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South Fayette School District

Implementation of RIASEC-ing With Parents

Parental Engagement
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Target group
January 2024
Think about your goal and align it with what you're already doing, use that momentum to your advantage. Figure that out and how to make it fun for parents to be involved. They come for the fun but they stay for the learning and social aspect.

About the implementation

We needed a reminder that we can do amazing work together and that we don't have to stick with what doesn't work. We’re not all the same but that doesn’t mean we can’t all work together to achieve a common goal that benefits the community. We can find ways to do good work together given a common need. This is what starts to build trust.

What did you do in practice?

We heard from parents that they wanted to understand what their children were learning. As we embraced the RIASEC initiative through World of Work, we used this opportunity to engage with parents. On event night, parents got a sneak peek at RIASEC (before their kids). They had taken the related survey in advance. Then parents were grouped according to their RAISEC results and each group problem solved a fun challenge to present to the larger group. Teachers participated as info collectors but it was parents who were front and center.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

We were coming out of challenging times and a divided district due to pandemic challenges; it was frustrating to see the disconnect between families and schools. This was the perfect project to find common ground. We want all learners to feel engaged and supported, want to extend that engagement to the parents and have them meet the people who are teaching their children everyday. We want to learn how their child learns best so we can all be a supportive unit, a team. The end goal is supported learners and unlocking collective community support for all children.


"This broke down some silos,” said the parent co-lead. Some parents think that because they had a great experience in school it will be the same for their child, and vice versa. These apprehensions influence their experience with their child. This event challenged the barriers created by poor past school experience and helped teachers and parents begin to create relationships.

Teachers enjoyed working with parents in a different way from the typical parent-teacher conference.
The entire 5th grade teaching team was in attendance, focused on a much larger learning initiative.
In the groups, parents respected each other in their independent ways of working and speaking.
Given a real life school problem to hack, parents felt heard and part of the school design team.

Learning Journey

Empathy Interviews
While there was a great foundation at the middle school, Parents As Allies provided the opportunity to go deeper. A school team of parents, teachers and administrators was organized that conducted empathy interviews in the school community. Communication between parents, schools and administrators was the main theme that emerged. Our team felt we needed to increase parent engagement. We wanted to find ways to reach new parents and create new pathways that supported our students.
Aspiration Statement
Our team wanted to better connect our school with the community. We felt we needed to find ways for families to work with the teachers and the school and connect it back to our students. This inspired our aspiration statement, "We will build opportunities for teamwork between families, educators, and administrators to support student learning and wellbeing." With the focus on supporting our students, we felt we could create a strong partnership between parents and teachers.
Our Hack: RIASEC Night
We hosted a "RIASEC" night for our 5th grade parents. RIASEC is a test that helps students learn about the types of careers that might be of interest to them. Parents took the same test and learned more about the program, as if they were students themselves. The entire 5th grade teaching team was on hand to help parents. Parents and teachers intentionally connected about school, their hopes for their students and how they could partner together to make it a great school year.
What We Learned
We re-grouped parents (not) according to the results of their RIASEC tests and asked them to put their mix of skills to the test to solve a real life "hack:" redesigning the pick-up and drop-off procedures at school. Parents appreciated being asked for their feedback and felt heard while they learned how different skill sets made it a richer conversation. As our school co-lead said, "We’re not all the same but that doesn’t mean we can’t all work together to achieve a common goal."
Another Hack: Painting Unlocked
We intentionally moved to a neutral community space to make it easier for families to participate given our large geographic area. Painting Unlocked featured a “breakout box” with clues about the history of South Fayette. The parents and teachers had to work together to open the box to get to the supplies inside which led them to create a piece of communal art. Parents, kids and teachers had fun. They also enjoyed food and an escape room activity together which led to more trust building.
More Feedback
Picking a central community location was a welcome change for our geographically divided district. The faculty and teachers from all four buildings participated. “It was a nice, easy-going vibe - a lot of laughing and storytelling," said the principal. Parents and caregivers brought their kids. “We should do this again," was often heard. And the engagement level went up as stories were shared about the good things happening at South Fayette. It created a memorable shared memory.
A Tip: Create FOMO
Through all of our events, we learned to make sure the event was fun! In fact, we wanted to create a "fear of missing out" (FOMO). Parents and families who attended our event talked about it afterwards and it created a buzz. It was encouraging that parents and families that missed the event inquired about it, and when the next event might be. This positive momentum was created by parents and reached other parents.
Evaluation and Next Steps
Going step by step was helpful through the human-centered-design process. Now it’s helping us to think about how to sustain this work. Parents are asking about Parents as Allies and asking how to be a part of it. More parents want to be involved in the community and we’re making space for them and directing them to links and other materials to learn more. We also have goals to create new events in the future for family-school engagement.


The South Fayette Township School District is a suburban, public school district serving the Pittsburgh suburb of South Fayette Township, Pennsylvania. The district encompasses approximately 21 square miles.

United States
South Fayette Middle School