To ensure our nation’s students reach their full potential, parents must be fully engaged participants in their children’s education. Last week, ED held a family engagement forum that featured Michelle Kibbles a parent involvement coordinator who led effective family engagement efforts in the diverse Beaumont, Texas Independent School District. The forum also included Hillsborough County, Florida PTA President Melissa Erikson, as well as North Carolina PTA Parent Involvement Initiative administrators Debra Horton, Kim Shaffer, and Ashley Perkinson. These PTA leaders have fostered unprecedented growth in family involvement at both the local and state levels. Below are just a few of their successful strategies for parents and guardians.
- Build meaningful and collaborative relationships with teachers and principals.
- Be a part of your child’s support system by extending his or her classroom experience to your home.
- Talk to or join your local PTA.
- Become a leader in your community.
Many school districts hold special events to foster these relationships. If your child is having a problem in school, having a solid rapport with your child’s teacher may make it easier to work together on a solution.
Ask teachers about your child’s course of study, the teacher’s expectations, and the school’s academic standards. By doing so, you will be prepared to help your child with his or her homework and ensure that your assistance supplements what your child learned at school.
These organizations serve as a conduit between parents and teachers and have district-specific initiatives to improve communication. For example, the North Carolina PTA organized a home visit program in which PTA members organized and mediated meetings in parents’ homes that included parents, teachers, and students. Becoming active in your local PTA may help ensure your interests are represented at the district or state level.
Many school districts or PTAs offer leadership programs designed to prepare parents to be effective advocates for the community’s children. These programs also provide valuable resources for parents who foster communication between teachers, other parents, and public officials.
The next briefing in the family engagement series will be on September 29 at ED headquarters. The panel will be composed of a grandparent, a parent of a child with special health care needs, and a parent of an armed service member.
Ben Firke and Sam Barnett are interns in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the Department of Education