School Smarts Parent Engagement Program


School Smarts is California State PTA’s signature program for building authentic family engagement in school. It trains parents/caregivers on how the California school system works, how to effectively advocate for a quality education and how to grow family-school partnerships to support student success and school improvement.

School Smarts is grounded on decades of research that shows how and why parent involvement in school matters. When parents/caregivers are engaged in a child’s school life, it makes a positive difference in academic achievement, as well as attitude and behavior, for students from all neighborhoods.

As studies indicate, a home environment that actively encourages learning is a bigger factor for student achievement than a parent’s income, education level or cultural background.

Connecting parents/caregivers to their child’s learning is more important than ever. With the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), ‘Parent Involvement’ is a State Priority for developing and reviewing a school district’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). This means the parent voice is an essential part of the process that determines how our schools are funded.

Inclusion is the program’s operating principle. As a fee-for-service program, School Smarts is sponsored by a school district or PTA and is offered for parents/caregivers at no cost. Each Session is family-centered with childcare onsite. And, the curriculum is available in six, home languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. In addition, the program can be presented either in-person or virtually for a school community.

School Smarts is an effective tool for school districts implementing family engagement strategies. Course content is specifically designed to assist districts with their state and federal family-engagement requirements and support their LCAP implementation. Funding options can include Title 1, English Learner Parent Involvement Funds and LCFF/LCAP Funding.

Typically, the School Smarts Program is provided at almost 100 school sites each year across the State. As School Smarts graduates, thousands of parents/caregivers are empowered as community leaders to advocate for their children and schools regardless of their zip code.

Learn More: To find out how to bring School Smarts to your school as an in-person or virtual program, contact:


As a parent engagement program, School Smarts is tailored to meet the priorities and needs of a local, school community. While each Academy consists of seven, interactive Sessions with curriculum and course materials supplied by California State PTA, a School Smarts Planning Team of parents, teachers and administrators at a school often plans, oversees and runs an Academy.

Academy participants meet weekly with a facilitator, either in-person or virtually, to explore and learn more about:

  • Why family engagement in school makes a difference
  • How to navigate the education system
  • How your school operates and how decisions are made that affect your child
  • Why parent engagement in the development and review of a district’s LCAP matters
  • Ways to communicate effectively with teachers and administrators
  • How to advocate for a quality education
  • Strategies and tips to support student learning at home more effectively

Topics such as Common Core Standards, assessments, testing and college readiness are also covered to inform and strengthen home-school partnerships.

Finding ways to enhance a school community is embedded as a learning outcome of School Smarts. The program kicks off with a Parent Engagement Night (PEN) for the whole school community. This in-person or virtual event brings parents and educators together to build relationships and trust. With the PEN, a community conversation on ways to better support student learning and school improvement on campus is also initiated.

In the final Session, Academy participants create group and personal action plans to benefit students and the school community. Action plans often focus on effective ways for parents/caregivers to reinforce classroom learning, to enhance school climate and to improve campus safety.

The impact of School Smarts on a school is enduring. As post-Academy surveys indicate, graduates get more involved in school committees and local PTAs. By paying it forward, the lives of children, families and their community are enriched by School Smarts.

Learn More: Check out the School Smarts Program on our website –


As a PTA leader, you can support a local Academy and its participants in a variety of ways. Remember to coordinate your efforts with other local leaders at the unit, council and district level.

For the school-wide Parent Engagement Night (PEN) and the Academy Sessions, work with the School Smarts Planning Team and facilitator on campus to connect School Smarts more closely with your PTA network by:

Engaging Your Community

  • Promote Involvement – Use PTA communication channels to reach out to families from all neighborhoods to participate in School Smarts
  • Raise Awareness – Add a link to your PTA social media postings and website for the School Smarts homepage on the State PTA website:
  • Welcome Participants – Invite parents/caregivers to join PTA, engage in PTA activities and sign up for volunteer opportunities at school
  • Work Together – Explore ways your PTA can assist in completing the Academy’s action plans to enhance student learning, safety and well-being on campus
  • Celebrate Success – Showcase School Smarts graduates in your PTA e-news, website or social media

Sharing Your PTA Resources

  • Provide Support – Supply information, speakers, interpreters and volunteers as needed and serve as a key resource on how to grow family-school partnerships for student success
  • Promote PTA – For an in-person Academy, set up a PTA table to showcase your activities, volunteer opportunities, membership benefits and programs such as the Reflections Art Program
  • Get Connected – Arrange for a board member to talk about your PTA’s impact on campus for ‘Session 4: Understanding our school’ and to offer congratulations at the graduation
  • Practice Inclusion – Invite program graduates to add their voices to PTA advocacy efforts and your school district’s development and review of its Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP)
  • Grow Leadership – Encourage and mentor School Smarts graduates to serve on a PTA committee or board

Take Action: Check out the School Smarts Parent Engagement Program on our website. Contact or 916.440.1985 to find out how to get more involved and connected with School Smarts.

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