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FINE Newsletter, Volume III, Issue 1
Issue Topic: Preparing Teachers for Family Engagement

Voices from the Field

Maria C. Paredes is the Director of Community Education at Creighton School District in Arizona. In our October 2010 FINE Newsletter, “Using Student Data to Engage Families,” Paredes profiled Creighton School District’s work in family engagement. This is a follow-up to that article.

In a recent FINE Newsletter article, we profiled Creighton's use of Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT), in which participating teachers hold 75-minute parent team meetings three times a year and 30-minute individual parent–teacher conferences once a year. The parent team meetings are centered on analyzing achievement data together as a team. In this follow-up article, we look at how the Creighton School District prepares teachers to effectively share student data with families.

In order for APTT to work, teachers and parent liaisons must be well-trained to work with families and data. To accomplish this, Creighton’s District Director of Community Education provides a teacher orientation at the beginning of the school year, where she provides teachers with background knowledge about the importance of giving families grade level information, data, and proper training. Teachers become more familiar with strategies for engaging their classroom families in the learning process and they receive an in-depth description of the optional APTT model. After the initial training, the district holds three follow-up debriefings and planning meetings where teachers have an opportunity to talk about their APTT experiences. The APTT training upholds the following characteristics:

  • Develop the skills and knowledge teachers need: A large portion of the APTT training is devoted to helping teachers understand different factors that impact parents’ abilities to assist with schoolwork at home. Teachers need to understand that all families have high aspirations for their children but often lack the “know how” to produce high academic results. The APTT training is designed so that teachers are able to take on a broader role in coaching and mentoring families in school processes.

  • APPT Training Videos

    Video #1 (For a larger screen, click here to watch on YouTube instead.)

    Video #2 (For a larger screen, click here to watch on YouTube instead.)
  • Apply different teaching methods to acknowledge different learning styles: Readings and lectures are not always sufficient to support teacher trainings; teachers also need hands-on practice. The APTT training videos (see sidebar at right) give teachers the opportunity to observe firsthand what an APTT conference looks like. The video allows teachers to see their peers working successfully with families, and gives the teachers a clear picture of what they should do. Moreover, it is helpful for teachers to sit in on their peers’ APTT meetings where they can observe parent–teacher interactions.

  • Build confidence for teachers to share responsibility for learning with families: Teacher efficacy at leading and coaching parents to become engaged is a process, and providing personal and technical support to APTT novice teachers is essential. Teachers are often uncomfortable and reluctant to ask parents to take equal responsibility for student learning. Teachers generally have no formal training in leading parent groups or building relationships with families in the classroom. Moreover, teachers often feel uncomfortable with sharing whole-group data with parents and find it potentially offensive. To build confidence during training, the Community Director reads testimonials from parents showing the positive impact the APTTs can have. Once they hold the first APPT meeting of their own, teachers are usually exhilarated, proud, optimistic, and ready for more.

  • Train various stakeholders to support the family engagement process: Title I Facilitators and parent liaisons also receive training every month about how to coordinate successful implementation of APTT meetings at each school site. Parent liaisons receive six hours of training every month to make sure they can help set goals and meet the needs of all parents. Not only are parent liaisons trained at the school, but Creighton School District has also formed a unique partnership with a community college in the area to offer parent liaisons a college-track program to obtain a Parent Involvement Specialist certificate. This 25-credit program at Rio Salaso Community College takes about 1.5 years to complete. Parent liaisons take courses in education, public speaking, and group facilitation, and the program is aligned with the AA and BA degrees if they wish to pursue them.

Through APTT, the Creighton School District has revamped the traditional parent–teacher conferences, and thus changed how parents and teachers communicate and collaborate toward increased student learning and achievement. This has required stronger investments in teacher training. The district has worked in three main areas to invest in teacher training and professional development in support of family engagement:

  • Tie APTT to district career-ladder system: The Creighton School District is further supporting teacher trainings by developing ways to tie APTTs to teachers’ professional development. For example, if teachers attend trainings, implement APTTs, and complete appropriate evaluation material, teachers receive additional compensation and leadership roles. Additionally, since Creighton invests much professional learning time and resources in areas that teachers and administrators are evaluated in professionally, the district is currently devising ways to evaluate teachers and school leaders in family engagement.

  • Develop partnerships with institutes of higher education: The district is forging bi-directional research partnerships with institutes of higher education to promote teacher training in family engagement. One viable option being explored by Creighton is establishing schools as research sites in which university professors can gather important and intentional longitudinal data about family engagement. Through these collaborations, researchers would learn firsthand the importance of family engagement and, in turn, bring this knowledge back to the classrooms in which they teach. 

  • Build capacity and support in the greater community: Efforts are being made to expand support for family involvement beyond Creighton School District.  Creighton’s Community Education Office recently initiated the Parent Involvement Leadership of Arizona (PILA) group. This cohort meets monthly and is made up of district and agency leaders in parent involvement from across Arizona. This group aims to provide a united voice to share alternative approaches to parent involvement that meet the needs of teachers, parents, and students. Additionally, PILA aims to raise the quality of parent involvement opportunities that early childhood programs, schools districts, and agencies provide for Arizona families.

For more information and tools about preparing teachers and families to participate in Academic Parent–Teacher Teams, visit

This resource is part of the March 2011 FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family involvement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the FINE Newsletter Archive, visit

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project