PREPARATION OF BUILDING AND DISTRICT LEVEL ADMINISTRATORS: AN INVESTIGATION OF FAMILY ENGAGEMENT CONTENT AND PRACTICES IN ADMINISTRATOR PREPARATION PROGRAMS IN KANSAS
University of Kansas
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ABSTRACT Although the requirements for family engagement in education are included in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), teacher education and administrator preparation programs have offered limited educational opportunities for new teachers and administrators to gain knowledge, skills and practical experience related to family and community engagement. This descriptive study explores the inclusion of family engagement topics, resources, and field experiences in the twenty-one building (principal) and district (superintendent) leadership programs (BDLPs) in Kansas. In this study, faculty and instructors of these leadership programs also reflect on their own preparation to engage families in children's education and their current students' preparation to engage families. Limited professional literature is available that examines the incorporation of family engagement into administrator preparation programs. This descriptive study, as most descriptive studies addresses the "what" question. "What" are the characteristics of the inclusion of family engagement in administrator preparation programs in Kansas? This study does not answer the how/when/why questions regarding family engagement in administrator preparation programs, but rather describes the situation in terms of categories, such as, topics used, resources used, and field experiences utilized in programs. An online survey and two follow-up interviews provided the data to describe the inclusion of family engagement in administrator preparation programs for this research study. The purpose of the study was to describe the inclusion of family engagement in administrator preparation in Kansas programs as it exists. The survey (N=53) and interviews (two) revealed several themes. The first theme was that while Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) align administrator preparation programs in Kansas with the Interstate Leadership Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) Standards, from this researcher's interview data it may be suggested that IHEs do not have a systematic approach to include topics on family engagement in courses even though two ISLLC standards focus on family engagement. The two IHE interviews conducted for this study suggest the inclusion of family engagement topics in courses was dependent upon the instructor of the courses. The second theme that developed from the interviews was that faculty and instructors of building and district leadership programs had limited knowledge of current articles or books on the topic of family engagement to use in courses. The two interviewees expressed a lack of awareness of current family engagement resources and a desire for knowledge and access to current resources. The third theme demonstrated that less than one fourth of instructors stated that their courses required a family engagement field experience and this experience may be as limited as attending one parent-student-teacher conference or another meeting on tardy or discipline issues. The two interviewees for this study stated that the quality of field experiences was dependent on the district level supervisor who was overseeing the student's field experience. Interviewees reported that field experiences with more exposure to families was important and should become a larger part of leadership programs. Finally, online survey data from this study revealed that instructors believed that their students were more than somewhat prepared to engage families in education, in comparison with reflections on their own preparation in family engagement, in which they reported they had less than some training in family engagement. The two interviewees reported the need for open and frequent conversation between administrator preparation program instructors and practitioners to create a closer connection between practice and theory.
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