Families Feel Empowered to Partner with their Child(ren)’s Schools Measure of Progress


Did you know?

When PSESD asked families what it means to feel empowered to partner with their child or children’s school, that 86%: defined the experience using the following words: feeling confident, comfortable, safe, respected, valued, supported, and listened to by school staff who acknowledge parents as holders of expert knowledge about their children. Read on to learn more about PSESD’s new Families Feel Empowered Measure of Progress.


In spring 2021,  Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) sent out—using various communication modes—an invitation for parents with children in K-3rd grades across the PSESD service area to share their thoughts and experiences partnering with their child’s or children’s school.  Multiple modes to invite parents were used including notices in PSESD communication venues, Superintendent’s message, as well as through the established contacts of three members of the Measures of Progress Design Team (a community member and two PSESD staff).  The full Design Team included three community members and eight staff from across PSESD programs and departments.  The team met across several weeks in spring 2021 to discuss the survey’s intent  and  co-develop the survey and its implementation.  The team also agreed on offering a limited incentive to encourage respondents  (i.e., drawing of 10 respondents’ names who would receive $15 each as a token of appreciation). 

In late spring, the “Families Feel Empowered to Partner with their Child(ren)” online survey (using Qualtrics) was launched.  Of the 45 survey responses, 37 were completed by parents with children who are in kindergarten, 1st -, 2nd - and/or 3rd- grade levels.  Thirty-two (86%) of survey respondents identify as Black, Indigineous, and People of Color (BIPOC); half of these respondents (51%) have diverse primary languages (i.e., home language is not English); and a majority (54%) reside in King County while 38% live in Pierce County.  Our high-level findings follow, and– you may access the full report at this link.

Group of Multi-ethnic school aged children gathering outside together
Group of elementary students having fun during break time

Key results: 

What does the following statement mean to you: “Families feel empowered to partner with their child(ren)’s schools”?  

  • 32 (86%) defined the experience using the following words: feeling confident, comfortable, safe, respected, valued, supported, and listened to by school staff who acknowledge parents as holders of expert knowledge about their children.  Twenty-two percent of the parents emphasized the importance of two-way communication and developing trusting interactions with teachers and school staff that enable them to work together to support children’s academic performance, physical health, and socioemotional well being.  Parents feel able to provide positive and negative feedback, and follow-up  occurs or real change is put in place based on parent communication.
  • A few parents (14%) raised perspectives on what ‘feeling empowered to partner with their child(ren)’s school’ is not.  Parents expressed an opinion that ‘feeling empowered to partner with schools’ is “a myth or a privilege that exists for some families but not for others.”  This perception is exacerbated among families whose primary or home language is not English.

Parents were also asked what else they would like to share about their experiences with their children’s K-3rd grade schools and many responses reflected on schooling matters that families faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Parents referenced social emotional concerns, communication, and technological challenges.

“This has been a terrible year. My child is extremely behind.  I am worried for her next year.  Her social and emotional wellbeing are being affected due to her stress about going to school, staying safe, and worries about her learning."

"I would like the teachers to communicate with me at least once a week, because this past year there was very little communication."

Overall Aggregate Results1

What do parents’ survey responses suggest about their Family Engagement experiences?

  • A majority of parents (57%) reported feeling very welcome by teachers and other staff of their K-3rd child(ren)’s school(s).
  • One out of every two parents felt very comfortable connecting with their child(ren)’s teacher(s) about their child(ren)’s schoolwork.
  • About 60% of parents felt very comfortable connecting with teachers about their child(ren)’s social and emotional needs.
  • Two out of five parents felt very confident in communicating with the school principal or assistant principal their concerns about their child(ren)’s experiences.

What do parents’ responses suggest about Family-School Partnership through shared leadership experiences?

  • 46% of parents reported that they have been invited to help make policy or practice decisions at least about half of the time.
  • 52% of parents/family members indicated that their feedback about school policies and practices are heard at least about half of the time.

A critical note: Consistently, when data are disaggregated by race/ethnicity, by primary/home language, and by county residence, we found that BIPOC respondents, parents with diverse primary/home languages (i.e., not English) and residents of King County tended to make up the groups that experienced less-satisfactory family engagement and partnerships through shared leadership with their children’s schools.

What advice do you have for us at the PSESD to support schools’ efforts to improve relationships with parents and caregivers/guardians? Parents and caregivers highlighted:

  • The importance of attending to expanding language access in the school environment for both children and parents; the value of regular communication about their children’s learning; the importance of investing in family engagement and inclusion of parents in decision-making about children’s schooling; and the need for increased funding to meet various needs and improve services.

"My advice is to support the parents’ and caregivers’ “built” relationships with schools and [for] schools to invite parents and caregivers to their children's education and provide translators for them so some parents and caregivers who need translation can understand more."

"Keep working with parents, it actually helps the child or children." 

"Listen to their stories and (the) needs of each family."

 1Disaggregated by race/ethnicity, by primary/home language, and by county residence are provided in separate sections.


Next steps:

PSESD will bring the 2021 pilot survey results to communities, specifically through PSESD advisory groups that include and work closely with parents and families such as the Representative Advisory Council, Transformation Team to engage parent representatives in providing direction for 2021-22.  Based on the experiences implementing the pilot work, we will invite input on improving our processes for data collection, analysis, and reporting.  A primary question to the advisory group is how to center relationships in data collection and, at the same time, reach a greater number of parents from the entire PSESD service area.