Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Parent Leadership Academy (PLA)

Lindsay Hawkins, Lacy Pennington | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center


The Parent Leadership Academy designs and engages a school team consisting of parents, community members, and school leaders to forge the commitment and involvement of parent-school-community partnerships. This event will lead and educate the parent leadership teams through a data driven decision-making model to develop a site-based action plan which supports district and individual site goals focused on supporting the growth, progress, and future achievement for all students. This training is designed to be a two day training, but may be reduced to one long day if time and activities are well managed and facilitated.

Essential Questions

  • How can data drive decision making in any setting? Within a school? Within a community?

  • How might parent involvement, using data-driven decisions, impact the school community and culture?

  • What might parent involvement look like within the school?

Learning Goals

  • Participants will identify and analyze different sets of data to drive decision making.

  • Participants will create an action plan based specifically on identified needs from the analyzed data.

  • Participants will identify different types of parental involvement and connect how they might support the implementation of the action plan.

  • Participants will identify other key individuals necessary to successfully implement the designed action plan.







Materials List

  • Slides (attached)

  • Agenda

  • Contact Information page

  • Parent Leadership Team Contact worksheet

  • Leading and Lagging (attached)

  • Data collected and sorted from school and district (School/District Report Card, School/District Profile, Test Scores, College Admissions, etc.)

  • Epstein's Framework of Six Types of Involvement Charts (attached)

  • School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Caring for the Children We Share by Joyce Epstein p. 81-96 (attached)

  • Action Plan Example (attached)

  • Action Plan Template (attached)

  • Purchase Request Form (attached; optional)

  • Purchasing Process (attached; optional)

  • Name Tent Template (attached; optional; print on colored paper)

  • Blank Paper

  • Pens/Pencils/Markers

  • Poster Paper or Chart Paper

  • Three-ring binder and five tab dividers (optional but recommended for organization)

  • Talent Release (if photos will be published)

  • Copy of an IRB (if applicable)

  • Any other resources to meet the goals of the PLA session


Displaying slide 2 of the PowerPoint, welcome participants to the Parent Leadership Academy (PLA) and introduce yourself. Also, take this time at the beginning to attend to the required paperwork. These will be the items located in the front pocket of the binder each participant receives upon arrival. Provide instructions about each page, explaining in detail what is needed and why it is required to be signed. Inform participants of any "opt out" options (if any are available). Instruct participants where to return all signed documents when completed (walk around and collect, have a designated space for them to get up and turn in, etc.). Once the necessary paperwork is complete, draw their attention to the papers behind the first tab of the binder, PLA Agenda and Contact Information.They may find the agenda for the day here and the necessary contact information for the presenter and any other PLA liaisons.

Because participants will work together for a day or two, begin with an introduction or icebreaker activity. This will allow you and the participants to, briefly, get to know one another. Click on the PowerPoint changing to slide 3 to display the directions for the Name Tent.

Instruct all participants to locate the papers with a dotted line in the middle of the table. Each person will take one and fold it in half to create a Name Tent. Making sure the crease/dotted line is farther from them than the open end, participants will write their name, large and centered, on the folded piece of paper. Following the instructions on the PowerPoint, participants will use the same side of their Name Tent to answer the four following questions, writing small in the indicated corners:

  • Right Corner: Where where you born?

  • Left Corner: If you never had to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

  • Bottom Right: What fad or trend do you hope comes back?

  • Bottom Left: Where would you go if you could go anywhere (real place or fictional place)?

Participants and presenter share out their name and what they wrote on the "Name Tent." Presenter may choose one corner for everyone to share their responses to or will allow participants to each choose one corner to share out. (Note: sharing all corners will take too much time.)

After icebreaker activity, change to slide 4. Pose the question, "How might parents support and help promote achievement for all students?" Participants will use the question to engage in the Commit and Toss strategy. They will write one or two examples of how they might support and promote achievement for all students at school. Then they will crumple up their papers and, on the count of three, toss it to another person not seated near them (across the room). After all papers are tossed, they will locate one near them, open it, and silently read it. Then, the process repeats one or two more times (crumple, toss, find, and read). Finally, have participants return to their seats, and ask them to share out a few of the ideas they read.

Change to slide 5, "Why Parent Leadership Academy?" Quickly highlight the "Big Idea" for the PLA session and the SMART goal for the site.

Change to slide 6, "Students with Highly Involved Parents Do Better in School." Explain that these are findings from a meta-synthesis of 9 meta-analyses over the influence parental involvement programs have on student achievement (Wilder, 2014). These findings prove that parents have the ability to impact a student's potential to succeed when they are an active participant in the school community, helping guide and being engaged in decision making. Click through the slide to display all three facts from the research:

  • “Parental aspirations and expectations for their [children’s] educational achievement has a significant impact on academic achievement.”

  • “Parents attending and participating in school activities have positive impact on academic achievement.”

  • “Parent tutoring positively affects academic achievement and is not affected by the grade level of children, nor the skill area in which children received tutoring.”


Change to slide 7, "6 Steps to Data-Driven Decision Making." Inform participants that these will be the steps taken to determine the best type of action plan to implement and support the SMART goal. Do not go into detail about about each step. You will highlight each step as you go through the presentation.

Shift to the slide 8, "Data-Driven Decision Making," and briefly highlight the information on this slide. This process creates a vision, helps align short-term decisions to long-term goals, and answers three driving questions:

  • "Where are we today?"

  • "Where do we want to be in the future?"

  • "What do we need to focus on today to make it possible to reach our future goal?"

Participants are not supposed to answer these three questions immediately, but rather, they should use them to guide and reflect upon decisions as they progress through the D3M framework.

Quickly transition from the overview to slide 9, and ask participants, "Why are we using data?" Allow participants an opportunity to share aloud why they think we are going to use data to help develop our plan.

After few a participants have shared aloud, click the slide again to show, "It shows the FACTS!" Say, "Facts are proof of what is currently working, what needs fixing, or what support is needed to make improvements and move forward to reach future goals."

This transitions the presentation to slide 10 which displays the first step in the D3M process, "Collect and Analyze Data to Identify a Problem." This is where they begin the process of analyzing data. Move on to slide 11, "Collect and Analyze Data." Instruct participants to turn to the second tab in their binders, "Data and Research." Here, participants will identify, examine, organize, and compare school and district data using the worksheet titled, "Leading and Lagging."

First, participants will search the provided data, interpreting and familiarizing themselves with the information. Encourage them to ask questions if they don't understand or need help interpreting the data. Then, working in small groups, participants will use the "Leading and Lagging" worksheet to narrow the scope of necessary data. The worksheet will allow them to easily record, organize, and analyze the numbers or percentages needed to make an informed decision based on the school's performance compared to the district's overall performance. Once small groups have filled out the top chart comparing district and school numbers, instruct them to complete the bottom chart labeled "Statistical Profile." All information must be found within the data.

After small groups have completed both charts, change to slide 12, and instruct participants to critically compare the "District Profile" and the "School Profile." In small groups, participants will analyze the data in each of the three categories (Community Characteristics, Educational Process, and Student Performance) and then record an "I Notice, I Wonder" statement pertaining to a fact from each category. (More detailed information on the strategy "I Notice, I Wonder" can be found within the "Strategies" link on the K20 LEARN site.)

Change to slide 13 after groups complete the "I Notice, I Wonder" statements for each of the categories listed on the previous slide. Ask the whole group, "Reflecting on your statements and using the data from the charts, how does your child's school compare to the school district in the areas you analyzed? What overarching problem do you notice and how might it impede the SMART goal?" Allow participants time to share what they noticed and wondered about the identified facts, data, and charts.

Once participants have shared a few statements, move to slide 14 and ask, "Based on your data review and discussion, do you feel all students at your school are meeting their full potential?" If time allows, you may allow participants to share short responses to this question. Once finished, click the slide once more to display the gray response: "Shouldn't they be?"

Move on to slide 15 which displays the second step in the decision-making process, "Brainstorm Solutions." This slide indicates that they have completed the first step of the process and identified a problem. Change to slide 16, and instruct participants to work in small groups to brainstorm solutions that solve or provide support for improvement to the deficit identified earlier during slide 13. Groups will use poster paper and generate a list of possible solutions that target the identified problem.

After groups have generated lists of possible solutions, hang the poster papers around the room and allow small groups to share their ideas. Participants will identify two of these ideas that might be used to develop a plan of action which supports the SMART goal and best addresses the identified problem. Some of the solutions might be combined (due to similarities or to create a more detailed solution), and this can be done as a whole group. Once two solutions are decided upon, circle them on the posters or rewrite them to be more visible.


Change to slide 17. Inform participants that they will now begin step three, evaluating which of the two solutions might be the best. Move to slide 18, "Evaluate Solutions." Using two pieces of poster paper, participants will create a T-Chart listing the pros and cons for each of the two solutions they agreed to investigate and detail further. This can be completed as a whole group (or grouped by school). By creating a list of the pros and cons for the two solutions, participants will have a better understanding how the solutions might impact the school and students.

Once poster paper has been handed out and participants are ready to begin, change to slide 19. Ask participants to refer to the questions on the slide as they generate the pros and cons for each solution.

Things to consider while making the lists of pros and cons:

  • How will this impact and help the students?

  • Does it best address the problem and the needs shown by the data?

  • How does this support the SMART goal? Does it align with the objective/purpose of the goal?

  • Will it be feasible to implement and will it be sustainable? (This will be explored in more detail later. For now, contemplate on how reasonable the solution appears. A million-dollar solution might not be affordable!)

Once the pros and cons have been listed for the two solutions, change to slide 20. Tell participants that, now that you know the pros and cons of each solution, it is time to make a decision based on that information. Transition to slide 21, "Let's Make a Decision." Participants will give a "thumbs up" to support solution number one or hold up a "closed fist" if in favor of solution number two. Count how many votes for each and declare which solution has the majority. This solution will be developed and given more detail during the planning phase.


Beginning at slide 26, "PLA Team Goal," ask participants, "What support will you need to make this goal a reality?" Allow participants to voice any support they might need and who else they believe might need to be involved to implement this solution successfully.

Transition to slide 27, "Epstein's 6 Types of Parental Involvement." Here, briefly introduce participants to Joyce Epstein's research and how she categorizes the different types of parental involvement. Do not go into too much detail at this time, moving on to slide 28, "Jigsaw Epstein's 6 Types of Involvement." Tell participants they are going to use the Jigsaw strategy to break down an article. Instruct participants to count off one through six. Each numbered group will read for specific information:1 - Parenting, 2 - Communicating, 3 - Volunteering, 4 - Learning at Home, 5 - Decision Making, 6 - Collaborating with Community. If more than one person received the same number, they will sit together to read and work.

In their numbered groups, participants will read their assigned section from “Epstein's Framework of Six Types of Involvement Charts” located behind the third tab, "Six Types of Involvement." Instruct participants to look specifically for ways this type of involvement might impact student success.

After reading, each small group will record, on poster paper, ways this type of involvement might support student success. Once all groups have finished, or have at least a few ideas recorded, allow them to share with the whole group what they discovered from the reading. Posters will be moved to one easily accessed and seen location to refer back to as they write their action plan steps.

After a briefly connecting these responses to their solution, transition to slide 29. Connect what they said to what the research shows happens when these six types of involvement are present in the school community and culture.

Ask participants to reflect and respond to questions like:

  • "Are these things that our school needs?"

  • "Would these improvements and changes impact and support our SMART goal?"

If responses from the Jigsaw reading did not connect to the solution, the presenter must help them identify the relationship before participants engage in the next activity, developing a plan.


Change to slide 30. Now that participants have decided on the best solution and read how the different types of involvement can support the success of students, they are going to develop their plan of action. If participants are sitting in groups other than their Parent Leadership Teams, instruct them to move back into their teams at this time. This transitions the presentation to the slide 31, "Developing a Plan: ACTION PLAN STEPS." Direct participants attention to the fourth tab in their binders, "Project Planning," and there they will find the chart titled "Action Plan Steps"

In their teams, participants will create detailed action steps to clearly organize the fine details needed to successfully implement their action plan. They will list all steps, all people involved, specific responsibilities, due dates for each step to be completed, any additional resources they might need, and any potential barriers that might cause delay or concern. Finally, below the chart, they will write what evidence might be used to show success and how they will evaluate the implementation process.

Before groups begin filling in action plan steps, change to slide 32, and remind teams to keep the following information in mind while planning the details. Click the slide. Teams need to consider how they will engage and gain the support of people within the school, other parents, community members, and students. These four groups of people may need to be included when listing/assigning responsibilities as well. Click the slide again. Again, highlight the importance of reflecting how they might measure and evaluate success of the action plan. Move on to slide 33 and walk through all important requirements for approving purchases, funding, events, etc. Click the slide. Stress that all approvals must happen two weeks before anything can take place.

Change to slide 34, to display an example of the chart partially filled. Remind participants that the steps are the details necessary to get everything done to reach the final goal. Consider the specific planning, phone calls, emails, donations, etc., necessary to achieve the end goal. Teams must assign roles, as needed, to their team members (e.g., who will make phone calls, send emails, collect donations, and so on). Allow groups time to work. Walk around while the teams are working, fielding questions and looking for gaps within the steps which, if missed, might cause an issue or concern with the outcome. Potential barriers are extremely important to think about and list. If teams can't think of any barriers for their steps, encourage them to show their action steps to another team and ask for insight. Sometimes we just need another perspective. Teams won't be able to plan for everything, but encourage them to think through these steps carefully and completely. This activity will take some time and may not be completed within the first meeting. Teams may need to set a follow up date to finish creating the action plan.

As teams begin to finish, move to slide 35 and identify the remaining handouts behind the fourth tab. "Purchase Request" forms are to be filled out and submitted in advance. If they are not completed correctly, they will be denied. The other handout outlines the process to make purchases. Transition to slide 36, "Financial and Human Resources", then explain where the support will originate and how much funding will be allocated for each team's action plan. Teams need to also discuss or consider how their action plan might be sustained both with human resources and financially during the second year. What will be the plan or ideas to continue this next year if it does meet its goal and have the desired outcome? How do we continue beyond this year? These may be questions to revisit during future meetings when evaluating what works and what needs to be adjusted.

Finally, ask teams to examine their "Action Plan Steps" worksheet and inspect each step, searching for gaps or concerns. Also, check that all team members understand their roles and responsibilities.

At this time, instruct teams quickly exchange names, numbers, and emails using the form located behind the first tab in the binder.

Research Rationale

Partnerships between school, parents, and community positively impact student achievement when intentionally created and developed to build relationships and communication (Akbar, Asrar, Younes, & Chishti, 2017; Epstein, 2010; Epstein, 2016; Epstein & Sheldon, 2016; Hattie, 2009; Mac Iver, Epstein, Sheldon, & Fonseca, 2015). Partnerships, such as a Parent Leadership Team, should be an essential, embedded structure within the school community and culture (Epstein, & Sheldon, 2016). These parent teams must receive strong support from district leaders, school leaders, and teachers. Without commitment from these, the partnership will suffer. Research shows that partnerships with effective support from leaders report more success among students when transitioning between schools (Epstein, 2010; Epstein, & Sheldon, 2016; Mac Iver et al., 2015). Parents should be seen as a key component of the culture and community within the school. They should not be viewed as a group of "them" who is separate. To accomplish this, schools must invite parents and make the feel welcomed, providing clear opportunities for them to actively engage in the decision-making process (Hattie, 2009; Mac Iver et al., 2015). Parents and community members should be considered a rich resource because they share the same long-term goals of student success beyond school (Epstein, 2010). Epstein (2016) explains that schools must use researched-based tools and training to identify the “how to” of developing and implementing a sustainable partnership of school, family, and community. The Parent Leadership Academy is designed as such, using researched-based strategies to create and implement a lasting structure that allows parents to recognize shared interest in all students' education and achievement. It provides an opportunity to share responsibility and involvement to support needs of the school and effectively serve students. Research shows that when diverse and active parent involvement is frequent and reliable within the school community, overall student achievement is positively and significantly affected (Epstein, 2010; Epstein, & Sheldon, 2016; Hattie, 2009) because it increases the communication of a common message and goal (Epstein, 2010). Since district, school, and student needs differ from state to state, city to city, and site to site, partnership programs must be designed differently using research-based strategies to accommodate specific needs shown by site-specific data. Schools must design and continually reflect on used practices and data while considering the needs, interests, time, talents, ages, grade levels, and son on, of the students and their families (Epstein, 2010; Epstein, & Sheldon, 2016). Partnership programs, like Parent Leadership Academy, establish a foundation of respect and trust. They open the lines of communication, creating easier avenues to identify and solve problems as they arise (Epstein, 2010).