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Department of Education Offers Tips for Parental Engagement Under ESSA

Department of Education Offers Tips for Parental Engagement Under ESSA

In order for implementation of the new education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), to be successful, Frances Frost, Family Ambassador for the U.S. Department of Education, is encouraging families to make sure they're engaged in their child's schooling this year.

"In developing plans and implementing ESSA, stakeholder engagement – including parents – plays a crucial role in improving student outcomes in our schools," she said.

Frost advises school districts to think outside the box and reconsider the way they engage families. She suggests the school district get behind creating things like parent council groups that facilitate engagement, or even host workshops that help parents understand all the ways they can engage.

For parents, Frost offers several recommendations for how they can elevate their level of engagement. For one, she recommends parents be familiar with their state's ESSA plans. By law, parents must be engaged in ESSA implementation and therefore implementation plans are very transparent.

Specifically, ESSA provisions that foster family engagement include the setting aside of Title I funding (at least one percent of funds) to "carry out parent and family engagement activities," with the requirement that family members of low-income students must be included in the decision-making process.

ESSA also sets aside funding via a grants program to establish statewide family engagement centers; in the development of state plans, ESSA requires meaningful consultation of parents in both state and district plans as well as in the construction of state report cards.

"The successful implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and progress towards educational equity for all students depends on the meaningful inclusion of the parents and communities that represent students who are low- income, of color, English learners, Native Americans, immigrants, or who have a disability," says the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

Aside from familiarizing themselves with ESSA, Frost also recommends parents:

"Establish positive relationships with school administrators and teachers." For an elaboration on how you can establish better relationships with school faculty this year, see here.

  • Using this checklist to see how to best ask for help in ensuring your child succeeds in the classroom
  • Attending PTA meetings; volunteering at school events
  • Becoming engaged with local officials who make the decisions regarding education in your area. "Write letters, make phone calls, or attend public meetings. Check local jurisdiction or state government websites for contact information and meeting schedules," Frost says.

If you're a school leader looking to improve parental engagement in your school, a good place to start might also be by distributing this survey, created in partnership with SurveyMonkey and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The survey, titled Parent Survey for K-12 Schools, will provide you with the right questions to ask to better "understand [your] schools' effectiveness in building parental capacity."

To read the full list of Frost's tips, see here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

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