Family Engagement in Education Makes a Difference

Insights

Now that we are well into the school year, it’s a great time for a parent* to step back and re-address their role in their child’s educational experience. For many, just getting through the first six weeks without their child being called to the Principal’s office or having to shop for more hand sanitizer or tissue is considered a major hurdle leaped with room to spare. In fact a recent Time article, “Why Parenting Is More Important Than Schools”, yet another study “finds that parental involvement–checking homework, attending school meetings and events, discussing school activities at home–has a more powerful influence on students’ academic performance than anything about the school the students attend.”  And those of us engaged in our children’s educational lives, whether as nationally recognized advocates or by reading to our children every night for twenty minutes really didn’t need another study to remind us of what we already know: we matter.

But sometimes we need extra resources and support in order to help us create healthier, more robust, family-school engagement practices and policies. In fact, many states have created family engagement legislation which supports those endeavors, but districts and schools don’t have to implement, or can loosely implement as they see fit.  So where do you go for support?

You can start with the basics:

  • Join your school’s PTAPTO or dedicated parent group organization. These groups often are the backbone of a school community, assisting with room parent and event planning, and helping raise funds for activities which support student and family success. Beyond elementary school, many additional forms of engagement include academic and athletic team booster clubs. Get involved. It matters.
  • Sign up to help with your school’s “site based management decision” making team if applicable. Parents work along side the Principal, teachers, and administrators to address school budgetary issues as well as curriculum and other professional development opportunities.
  • Check your school website (if one exists) or district websites about issues or events that are happening  in your school community. Is there a meeting about how academic standards, or a meeting about how to address bullying issues, it is possible it is mentioned on this site. If it’s not, that’s a great conversation to have with your school leadership about what is being (or not being) communicated to parents/family members about what is happening in their school community.
  • Vote in school board elections and then, once those leaders are elected, get to know your school board members and school superintendent. Attend school board meetings. Find someone in your district who is willing to clearly communicate about policy and the decision making process.

Then if you want to step it up just a bit, advocate. But you can only do that effectively if you know what the national issues are which will impact State and local decision making. For example the recent adoption of the Common Core State Standards initiative means changes to curriculum as well as assessment testing. Many school districts are just now starting to discuss with parents and families what these new changes will mean. It is important to know what the decision makers are deciding on behalf of your children.

Certainly there is a long list of resources available, but here are some good places to start: And while many PTAs provide ample advocacy opportunities within a school community, you may not have a dedicated PTA and thus you may need to do your own research on the issues. On any given day just google “education news” or go to the Huffington Post education site and you can see what is the “hot topic” in education reform. While you may not wish to respond to every “call to action” it is good to know what group is asking for the action, and what the action is. Those alerts will assist in a better understanding of what is happening in education today. Learn about issues by reading more from:

The Answer Sheet

Department of Education

Education Week

Edutopia

Great Schools

◦ Harvard Family Research Project

◦ Larry Ferlazzo (in fact if there is something, somewhere, being written about education, chances are Larry has the link to that resource, and if he doesn’t he can get it)

◦   Parent Education Network

◦   ParentNet Unplugged

You may find that you have specific issues you need to address, and chances are there is a link to a resource within one of those articles or websites.

Engagement doesn’t just happen, it has to be nurtured and encouraged. As a parent, you are your child’s first and best advocate for what they (and perhaps their classmates) need in education. Creating a healthy community of learning takes all partners to be present at the table. In order to be more effective it is important to know the language educators are speaking, know how they define “engagement” and what their road map to student success look like.

Whether you spend 20 minutes a night reading to your child, or twenty hours a month reading to other children, every moment matters. Being educated about education will help you to better assist your child as they navigate their educational experience.

A parent is a child’s first and primary teacher. It’s a full time job. Let’s treat it with the respect it deserves and help our children, and their schools, reach goals and achieve success.

When we opt in our children have the best chance of not opting out.



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