Apply to be a Teaching for Change
Partner School

Teaching for Change is pleased to announce an opening for a new school to join the cohort of DC public schools implementing our nationally recognized approach to family engagement, called Tellin’ Stories. 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. Tellin’ Stories is a unique approach that combines community organizing, popular education, racial equity, and the research and best practices from the family engagement field. The ultimate goal is improving outcomes for all children.

Application deadline: March 9, 2018

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Teaching for Change has developed a highly successful, research-based, and tested approach that effectively addresses the limitations of traditional family engagement. Tellin’ Stories cultivates parents to be leaders in their schools, build relationships, and develop the skills to navigate the public school system and help their children succeed. At the same time, we provide critical training and support for parent coordinators, teachers, and school administrators to create a welcome, inclusive, and collaborative school environment. Locally and nationally, Teaching for Change stands apart in the field because of the four pillars on which our work is based: community organizing, popular education, racial equity, and the research and best practices from the family engagement field.

The Tellin’ Stories Project of Teaching for Change was recognized in 2010 by the Harvard Family Research Project and US Department of Education for providing one of 12 leading innovations in family engagement, and in 2014 became one of 30 distinguished groups from 1,200 applicants selected by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to implement and document equity-based approaches to family engagement. Teaching for Change’s parent organizing approach has been featured in ASCD Express (2017), Education Week (2015), ThinkProgress (2015), Education Leadership (2013), Rethinking Schools (2009), and the renowned family engagement guide Beyond the Bake Sale (Henderson, et al, 2007).

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



For more than 20 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.

The school communities in which we work have:
  • Increased family engagement, voice, and advocacy
  • Produced a more positive school climate
  • Shown improved academic achievement
Teaching for Change’s approach is supported by research and formal evaluation:

Research has long shown that when families are involved at home and at school, children perform better academically and the school improves (Henderson and Mapp, 2002). However, many schools and teachers struggle to build meaningful relationships with students’ families. In multiple surveys, teachers have 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).


Policy Studies Associates, an evaluation firm, conducted a three-year formal evaluation of our school partnerships from 2014-2017 and found evidence to support the following conclusions:

Parent engagement and leadership

  • Teaching for Change partner schools show evidence of creating multiple pathways for parent engagement.
  • The Tellin’ Stories approach has established a foundation for parents to advocate on behalf of their children and their school community.

School climate

  • Parents and school personnel agreed that parent engagement activities helped support a welcoming climate in their schools.
  • Teaching for Change successfully helped parents build relationships with other parents and with school personnel.

Teachers and administrators

  • For principals, teachers, and other school personnel, the Tellin’ Stories approach has contributed to shifts in schools’ strategies for communicating with families.
  • Responses from school personnel highlighted the benefits of the parent engagement initiative on their professional development.

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 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 

“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:
  • We identified the 23 parents who were both the most active parents and also reflective of the school as a whole.
  • We compared the DIBELS and TRC reading scores of those parents’ children with their peers in the same grade (Kindergarten through 5th grade).
  • 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 were most involved averaged5 times fewer absences than the entire student population.
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
    • pay attention to 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.



Teaching for Change seeks to partner with schools for a period of three to five years. Rather than entering schools with a fixed agenda, 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. Teaching for Change does not charge a fee to partner with schools; however, there are expenses required as part of the partnership.

Schools that meet the following criteria may apply:
  • Have an early childhood program (preschool, pre-Kindergarten, Head Start) – elementary schools and education campuses with an early childhood program may apply.
  • Qualify for Title I status and predominantly serve families that are low-income, immigrant, and/or racial and ethnic minorities.
  • Located in the DC metro area.
    • Preference will be given to DC Public Schools located east of the Anacostia River.
  • Public or a public charter school.
In Year 1, participating schools must agree to:
  • Have an open door policy for parents.
  • Employ or fund a Parent Center Coordinator/Family Engagement Liaison to lead family engagement activities and support parents and teachers /support staff. If not currently filled, seek and hire a Parent Center Coordinator during the school year.
    • If a community partner is fulfilling this position, please provide additional information in the application.
  • Provide time, space, and resources for family engagement activities (Parent Center or dedicated meeting space for parents).
  • Release at least 1 teacher/staff member to attend each session of the Tellin’ Stories Race, Equity, and Family Engagement Seminar (see description below).
  • Participate in evaluation (surveys, interviews).
  • Participate in documentation – e.g. allow photography and video recording as appropriate
  • Share student academic data, as appropriate.
Additionally, for Year 2 – Year 5 participating schools must agree to:
  • Maintain the Parent Center Coordinator/Family Engagement Liaison position.
  • Provide time for Teaching for Change to lead whole school professional development with teachers and staff.
  • Establish a Family Engagement Committee that meets regularly (every 1-2 months).


Timeline and focus of the Teaching for Change partnership by year

Year 1

 Year 2-5

Create a welcoming environment through:

  • Building relationships among parents, and between parents and the school
  • Establishing regular meetings, workshops, activities, and programs based on parent wants and needs
  • Building relationships between parents and the principal through monthly Parent-Principal Chit Chats
  • Implementing Tellin’ Stories signature activities as appropriate, such as:
    • Story Quilting Series
    • Welcoming Climate Walkthrough
    • Roving Readers
Continue to create a welcoming environment and bridge gaps between parents and teachers through:

  • Building on Year 1 activities and initiatives
  • Implementing additional Tellin’ Stories signature activities, such as:
    • Grade Level Dialogues
    • Academic Classroom Visits
    • Roving Readers
    • Community Walk
  • Connecting with teachers and staff through professional development and the Family Engagement Committee
  • Establishing sustained family engagement efforts that support strong home-school partnerships




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 30-minute interview with Teaching for Change staff between March 19 and April 6 as part of the selection process.
  • Commit to creating a positive school culture that includes a welcoming environment and open door policy with parents.
  • 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
    • provide light refreshments for parent meetings
    • interpretation support for parent meetings
  • Hold a monthly open meeting with parents (Parent-Principal Chit Chats/Coffee with the Principal).
  • Participate in planning meetings with Teaching for Change staff members in Spring 2018, and ongoing throughout the school year.
  • Participate in evaluation interviews with our evaluators and distribute teacher and staff surveys.
  • Support the recommendations and initiatives developed by parents and teachers/staff that come from parent meetings, Family Engagement Committee meetings, and participants in the Tellin’ Stories Race, Equity, and Family Engagement Seminar.

Read advice from a former Tellin’ Stories principal.



Teaching for Change leads a yearlong professional development course with educators from our partner schools to examine how race and class affect family engagement and school success. The Tellin’ Stories Race, Equity, and Family Engagement Seminar brings teachers, counselors, and support staff from local public school together to learn about these issues and develop strategies to meaningfully engage families through an equity-based lens.

The specific goals of the seminar are for participants to:

  • Learn, share, and develop strategies, tools, and approaches to effectively engage families at their schools.
  • Examine how race, class, and equity impact family engagement and their own practices as educators.
  • Be prepared to be leaders and advocates for family engagement in their schools.

The seminar focuses on topics including: Unpacking Racism and Classism; Understanding the Experiences of Parents and Students of Color in Public Schools; Building Relationships and Meeting Families Where They Are; and Connecting Family Engagement to Academic Success. There are six half-day sessions, each held on a Thursday in September, October, November, January, March, and May.

Participants from DC Public Schools receive 1 PLU per training hour (up to 22 PLUs) after satisfactorily completing all program requirements, per DCPS regulations. Teaching for Change also submits documentation for participants from other school districts and local education agencies (LEAs) to receive professional development credits.

Each Teaching for Change partner school is required to have at least one teacher/staff participant in the seminar per year.



  • Friday, March 9, 2018 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 30-minute interview between March 19 and April 6.
  • Applications are available as PDF and Word documents or may be completed via the online application. Paper applications may be scanned and emailed to [email protected], or mailed to:

Teaching for Change
P.O. 73038
Washington, DC 20056

The school(s) selected for partnership beginning in the 2018-2019 school year will be announced by Friday, April 13.



Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:

  • When is the application due?
    • It must be submitted online, emailed, or postmarked by Friday, March 9, 2018.
  • 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 and serve predominantly lower income, immigrant, and/or racial and ethnic minority populations.
  • Who can submit the application?
    • A school staff member, parent, or community partner, with permission from the school principal.
  • What does the principal need to do?
    • Participate in an interview and planning meetings, maintain an open door policy with parents, and take the lead in creating a welcoming environment at the school. See “What does this partnership require of principals?” for more detail.
  • Does my school have to pay a fee?
    • At this time, the costs of our school partnerships are covered through foundation and local government grants. Therefore, Teaching for Change does not charge a fee to partner with schools. However, there are expenses required as part of the partnership. We require that school partners dedicate time and resources to family engagement, including a staffed position and light refreshments for meetings. See more under eligibility requirements and expectations.
  • When are the Tellin’ Stories Race, Equity, and Family Engagement Seminar trainings?
    • September, October, November, January, March and May. See “What is the Tellin’ Stories Race, Equity, and Family Engagement Seminar?” for more information about the trainings and who should participate.
  • When will the selected school(s) be announced?
    • Teaching for Change will notify all applicants by Friday, April 13.

Email Erika Landberg at [email protected] with questions or for more information.