Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series


With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Teaching for Change is launching a new and unprecedented training series for D.C.-area elementary schools to develop meaningful family engagement strategies for their school communities. Click here to download the Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series informational brochure.

Schools selected to participate in the Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series will send teams comprised of a parent coordinator, parents, teachers or support staffs, and (where desired) community partners to participate in trainings in August, October, November, January, March, and May. The training series will be based on Tellin’ Stories’ unique, research-based approach that fosters effective partnerships between empowered families, their communities, and schools.  The ultimate goal is improving outcomes for all children.

What is the Tellin’ Stories approach?

What is the Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series?

How can my school benefit from participating?

What are the requirements for my school to be eligible?

What does this series require of principals?

How can my school apply?

Frequently Asked Questions about the Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series


What is the Tellin’ Stories Approach?

Tellin’ Stories is the parent organizing project of Teaching for Change, a D.C.-based nonprofit organization that provides teachers and parents with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write and change the world.  Our approach engages families and staff using the power of story to connect people from diverse backgrounds, to pass on valuable information and experiences, and to organize for collective action. 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 has received national recognition for our approach to family engagement. Tellin’ Stories was selected by the Harvard Family Research Project in a national report for the US Department of Education as one of twelve examples of leading innovations in family engagement (Taking Leadership, Innovating Change, 2010), and our work in DC schools has been featured in the national journals Rethinking Schools (Spring 2009) and Education Leadership (Summer 2013).

Read more about the Tellin’ Stories approach and Teaching for Change’s work with partner schools.

“Tellin’ Stories [a project of Teaching for Change] stands out for its capacity to create meaningful change for both families and schools. What is cutting edge in their work is the dual focus on building collaborative relationships among parents and school staff, and on improving student achievement.”

Anne T. Henderson
Annenberg Institute for School Reform and co-author of Beyond the Bake Sale


What is the Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series?

The Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series is a yearlong training series for school teams to develop effective family engagement strategies. The training is based in research on effective strategies and Teaching for Change’s experience supporting family engagement for more than 15 years. Participants will also reflect on how race, class, and equity impact their school communities. The series features six workshops covering topics that may include:

  • Developing a Strong Family Engagement Work Plan
  • Parent Outreach and Recruitment
  • Creating a Welcoming School Climate
  • Cultural Sharing and Community Building with Parents
  • Connecting Family Engagement to Academic Success
  • Creating a Family-Friendly Parent Center
  • Designing Meetings that Parents Want to Attend
  • Improving Parent-Teacher Communication
  • How to Share Data with Parents

Participants include school teams composed of parents and staff from 3 to 5 DC-area schools that have an early childhood (preschool or pre-K) program, are public or public charter schools,  have Title I status, and/or serve a significant number of families that are racial and ethnic minorities, immigrant, and are low income. More information about school eligibility can be found under “What are the requirements for my school to be eligible?

Schools must send teams of parents and staff that may include: parent coordinators, Title 1 specialists, community partners, teacher aides, teachers or support staff, and administrators. The first part of each workshop will be dedicated to professional development specifically for staff members, while parents attend their own leadership development training. The second part of each workshop will bring parents and staff back together into their school teams to develop plans and strategies specific to their school communities. The series includes ongoing coaching and site visits to other schools.

The Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series begins with a spring orientation for the principals of the selected schools, in addition to a fall meeting for principals before the training series begins. More information about principal participation can be found under “What does this series require of principals?

The exact training dates will be determined once the participating schools are finalized. Trainings will be on a weekday for 4 hours (from 10am to 2pm) and will be held in: August, October, November, January, March, and May.



How can my school benefit from participating?

Schools participating in the Tellin’ Stories Family Partner Series will develop strategies to engage families in meaningful ways that build relationships and support student achievement. This is a unique opportunity for schools to receive:

  • Professional development: Teaching for Change is renowned for its professional development workshops and coaching for parent coordinators, teachers, and administrators. The Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series will be professional development for parent coordinators, parent leaders, teachers and staff, and community partners.
  • Coaching: Participating schools will receive direct coaching to find strategies and solutions that support family engagement at their schools.
  • Documentation: Teaching for Change will be documenting the family engagement efforts of participating schools for reflection, research, and to develop best practices specific to those communities.
  • Recognition: The Kellogg Foundation is looking to highlight the work of schools who are using an equity, and asset-based approach to family engagement. Teaching for Change will work with a communications firm, photographer, and videographer to document family engagement efforts and share materials that schools may use for PR and promotion.

For more than 15 years, Teaching for Change has followed the research and seen the evidence supporting our approach to family engagement. When parents are not simply involved, but engaged and empowered as partners in the educational process, their children do better in school and they can improve the learning environment for all students.

We see the evidence directly in the words and actions of parents and staff at our partner schools:

“I feel more confident because of the Tellin’ Stories meetings.”  – Parent

“The teachers really helped us [Spanish-speaking parents] learn how to help our kids with reading.  We were closed to those activities and opportunities before, but now they are open to us.” – Parent

“Parents are WAY more involved, comfortable, and active here than before Teaching for Change started working with us.  And way more so than I’ve seen at other schools.”  Teacher

“There’s a lot more openness. Parents feel they can come in, ask questions about the homework or something else, and really interact with the teachers. Before, they may have never even come in the door.” – Teacher

“Using the Tellin’ Stories approach did not just increase the numbers of parents involved – it literally changed the face of who we saw coming in the door and advocating for their children.”  Principal

“Having a relationship with parents is really important. Our school is stronger for that relationship. When we do things, we’re not doing something to someone—we’re working together to build. We’re not fixing parents, we’re learning with them.” – Principal

We see the evidence in a case study of student reading scores at a DCPS partner school:

  • At a school in D.C. we compared the reading scores of the children of parents who were most active parents in the school and also reflective of the school community as a whole.
  • Students whose parents were most involved showed 2-3 times more growth on reading assessments compared to the rest of their peers.
  • Students whose parents are most involved averaged 1.5 times fewer absences than the entire student population.

 Teaching for Change’s approach is supported by research and formal evaluation:

Research has shown that when families are involved at home and at school children perform better academically and the school gets better (Henderson and Mapp, 2002). However, many schools and teachers struggle to build meaningful relationships with students’ families. In multiple surveys, teachers said the number one area they are least well prepared is communicating and engaging with parents (Henderson, 2011). Education professor Soo Hong notes: “There is a presumption that parents and teachers would be natural allies, but some family-school interactions, particularly in low-income communities of color, suggest that the relationship is more adversarial” (2011). Research has also shown that:

  • Family and community involvement that is linked to student learning has a greater effect on achievement than more general forms of involvementInvernizzi, Rosemary, Richards & Richards (1997).  Dryfoos (12000).  Clark (2002).
  • Families of all cultural backgrounds, education, and income levels can, and often do, have a positive influence on their children’s learning.  Ho Sui-Chu & Willams (1996).  Shaver & Walls (1998). Clark (1993).

Policy Studies Associates, an evaluation firm, conducted a formal evaluation of the Tellin’ Stories approach in the 2011-2012 school year and reached four conclusions:

  • Parents who participated in Tellin’ Stories activities reported feeling welcomed and included in the school community.
  • Tellin’ Stories helped improve communication among parents and between parents and school personnel. Interviews with teachers suggest that increased parent engagement led teachers to rethink their approach to communication with families.
  • Tellin’ Stories activities supported the development of home-school academic partnerships, and parents reported receiving and using advice and materials from teachers to support learning.
  • School personnel reported shifts in their attitudes and behavior related to parent engagement. Teachers and administrators reported that staff members recognized the roles that parents can play in their children’s education and the importance of parent involvement in their schools.

Your school can develop a family engagement strategy specific to your community’s needs that follows best practices in family engagement:

The Tellin’ Stories approach is aligned with the US Department of Education’s Family-School Partnerships Framework, which emphasizes:

  • Building the capacity of BOTH educators and families
  • Learning experiences that lead to the ABILITY TO APPLY what is learned
  • Family engagement initiatives that are:
      •  linked to learning goals
      • paid attention to in relationships
      • built on developing the skills participants already possess
      • collaborative including learning in groups and building networks
      • interactive so that participants have opportunities to practice new skills.



What are the requirements for my school to be eligible?

Schools that meet the following criteria may apply to participate in the Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series:

  • Have an early childhood program (Head Start, preschool, or pre-Kindergarten) – elementary schools and education campuses with an early childhood program may apply
  • Qualify for Title I status and/or serve families that are low-income,  immigrant, or racial and ethnic minorities
  • Located in the DC metro area
  • Public or a public charter school
  • Have a Parent Coordinator/Parent Liaison on staff

Participating schools must agree to:

  • Form a Family Partners team* to send to the training series comprised of:
      • Parent Coordinator/Parent Liaison
      • Parents representing the school population
      • Classroom teachers or support staff – e.g. front office staff, Title I specialist, teacher aide, instructional coach, ELL teacher
      • (Optional) Community volunteers or school partners – e.g. staff from an organization directly supporting parent engagement at the school
  • Share student academic data as appropriate
  • Participate in evaluation of the training series – e.g. surveys and interviews
  • Participate in documentation of the training series – e.g. allow photography and video recording as appropriate
  • Provide space, time and resources for family engagement activities – e.g. have a dedicated parents center and a budget of $50 for refreshments at parent meetings
  • Send a team to EACH training
  • Have an open door policy for parents

Trainings will be on a weekday for 4 hours (from 10am to 2pm) and will be held in: August, October, November, January, March, and May.

*Please note: You must submit the names and titles of potential members of your school’s Family Partners Team on the application.


What does this series require of principals?

Principals are vital to the success of any school’s family engagement efforts. As such, principal attitudes towards families and commitment to authentic family engagement will be a determining factor in the selection process.

Principals must first commit to creating a welcoming school environment for parents.  Specifically, principals will be required to:

  • Participate in a 20-30 minute interview with Teaching for Change staff between May 27 and May 30 as part of the selection process.
  • Participate in a spring 2014 Family Partner Series orientation for principals the week of June 23
  • Participate in a fall 2014 Family Partner Series meeting for principals in August
  • Dedicate time and resources to family engagement including but not limited to:
        • a dedicated space to be used as a parent center
        • time on the school calendar for parent engagement activities
        • a budget for basic supplies and refreshments for parent meetings
        • interpretation support for parent meetings
  • Meet monthly with a representative(s) of their school’s Family Partners Team
  • Hold open monthly meetings with parents – e.g. Parent-Principal Chit Chats or Principal Coffees

Finally, principals must agree to support the recommendations and initiatives proposed by their school’s Family Partners Team.

Read advice from a former Tellin’ Stories principal.



How soon can my school apply?

  • Friday, May 23, 2014 is the deadline to apply
  • Applications may be submitted by a school staff person, parent, or community partner with permission from the school principal
  • In the application, please note 3 times the principal can be available for a 20 to 30-minute interview between May 27 and May 30
  • Applications may be completed via the online application here.
  • Paper applications are available by clicking here for  a PDF or by clicking here for a Word document.

Paper applications should be mailed to: Teaching for Change, P.O. 73038, Washington, DC 20056

The schools selected for the Family Partners Series will be announced on Teaching for Change’s website on Monday, June 9.



Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

When is the application due?

It must be submitted online, faxed, or postmarked by Friday, May 23, 2014.

What kinds of schools can apply?

Elementary schools, education campuses, or early childhood centers with a Head Start, preschool, or pre-K program that qualify for Title 1 status or otherwise serve low income, immigrant, or minority populations.

What is the cost to participate?

Thanks to a generous grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series is being offered to schools free of charge. However, participating schools must budget funds to have a parent coordinator and provide supplies (e.g. refreshments, interpretation) for parent meetings and activities.

Who can submit the application? 

A school staff person, parent, or community partner with permission from the school principal.

Who may be on a school’s Family Partners Team?

Parent coordinators, parents, Title 1 specialists, volunteers, community partners, teacher aides, teachers or support staff, and school administrators may all be part of the team. Community partners and volunteers who support family engagement at the school are encouraged to participate.

What if our Family Partners Team misses a training?

Schools are encouraged to identify multiple parents and staff members to participate, as each member of the team may not be able to attend each training. The parent coordinator must attend the entire series. Additionally, schools must always send at least one parent and a teacher/support staff member to each training. Principals should take this into account before applying.

When are the Family Partners Series trainings?

August, October, November, January, March and May.  See “What is the Tellin’ Stories Family Partners Series?” for more information about the trainings. The exact dates will be determined with the participating schools. Trainings will take place on a week day from 10am to 2pm.

What does the principal need to do?

Participate in several interviews and meetings as well as support the school team and its proposals.  See “What does this series require of principals?” for more detail.

When will the finalists be announced?

Teaching for Change will notify and post the finalists on our website on Monday, June 9.

Email Erika Landberg at with questions or for more information.

This series is funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Learn more.