise was surprisingly effective — and fun! What’s more, we all felt we were leaving the session with a real, actionable strategy for building capacity in our families.

Since then, we have been busy sharing information about the QFT with staff in Juneau, including providing books about the technique to all school administrators and others working on family engagement. In two separate in-service sessions, Juneau teachers are learning about the QFT through trainings from SERRC’s culturally proficient schools program. And we’ve already scheduled three evening QFT trainings timed to prepare families to make the most of their parent-teacher conferences.
This is just one example of the really useful ideas and strategies our JSD team picked up at HGSE this summer. And more importantly, we worked together to build a shared understanding of what it takes to truly engage families in their children’s learning and to support them in ourshared partnership in education.

-Noelle Derse, Family Engagement Specialist, Juneau School District