In North Dakota, our communities are not foreign to the concept of community and family. North Dakota’s heritage and the values expressed by its people are rooted in togetherness. It’s how the pioneers led the development of our state’s public education. For many years, family engagement has been a challenging priority among the nation’s school districts. The ND Legislature and the Department of Public Instruction are putting a much sharper focus on family engagement as a strategy to improve classroom learning.
You may have heard it before but it’s worth repeating: “Families are the first and most influential teachers of their children.” Partnering with families increases your ability as a leader to influence school reform and improve student achievement.
Families are an invaluable resource to schools. New efforts are being developed across the state to ensure we are doing all we can to partner together for the betterment of our students.
Family Engagement Cabinet
The Department of Public Instruction created it's first-ever Family Engagement Cabinet in the Spring 2019. The Family Engagement Cabinet provides an outlet for family members to share experiences in education and advocate for changes they'd like to see be made. The Cabinet assists NDDPI in facilitating partnerships and collaboration with families and schools.
Breaking down barriers
Families tend to increase their engagement with a school when they have trust and believe that their efforts will have a direct and positive impact on their children’s education and overall well-being.
Shifting from involvement to engagement
For many districts when the topic of family engagement is discussed the thought process goes to efforts that traditionally have been performed in schools including hosting a school website, a back to school family night or emailing updates. While these efforts are good and important they don’t directly meet the objective of engagement.
True engagement takes place when families and school staff work together continually to support and improve student learning.
Schools across the state of North Dakota are working with Livingtree, a K-12 solution provider for family engagement and fundraising management, to enhance family engagement through a program designed to implement effective and consistent family engagement practices.
As part of the partnership and services offered, schools have access to the LivingTree Engage platform, a private, safe, and secure community that allows for teachers and families to work together more collaboratively, simplifying school-to-family and family-to-school communication by providing families access to their child’s day-to-day learning.
In addition, the North Dakota education communities also can partake in the Livingtree Family Engagement Program designed to complement school efforts with learning outcome goals by incorporating effective and measurable family engagement processes. Administrator and educator teams receive capacity-building professional training created by family engagement experts Dr. Steve Constantino and family & student engagement expert Jeromie Heath. Coaching focuses on creating a family-focused culture while providing teachers with the necessary family engagement skills and strategies to benefit students outside of school.
The two-day professional development training is comprised of on-site training modules, web-based coaching sessions, targeted strategies that promote the efficacy of families, and the integration of state-of-the-art technology featuring the Livingtree exclusive Family Efficacy Score™ (FES) that allows all schools to measure the degree of engagement, effectiveness and compares that effectiveness to student learning improvements.
“Every school struggles with family engagement and if you’re like us, we aren’t exactly sure what to target to make improvements because it is overwhelming,” said Anna Sell, Family Engagement PD workshop attendee. “After attending, I feel like we can take on the challenge. We strongly encourage others to attend as I think it is well worth the time.”
Phase II Training - LivingTree Family Engagement That Works
This fall, we hosted Phase I of LivingTree trainings with NDREAs across the state. Districts learned about the “why” behind family engagement, broke down stigma, and learned about a free software platform.
Recently, the NDDPI and LivingTree sponsored an informational webinar. The focus of these webinars was learning what your needs are for the implementation of Family Engagement/LivingTree program.
Here is a recording of the webinar that took place November 21, 2019: https://youtu.be/xJHPGtxdD2g
What is Livingtree?
Livingtree is a company that specializes in Family Engagement to help schools and districts instill today’s best practices that produce better student learning outcomes. Livingtree provides a Family Engagement Program for schools and districts that combines capacity-building professional development with the Livingtree Engage family engagement platform in order to help schools enhance their family engagement practices.
How is Livingtree associated with the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI)?
The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction officially partnered with Livingtree to provide its Family Engagement Program to schools and districts across the state
What services were included in the partnership with NDDPI?
As part of the partnership between Livingtree and NDDPI, schools and districts were provided Livingtree’s complete Family Engagement program, which included Professional Development workshops and the Livingtree Engage family engagement platform.
The program officially launched in September of 2019, and included 8 regional two-day professional development trainings. The workshops were administered by Dr. Steve Constantino & Jeromie Heath.
The Livingtree Engage family engagement platform is also included for schools and districts across the state. The platform unifies families and educators for better ways to engage in student learning. Once the provided data sharing agreement is signed and returned to CREA, Livingtree will create and automatically roster the system for your staff, families, and students.
We received training in September / October of 2019, now what?
Once Livingtree’s professional development training has been received by administrators and leaders, additional training should be conducted to ensure staff members have an understanding of the strategies and best practices that should be used.
If you’d like additional professional development at your district or school sites, please contact Livingtree’s Sales team. Technical training on how to use the Livingtree Engage platform is not covered in the professional development workshops, but in-depth technical training can be scheduled for free at any time with Livingtree. You can also use Livingtree’s training videos and support articles.
Once staff members are familiar with best practices and the Livingtree Engage platform, you should plan a date to “go-live” with all of your staff and families. This is the date that notifications will be sent to families to register and log in. Unifying your staff and families on one platform is critical to enhance family engagement, so setting a date for this to occur is important.
How can we train our staff, and how can we receive additional training?
If you’d like to conduct training based on the professional development workshops you attended, materials are available from Livingtree’s Customer Support department.
If you’d like additional family engagement professional development to be conducted at your district or school sites, the training can be purchased and scheduled through Livingtree. The professional development can be purchased per-day and is conducted by Student and Family Engagement Specialist, Jeromie Heath.
Is there technical training available for the platform?
Yes, Livingtree is providing free technical training on the platform for admins and teachers across your district and schools. To schedule technical training please contact:
Director of Implementation and Training
How can we access the Livingtree training material?
For webinar style training you may contact Michael Cash (see #9). Livingtree also has recorded training available online at the following site:
There are also a host of tools and resources within the platform itself.
How do we “turn on” the Livingtree Engage platform in our schools?
Once a data-sharing agreement has been signed and returned to CREA, a Powerschool template will be uploaded to your instance of Powerschool. Livingtree is then informed and will reach out to your Tech admin, or someone knowledgeable in the running of reports from Powerschool. Once the data has been extracted and sent to Livingtree your school’s accounts (including parents) will be created based on your current roster data. You will then move on to the training and rollout phase of implementation. If you have already provided your data sharing agreement and would like to begin this process immediately please contact:
Director of Implementation and Training
How long do we have access to the Livingtree Engage platform?
Schools in North Dakota currently have access to the Livingtree Engage platform through December 31st, 2020.
What data from my school is being shared with Livingtree?
For the purpose of creating the schools, teacher and parent accounts, and ensuring the proper associations to classes, Livingtree is receiving class roster data, teacher names and emails, and basic parent contact information. This information is securely shared with Livingtree through Powerschool. Livingtree is FERPA compliant and a signatory of the Student Privacy Pledge, so Livingtree keeps the information safe and does not share it with anyone else.
How do we communicate Livingtree to our staff and families?
Along with information about registering for the two-day professional development workshops, Livingtree emailed their “Announcement Tool-Kit” packets to help you communicate information about using Livingtree to your staff and families. You can request a tool kit from Livintree’s Support team, or by downloading one from the CREA website.
Will there be any more professional development workshops, and when will they be conducted?
Yes, there will be another series of Family Engagement professional development workshops in January of 2020. More details will be provided soon.