Families are key part of education 

click to enlarge The San Francisco Unified School District's Family Engagement Institute seeks to remove challenges families face when trying to interact with their children's schools.
  • The San Francisco Unified School District's Family Engagement Institute seeks to remove challenges families face when trying to interact with their children's schools.

We here at the San Francisco Unified School District learn about what helps children succeed in school all the time. Decades of research confirm that students do better when their families are involved in their education.

But we don't just read about it. We seek out good ideas that make family involvement easier and more relevant to everyone. Then we put them into action.

Here's what we believe:

• Families are the first teachers — they are the real experts when it comes to their kids.

• When we welcome families into the school community, it helps the academic achievement of all students.

• We must continuously build a solid understanding of our very diverse cultures and we will include families of all ethnicities, languages, socio-economic backgrounds and family structures.

• We must engage families in a shared responsibility — and we hold ourselves at the SFUSD accountable to making it happen.

A week ago, we brought together families to learn from each other about how to stay involved at school. We called it the Family Engagement Institute. It focused on making families feel more welcome at school and how to support their children's educational success.

Parents, grandparents and other family members joined with our family liaisons, teachers, principals, social workers, administrators, school board officials and community organizations in conversations where families told us of the challenges they face when trying to become involved in their children's schools and barriers they encounter at the schools themselves.

And we learned about how many of our schools are successfully removing those barriers. We heard stories about what's working in these schools, and we gained useful ideas to help make these good ideas happen at more schools.

The Family Engagement Institute was a wonderful, inspiring and informative event.

But it was just a few hours of one day. We know that families are in this for the long haul. That's why, as a pre-kindergarten-through-12th-grade school district, we are partners with our students' families from the first day of preschool right up to high school graduation.

For more information go to www.sfusd.edu and click on Family Resources.

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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