By Jack Orloff
In a Zoom meeting with community members on Wednesday, Karen L. Mapp, Ed.D., said family engagement is essential for student and school success now more than ever.
"A lot of time and work is needed to really develop relationships with students and families, but it is worth it," Mapp said. "We need to make sure the partnership is equitable. We have to make sure that we have systems and structures in place that everyone can be engaged in, engaged not just those who are privileged or have access to resources."
Mapp is a senior lecturer on Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She served as a consultant on family engagement to the United States Department of Education in the Office of Innovation and Improvement. She has a 20 year career in education and has written and co-authored several books about the importance of family engagement.
Mapp continued her discussion with a definition of family engagement, saying engagement must be full, equal, and equitable partnership.
"We want to make sure if we need to go to families and meet them where they are, we do that," Mapp said. "We have this to promote children's learning and development. We don't want to see our families as clients but see families as partners."
She said when a student’s family is engaged, it can lead to higher grades and test scores, learning to read faster, better attendance, developing behavior and social skills, and enrollment in higher-level programs and higher education.
"Families start to really see that their engagement is powerful," Mapp said. "They gain confidence in their ability to shape and influence their child's learning and development and are even empowered to take on new challenges in terms of their education and careers."
Mapp said that teachers benefit as well. Research shows teachers don't want to leave schools with a strong family engagement culture because they feel like they are joined together as a family.
"Teachers who were at schools that have a strong family engagement culture, where they value families, where they are trained on how to work with families, said they would not leave their school,” Mapp said.
Mapp discussed the importance of not seeing families as spectators but seeing them as vital parts of the school system and critical components in their child's education.
"We must see families as full team members and co-creators," said Mapp. "That is the shift we need to make going forward."
Trustee Lynn Boswell says Mapp is one of the great communicators of parents and schools working together as a team.
“No one cares more about the success of students than their families,” said Trustee Boswell. “Students need our schools and their families working together as a team to be partners in their success. Karen Mapp knows that and is a great communicator of that. When we get those things right all the great things we want about student achievement, about relationships, about social and emotional learning really follows from those relationships and those partnerships between families and our schools.”
For more information on Karen L. Mapp, Ed.D, please visit www.harvard.edu.