Family engagement is increasingly recognized as a critical link in school improvement. The Guiding Partnerships with Schools (GPS) Family Engagement System is an online, interactive system of self-assessments, customizable action plans, and implementation resources all aligned to a best-practice framework for increasing the engagement of families in student learning. GPS assists schools in partnering with families to assess the quality of family school partnerships, and then collaborate with families and other community members to develop high-quality plan for improvement.
GPS supports schools in obtaining candid feedback from families and school staff. All staff and family members are invited to respond to a research-based self-assessment of family partnership practices. The results of the self-assessment locate the school along a continuum of effective school-family partnership types. The school will convene a broad stakeholder team to review the self-assessment data and work collaboratively to complete GPS next-level diagnostics, which will identify areas of opportunity and improvement. The GPS platform hosts dynamic action planning tools that will assist the school team in developing a targeted “road map” for moving forward with the most effective family engagement and partnership strategies. GPS also hosts a vast library of vetted, research-based resources aligned to best-practice and designed to assist in the implementation of strategic action plans.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has a rich history of providing both financial and direct support for schools in the area of family-school-community partnerships. For several years, HFPG has been supporting a select number of school districts in Connecticut in the implementation of research-based, high-impact strategies to partner with families in support of improved outcomes for each and every student. In the spring of 2018, HFPG approached the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), a regional education service center in Hartford, CT, to develop a system that would accelerate this work in other school districts. With generous financial support from the foundation, CREC set about designing a robust web-based system to support schools in developing the knowledge base and skill sets of practitioners as they seek to grow relationships and form stronger connections with the families and communities they serve.
In Spring 2019, CREC enlisted educators from 11 schools throughout Connecticut to provide input on the development of the GPS platform. Representatives from these GPS Pilot Partnership Schools brought to the project rich, diverse perspectives on family engagement best-practices and effective family-school partnerships. Over the course of 6-months, the GPS Pilot Partnership School representatives assisted in the validation of the Family-School Partnership Self-Assessment, reviewed resources and additional content to be hosted in the site, and critiqued the ease of use of the platform. To make sure that the perspectives of families were also reflected in the development of GPS, Pilot Partnership School representatives invited families in their schools to review the platform and provide feedback.
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