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Parents Need Support for 'Collective Impact' Solutions

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The "collective impact" of school-community partnerships is increasingly seen as a powerful solution to improving K-12 public education, and parents often need training to effectively participate in that collaboration, according to Karen L. Mapp, a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the director of its education policy and management program.

Mapp shared her perspectives on family engagement during a panel discussion today in New York City sponsored by Learning Leaders, a non-profit that trains 8,000 volunteers to work in 500 New York public schools, and equips parents to foster their children's education development.

"Collective impact" is a term for getting stakeholders from within schools, and beyond, to work together for educational improvement. It incorporates the efforts of businesses, community organizations and nonprofits alongside those of educators, school administrators, and families.

Mapp referred to "collective impact" as described by Stanford University's Social Innovation Review.

"If we're going to solve the problems of education, we need everybody at the table to be part of that discussion," she said. More school superintendents are adopting this model. She cited Baltimore schools' CEO Andres A. Alonso, who is leaving the school system at the end of this school year and becoming a Harvard faculty member, as one superintendent who understands this paradigm.

Baltimore community organizing groups were hired "to build parent capacity to engage in those conversations," Mapp explained.

"A lot of parents get invited to the table, but they haven't been trained in how schools work," she explained. "They are there just to rubber-stamp whatever the district is moving forward."

To truly engage parents requires that they understand how to participate in the process. That's where capacity building comes in, Mapp said.

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