By Aiyana Thomas (NNPA/ESSA Contributor)
Increasing parental engagement in education has been an important task for education policy makers. While it is unfortunate that some parents do not wish to become more involved, and may not know why they should be, those who do wish to be more engaged can learn how to get more involved. Parental involvement creates positive, visible change, sets an example that influences others to participate, and nurtures student success. Parental engagement is also a major component of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new national education law.
Local education agencies and schools should make parents and community stakeholders aware of public school board meetings to foster community engagement. Attending these meetings, allows community members to find out what their school district’s established goals are, how they intend to achieve those goals, the priorities of funding and budgeting plans, and what is included in the approved curriculum. These meetings also offer parents the opportunity to verbalize opinions, needs, questions, or concerns to the board and community. School board meetings should be safe spaces for honest dialogue, where parents feel comfortable to address their concerns and actively participate in the decision making that affects their children.
Back-to-school nights are also a great tool that can be used to increase parental engagement with educators. Schools can use back-to-school nights to communicate needs and ask parents for their assistance through volunteer opportunities that are cognizant of varying times of availability and skill set. As parents get more involved, they become more comfortable with the environment and are more likely to participate in future activities. This should be a goal for all schools.
Lastly, transparency is essential to building successful parent-teacher partnerships. Transparency is also an important aspect of ESSA. ESSA requires states and school districts to be more transparent, specifically with parents; mandating more detailed district report cards and a breakdown of data for all student groups. Parents should always know, if their student needs assistance or is excelling. Assigning homework that includes family input and inviting parents to view student presentations are other examples that may get parents engaged in their child’s education. More information, rather than less, is preferred when it comes to academic achievement.
Producing successful students requires patience, support and community partnership. Parental involvement is one of many things that help students overcome obstacles and it also gives students the extra push needed to be great. All parents are different, some are proactive; others need an invitation. It is the educators’ duty to invite them.
Learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act at nnpa.org/essa.
Aiyana Thomas is a 17-year-old Baltimore City College High School student. She is a public speaker, youth advocate, and blogger. She enjoys using her voice for positive change. One day, she would like to own a business that contributes to the change she hopes to see; a change that begins with the improvement of education and the development of her community.