“Immaculate Perceptions”: The Power of The Parent Coordinator

The home dynamics for all children are usually multifaceted and complex. Some children experience more difficulties due to family circumstances while others have more positive experiences regardless of family circumstances. No matter the dynamics, children’s actions reflect those circumstances (both negatively and positively) throughout the school day.

As the Parent Liaison, you have the unique opportunity to get to know both the student and the parents’ context. Your insight can help “break the cycle of immaculate perceptions” that educators often have about particular students and their behaviors. By examining and reviewing the example below about Jamal, you may see more clearly how misconceptions affect a student and how you might aide in minimizing preconceptions and misconceptions about students and their families.

Cycle of Immaculate Perceptions

Before you examine the comments in each box about Jamal, think about these basic concepts:

 There are four basic functions of behavior (why children do what they do)

  1. To seek attention
  2. To avoid attention or escape a situation
  3. To obtain a tangible or access an item (i.e. they want to use the computer)
  4. Automatic reinforcement or sensory stimulation (such as rocking back and forth, rubbing one’s arm after falling)



        Misconceptions(Immaculate Perceptions) about Jamal


Now reflect on how you might respond when involved in this type of conversation. Think about your role as  Parent Coordinator/Parent Liaison. Use these prompts to examine how your role might mitigate or lessen misconceptions:

  • Getting to know the child.
  • Getting to know the parents/family.
  • Providing accurate information about the family.
  • Providing a safe space for the family to be involved at school.


  • Do you know the student?
  • Have you made contact with the parents?
  • What do you know about the family dynamics?
  • Are you able to share this information with the teacher?

What are your thoughts on addressing the assumptions?[reference the above diagram]

Being a Parent Coordinator/ Parent Liaison, your role may sound self-explanatory. However, knowing how to work with parents and what your limitations are may not always be clear. As you develop your role and responsibilities for working with parents, keep these ideas in mind:

  •  You are a Cultural Broker:  someone who is bi-cultural or multi-cultural (has the ability to understand and navigate in more than one cultural type). This person is well immersed in two or more culturally identified groups (i.e. ethnicity, race, socio-economic status, single-parent homes, neighborhoods, etc.).

Being an effective Parent Liaison also means being an effective Cultural Broker. Knowing the cultural dynamics of your school, community, and neighborhoods and using that knowledge in a way that will contribute to and foster healthy relationships between home and school is the heart of being an effective Parent Liaison and Cultural Broker.

  • You provide Mediation. The following scenario may illustrate your role as Cultural Broker and Mediator:

<Amy Davis is the Parent Liaison for Crossroads Elementary School, and has been working closely with Ms. Cummings, the school principal, to gather familial information on a student who is at-risk of being suspended. Ms. Cummings would like to meet with the student’s parents but has not had great success in having meaningful and respectful conversations with them. The parent’s interaction and experience has had a very negative impact on them. Amy feels that she will be able to make a difference this time as a cultural broker and mediator. She requests to meet with the parents first, on neutral ground in their own community.

Her meeting consists of providing the parents with the tools needed to navigate the education system and the norms that are expected when dealing with other adults in a professional situation. Key to Amy’s success was sharing her understanding and empathy as a parent and acknowledging that it is sometimes difficult to be objective when dealing with issues involving our own children.

The parents had the opportunity to share their frustrations and receive coaching from Amy, who subsequently shared this information with the principal. The Principal was thus able to better understand their perspective and to have time to think about how to approach the situation with a more optimistic attitude. Once both parties were better informed about the other, the meeting was a success!>

Reflection: How does this apply to your current role at school? The key to the successful partnering between parents and educators at schools is the Parent Coordinator/Liaison. You must own that power and influence. Share your insights with staff  to enable them to alter any immaculate perceptions, broaden their lens and establish meaningful relationships with parents and their children, who are students in the classrooms at school. Model best practices and teach strategies to inform and empower staff, even the most seasoned teacher. Help them challenge implicit bias regarding the students and diverse families within the school community.  The value you hold for educators, parents, and the entire school community, is immeasurable. Always use your powers for good!


Four Approaches to Making Instructional Content Kinesthetic

hip hopNew research shows that the part of the brain typically associated with muscular activity and motor control also plays a role in language functions and with visual-spatial, executive and working memory processes. By combining physical activity and higher-order thinking, teachers can capitalize on the brain-body connection and help students grow this area of their brain. Here are four ways to increase engagement and academic achievement by adding movement to learning.

Read more: ASCD Express 12.03 – Move with Purpose: Four Approaches to Making Content Kinesthetic

The Most Avoided Strategy To Guide Education Practices

Why not ask the customer?

Let’s open with a quick quiz. Can you name a $13 billion enterprise that operates almost totally without regular, ongoing and actionable customer research?

If you’re in the manufacturing, IT, entertainment, transportation, health care, food service or tourism industries, you may be scratching your head, asking yourself what business could grow to that size without the data necessary to refine and revise product and service delivery.

Not so in K-12 education. There are millions of information inputs, reactions and responses to student learning needs, to their responses on tests, to parent inquiries and community demands. But there is no standard research conducted among students, parents and teachers that asks, “How’re we doing, and what could we do better?”


We have an opportunity to fix that. Our state is now developing a new accountability plan to fulfill the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which governs the distribution of federal funds for at-risk and special needs students.

The ESSA demands accountability for the resources provided. But in contrast to the previous federal law, No Child Left Behind, it places less focus on student test scores and allows each state to craft its own accountability measures and corrective actions. This new act actually requires states to identify measures of success that are not related to student performance on standardized tests.

The Michigan Department of Education and educators throughout the state are working now to determine which measures to include. Many would like to include those we’ve used for years — grade-point average, graduation rates and supports for at-risk students.

While those are all important indicators of success, and measures that will never go away, they fail to provide objective and actionable performance data on the environment, the effectiveness and the culture of the school experience for students and their families. Nor do they provide teachers the opportunity to objectively evaluate the support they’re given to meet student needs, or the customer’s opinion of teacher effectiveness.

Survey says: Something New?

School climate surveys aren’t new. They’re used by many schools. But in most, they’re anecdotal. They’re something of a fad that comes and goes with administrative change.

Kent school districts in 2010 conducted grant-funded student engagement surveys for all high school students. We learned a lot. We learned a lot of students are bored in school. We learned most do not know how they will use the content they are learning later in life. We learned most have many of the supports they need to be successful — strong support from staff and engaging activities that keep their interest even if they struggle with math.

The data gave building administrators the opportunity to discuss with staff their shortcomings. “Remember that survey we did last spring? How do you think students responded to the question about their enthusiasm for English 11? What would you say if just 27 percent said they were engaged and interested? What can we do to make that number higher?”

Harvard education researcher Tony Wagner says students can watch clips of teachers in action and, in just a few seconds of viewing, accurately identify those who are effective teachers and those who are struggling.

Virtually all of the educator evaluation programs are built on administrative and peer review. Why not the customer? Why not gather feedback from the student and his/her parents on their level of engagement in the content, and the support they receive?

More important, the school climate is something within the control of administrators. School administrators do not control the state assessment. It is set by the MDE and the Legislature. They do not control the performance measures (cut scores) set to determine efficiency. So, while they do control teaching and learning, they do not control their measure of academic success on the state assessment, now the M-Step and the SAT.

Moreover, school administrators do not control revenue. The state sets the amount of funding they receive. This makes it difficult for districts to fulfill non-assessment indicators such as student support services, or even the number of Advanced Placement courses offered in the high school.


Let Parents and Students Grade, Too

In addition to indicators of success beyond test scores, MDE is also considering a new A-F grading system for school buildings. This has been long sought by some legislators who believe a simple grading system would be easier for parents to understand, despite the complexity of bringing students of disparate backgrounds, developmental levels and parental support to a common standard of proficiency on a single test on a single day.

No health care system, hotel chain or manufacturer would ask customers to provide a simple A-F grade on their product or service without drilling down far more deeply into the customer experience with their product or service.

Whether we go to an A-F system or not, why not give parents the opportunity to grade their schools? Why not the students? Why not add in teachers, to determine if they feel they’re getting the support necessary to succeed?

Right now, we ask parents and students to vote with their feet, and provide ample opportunity to attend another traditional K-12 school or a charter school if they choose to do so. Why not start much earlier, before they feel their best option is to leave, and survey them annually on their experience in school?

ESSA identifies student engagement as a possible measure. It also provides states the opportunity to try something new. Engaged students learn better than those who are alienated, bored or confused.

Instead of guessing why students are disengaged — or why their parents move them from one school to another — maybe we should just ask, listen and respond.

This is a re-print from Kent ISD, by Ron Koehler that raises valid questions about education and the ways we frame practices. Why not ask the customer? Share your thoughts on whether you feel that’the customer is always right!”

Family Engagement: Self-Assessment

When my oldest daughter was in the first year of public school, she was enrolled in the Gifted & Talented[G&T] academic program. It was appropriate for her advanced aptitude, and it certainly met my expectations and her learning needs. What I didn’t know was that it was an area of Special Education, since accelerated instruction is not usually associated under that light.

In my efforts to negotiate daily travel, I learned that G&T students were entitled to school bus transportation, and  my desire for transportation sent me on my way to becoming an engaged, involved and actively partnered school parent. Making phone calls, meeting and talking to other parents, attending and co-founding the Parent Association at that school resulted in our being awarded a bus stop on my street corner.

Parent engagement often begins just like that-acting in your child’s best interest as a strong advocate-turned leader-connected to education.

families diverse

Do you want to know how effective and successfully you are supporting parent-teacher partnerships and connecting to education in the best interest of the comprehensive growth, learning and social-emotional development of your child? By answering the questions below, you will have a general idea about where you stand, and then you can begin to discover new ways to encourage learning at home and at school. So, this is a great place to begin.

Each question can be answered with either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and from start to finish, the estimated completion time should be no more than 20-25 minutes. When you have your score, you can begin to imagine new ways to promote meaningful learning partnerships-with your child and your child’s teachers- at home and at school. Ready? OK, here goes:

[Results are located at the bottom of the page.]

1. Have you identified a regular time and place in your home for your child to do homework?

Yes No

2. Do you monitor your child’s homework?

Yes No

3. Do you monitor your child’s television viewing habits and regulate online activity ?

Yes No

4. Do you ensure that your child has excellent attendance at school?

Yes No

5. Have you discussed with your child the importance of a good education?

Yes No

6. Did you attend Open House or Back-To-School Night at your child’s school?

Yes No

7. Do you support and reinforce the school’s discipline plan?

Yes No

8. Do you support your child’s learning by providing nutritious meals and adequate time for sleep?

Yes No

9. Do you read to your young child? If your child is older, do you encourage reading by paying attention to what your child reads as well as how often he/she reads?

Yes No

10. Do you hold your child responsible for completing all assignments on time and to the best of his/her ability?

Yes No

11. Are you knowledgeable about what skills your child should master at his/her grade level?

Yes No

12. Did you sign a written parental involvement pledge?

Yes No

13. Have you been a classroom parent volunteer?

Yes No

14. Were you a part of parent patrols or other activities to increase the safety and operation of your child’s school and programs?

Yes No

15. Have you attended at least one PTA, PTO, or other support group meeting this year?

Yes No

16. Have you worked on school-based leadership committees, district level councils and/or committees on issues concerning your schools?

Yes No

17. Did you assist in providing information on school or local district elections for school representatives?

Yes No

18. Have you attended at least one school program? (example: awards event, a school play, an athletic event or a school party)

Yes No

19. Do you insist that your child exhibit good sportsmanship at all times?

Yes No

20. Do you encourage your child to participate in volunteer projects which serve the community?

Yes No

21. Are you a model of “good sportsmanship” when attending school and community events?

Yes No

22. Do you encourage your child to participate in volunteer projects which serve the community?

Yes No

23. Have you read the student code of conduct and/or discipline policy?

Yes No

24. Do you regularly read the school/parent newsletter?

Yes No

25. Are you familiar with the supplemental services provided at your child’s school? (For example: speech therapy, after-school enrichment, resources and services for gifted students, and school counseling.)

Yes No

26. Do you make yourself available for conferences requested by your child’s teacher?

Yes No

27. Have you attended at least one parent-teacher conference with the teacher(s) of your child?

Yes No

28. Do you initiate contact with your child’s teacher or principal just to show your support?

Yes No

29. Are you aware of your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses?

Yes No

30. Do you ensure that your child takes classes to prepare him/her for a chosen career path?

Yes No

Engagement Self-Assessment Scale:

100%-75% EXCELLENT: Congratulations! You are a strong partner in your child’s education.

75% – 50% GOOD: You are making wonderful contributions to your child’s education but there are even more ways that you can help. There’s always more you can do to support your child’s learning at school. You can always learn more, acquire new strategies, and volunteer more time, or volunteer differently-in new ways.

50% – 25% NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: Your school and your child needs your help! Your child’s success at school might be increased if you were able to help more. Be sure to acknowledge the ways you help your child already, and vow to do more. Up your game! The more your child learns at school, the more you demand from him/her at home.

No matter the income, location or language proficiency, there are useful strategies to apply right where you are. Change the lens from which you view your resources. Food in the fridge? Mayonnaise, ketchup, jelly, eggs, milk… all useful to you and at your disposal. Furniture in the home? Couches, beds, curtains, rugs, forks, spoons, cups, rubber bands, even….all useful.

25% or less STRATEGY TIME: You might be failing your child. Don’t worry too much, though. It’s not the end of the world, because you can turn it all around and champion your child’s success at home and in school. Begin your journey by talking to your child’s teacher and asking for simple tips and strategies that you can use at home. The more questions you ask, the more information you’ll receive. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if you don’t understand any jargon or language familiar primarily between other professionals. Ask for tips and strategies to help you effectively support learning at home.

The most important thing that you can do to support your child’s achievement is to model the behaviors and attitudes that are reinforced and encouraged by the educators at school.

The more parents know, and are equipped with enhanced tools and skills to help their child at home, the more teachers are able to maximize learning progress of your child at school. Teachers help you; you help teachers and everyone helps your child learn and grow. It’s a Win-Win!

Stop guessing or wondering what your child does in school, and begin communicating with teachers to find your answers. Also, ask what you can do at home to support the learning success of your child.

Make it your business to express your interests, concerns and let everyone know that you are involved as a steadfast advocate for your child.