Don’t Believe the Hype with Shirley Irizarry


Welcome to “Don’t Believe the Hype” with Shirley Irizarry, where we will be bringing truth to light about issues affecting parents and students.

At this moment, let’s address the hype around one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to Family Engagement and that is that parents don’t show up because they don’t care. I often hear administrations and organizations lament about their outreach efforts to parents for meetings, focus groups, events, etc. only to have zero to low turnout. This then becomes the justification for making decisions that affect students without the input of parents.

The truth is, parents and families are the most important stakeholders in students’ educational success and should never be left out of those conversations. However, our time, concerns, and input are often not respected. As an advocate and activist I have found success in sustaining relationships with families and establishing trust while being authentic about my intentions. There are several tried and true methods, when implemented, can create opportunities for effective engagement.

Here are some things you should consider when you want nurture Effective Family Engagement:

  • What have you done to establish a trusting relationship with parents?
  • What do you know about the needs of the community you are serving and what resources can you provide or refer families to?
  • Do you have a follow-up plan in place to address parents’ issues and concerns?
  • Are you meeting parents where they are not only physically but also practically by providing transportation, food, childcare, language translation, and other services to participants?
  • How will you create a safe space for authentic discourse and solutions-oriented conversations?
  • What incentives can you offer to compensate parents for their time and input?

Effective Family Engagement is possible when parents know their feedback is not only heard but implemented. They will also advocate on behalf of their students’ schools when they know there is a mutual respect and desire to do what is best for their children. Having a rapport and nurturing a working relationship is key!