Shifting from Parental Involvement to Parental Engagement

In this NAESP Center for Innovative Leadership video podcast, Andy Jacks and Hamish Brewer talk with Maryland principal Ryan Daniel about shifting from parental involvement to parental engagement.

Center for Innovative Leadership

Ryan Daniel’s school, Chillum Elementary, is a Title I school and a community school, with a high English learner population, in Hyattsville, Maryland, on the border with Washington, D.C. Daniel leads that school as the sole administrator. That’s right: She doesn’t have an assistant principal to support her. So Daniel turns to distributed leadership among her faculty and staff. Working together, her team puts a special emphasis on getting parents involved.

“I think the biggest takeaway,” says Daniel, “is the shift in our building from parental involvement to parental engagement.”

An out-of-the-box leader, Daniel and her staff bring the opportunity to learn from a student-only focus to the full family. They offer the Parent Academy, where families can learn alongside the students, and Family Night, where the parents hold centers to showcase what they’ve learned.

Her advice to become more parent-focused at your school?

“Go beyond the typical needs assessment and have real-life conversations with [families],” says Daniel. “And that’ll give you the opportunity to see what their needs are.”

The Challenges:

  1. How do I lead a school as the sole administrator?
  2. How do I shift from parental involvement to parental engagement?
  3. How do I retain quality teachers?

Principal Spotlights:

Ryan Daniel
Principal, Chillum Elementary School
Hyattsville, Maryland
Twitter: @HeyDrDaniel
Instagram: @HeyDrDaniel

A third-year principal in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), Daniel is “all things Prince George’s County.” She’s not just a leader in the school district; she’s also a product of PGCPS. Daniel uses her experience raising three young daughters as she leads her school, Chillum Elementary, as the sole administrator. She considers herself an out-of-the-box leader who tries to encourage her community and staff to do the same.

In this video, Daniel gives you a tour of her school, which features the Champions Creed at the forefront of everything they do. You’ll learn ideas to:

  • Take your students on college tours. It’s never too soon to start thinking about college. Every year, Daniel takes all of her students to tour college campuses. Each class grade gets to visit one college, so by the time students leave her school, they’ve taken part in six college tours.
  • Help a community of parents. Daniel and her faculty host events that bring parents into the school and let them truly be a part of the community. Highlights are a mommy and me painting group and a back-to-school block party. On top of that, the school hosts the Parent Academy, where parents get the opportunity to learn subjects like math and literacy. Then, at Family Night, they get the opportunity to showcase what they’ve learned. A bonus: The Chillum staff who don’t have a direct role in the Parent Academy serve as child care for the night.
  • Teach student professional development. What’s the difference between learning and professional development? When the safety patrols get professional development, it teaches them how to build capacity in their jobs as a safety patrol. Daniel uses an application process to select safety patrols, too, complete with applications, recommendations, and interviews.
  • Retain teachers. For her dissertation, Daniel focused on what makes teachers stay in their jobs. She showed a specific interest in alternatively certified teachers versus traditionally certified teachers and whether the reason teachers stay is related to their certification route. Spoiler: It’s not. Daniel’s research showed that no matter the certification path to become a teacher, they need the same things to stay in their jobs. Support from their principal topped the list.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Talk to families and the students to find out what resources they really need.
  2. Professional development for students is just as beneficial as it is for faculty and staff.
  3. It’s important to enlist your students in the decision-making process—even when considering the school budget.

Share your strategy: How have you transformed a school space to celebrate students? Go to the NAESP CIL webpage to tell us—and you could be one of the next principals we profile.