Building Stronger Schools with Parent Power
Tellin’ Stories is the parent organizing program of Teaching for Change, however we refer to Tellin’ Stories more as an approach to family engagement. We believe that for schools to provide the quality education our children deserve, families, schools and communities must be involved as purposeful partners in the education process.
Teaching for Change partners with school communities that serve primarily parents of color and lower income families. Our work demonstrates that we can build stronger schools with our parents of color and lower income families than without them, but traditional approaches are not going to work.
Many school leaders recognize that parents of color and lower income families have a positive impact on the school and student learning, but they are not sure how to meaningfully partner with their families. Despite the best intentions, schools struggle to overcome barriers to family engagement for traditionally marginalized communities. Teaching for Change developed what we call the Tellin’ Stories approach to engage families and staff using the power of story to connect people from diverse backgrounds, to pass on valuable information and experiences, and to organize collective action. The most gratifying aspect of our work is that parents, educators, community members, and partner organizations are redefining the vision of school communities by helping those who are traditionally excluded from the decision-making process become a central part of it.
We implement our Tellin’ Stories approach at three levels:
- Comprehensive Work in D.C.-area Public Schools transforms family-school relationships by strengthening the dual capacity of families and educators to partner for children’s well-being and success. With a focus on community building as the foundation for meaningful family engagement, Teaching for Change provides parents and educators with unique opportunities to bridge differences and achieve shared goals. Our approach guides schools toward creating a welcoming school environment and family engagement strategies that lead to student achievement. At the same time, our staff works directly with parent center coordinators and parent leaders to create and implement action plans that affect the academic achievement and climate of public schools through relationship building , regular meetings, workshops, trainings, and grassroots organizing.
- The Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series, funded by generous grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, is a yearlong professional development series that brings together teachers and support staff from Teaching for Change partner schools. Participants are also members of their schools’ family engagement committees and receive additional coaching. The overall goal of the Family Partners Series is to develop meaningful family engagement strategies for D.C.-area school communities. Teachers and staff who successfully complete the series receive a professional learning unit from DC Public Schools. The series builds on the Cross-City Parent Coordinator Training series that the Tellin’ Stories Project led for many years.
- National Training and Professional Development on the Tellin’ Stories approach and methodology for parent coordinators and school staff. For example, we have offered training for Arlington Public Schools (VA), the Connecticut State Department of Education, St. Louis Public Schools (MO), Newport News and Hampton Public Schools (VA), the National Education Association, and each year at the National Family Engagement Conference. In November 2016, Teaching for Change released the second edition of Between Families and Schools with the hopes that it would support family engagement coordinators, administrators, teachers, and support staff looking to better partner with their families.
Read more about how our nationally recognized approach works in schools.
See Tellin’ Stories in Action
An elementary school principal in Mt. Rainier (PGCPS) describes how they built collaborative relationships between teachers and parents on the behalf of students, using Teaching for Change’s Tellin’ Stories.
Roving Readers is a signature activity of the Tellin’ Stories approach to family engagement that brings multicultural and anti-bias children’s literature into the classroom through parent-led read alouds.
This film is an overview of the Tellin’ Stories program. It’s co-production of The National Education Association, Teaching for Change and The Maryland State Parental Information and Resource Center.