Parents and families are a child’s first teachers, supporters, coaches, cheerleaders, tutors, confidantes, conspirators and advocates. They are the experts about their children and the authors of what they want for their future.
When it comes to school, however, families are sometimes left out of the discussion regarding the needs of their children in receiving the best education possible. Many parents can list examples of changes in their school that they didn’t know were coming or a policy that impacted them in a way no one considered before implementation. That’s why the Department of Education recently created the Family Ambassador. This new position acknowledges the important voice of parents in the development and implementation of education policy.
I’m proud and excited to serve as the inaugural Family Ambassador. I’m the mother of four active children and began my involvement with schools as a parent when my oldest entered kindergarten 13 years ago. I started out visiting her school for parent-teacher conferences and school information nights. Through the PTA, I became more involved and found my voice as an engaged parent in our large school system.
As a mother, a former teacher and an education advocate, I firmly believe that parents and family members raising children have the right and the responsibility to be engaged in their child’s education, to be supportive and informed, to ask questions and provide constructive input. It’s through partnering and building relationships between people who care for and educate children that we will be successful in ensuring there is equity, rigor, and thoughtfulness applied to an education that will prepare children for an enriching and productive future as they enter college or begin a career.
In the role of Family Ambassador, it’s my responsibility to present the voice of families in national discussions on education with respect and thought to the diversity of their needs. To inform my input, I need to hear from parents and families about their experiences, particularly those that are marginalized or, in general, simply less represented: our parents of color, non-English speakers and lower income families who often least have a voice. I’ll be working to increase families’ awareness around educational issues, with an eye to emphasizing the importance of early and ongoing literacy development and closing the achievement gap. There are numerous organizations and experts in the field and I anticipate collaborating with them, as well, to improve the efforts and knowledge about family engagement.
I invite fellow parents and families to join me in conversations and initiatives about education. I want to hear about issues important to families. Stay connected by signing up for the Parent Newsletter and reading our Homeroom blog. Stay tuned and keep an eye for opportunities to give voice to your concerns. Meet with me when I get a chance to come to your city or when we have an event in D.C. I can’t wait to talk to you!
Have a great school year!
Frances Frost is the U.S. Department of Education’s first Family Ambassador.