The Secret to Success for All Students Is Parental and Community Engagement

The National Family Engagement Summit of 2018 was held in Richmond, Va. Throughout the summit, multiple opportunities were provided for attendees to interact with some of the nation’s leading experts in parent and family engagement. Participants came from near and far. Over 300 teachers, parents, administrators, and community activists participated, presented, networked, taught and learned strategies to increase family engagement. One presenter described the difference between involvement and engagement as the level of commitment, stating, “It’s like you’ve got a ring on it! You’re not just passively attending a few parent-teacher meetings, but you’re planning, making decisions, running for the school board and more.”

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), speaks specifically to parent and family engagement. Data highlighted examples of the successful impact parents can have when they are present in their child’s school. One presenter pointed out that, “Parents tend to be extremely involved with students in the early elementary grades. They bring them to school, speak with the teacher frequently, and are more likely to volunteer for field trips, classroom activities, and attend parent-teacher meetings.” However, around the third grade, parents start to reduce their involvement. They attend fewer meetings, volunteer for field-trips and other events less, and seldom spend time in the building. In some cases, they may have only met the teacher just once.

When students reach third grade and began to socialize more independently with friends, parent engagement often wanes. It’s not surprising that after requiring almost, constant supervision that parents breathe a sigh of relief when their children gain newfound independence. However, these are the times when our children require increased attention, specifically our young Black males. There is significant data to show a correlation between K-12 completion, literacy, and adulthood incarceration. The NAACP reported that African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of Whites and, nationwide, African American children represent 32 percent of children who are arrested. Blacks make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. Patterns, such as, absenteeism, delinquent behavior, and academic apathy, correlate with high suspension rates and subsequent incarceration.

ESSA places increased priority on parental engagement and requires states to provide innovative strategies to incorporate parental and family engagement into a school’s decision-making, and planning. ESSA stresses two-way communication. This requires teachers and administrators to reach out to parents in clear, concise, relatable ways that encourage feedback and input at every level of implementation. Some non-traditional communication strategies include social media use, e-newsletters, and short surveys. Administrators and teachers are encouraged to schedule meetings that accommodate parents with different hours of availability.

ESSA does not dictate the ways in which schools are required to engage parents. However, educators should recognize the crucial role parental partnerships play in preparing students for college and careers.

This summer, the National Newspaper Publishers Association will host its second National Black Parents’ Town Hall Meeting on Educational Excellence. The conversation on parent engagement will continue at the Gethsemane Community Fellowship Church on Tuesday, June 26th, from 6pm – 9pm ETS. This event will be livestreamed and for the first time, NNPA ESSA will host two viewing rooms in California—one in Los Angeles, and the other in San Francisco. If you are not able to join us in Norfolk, Va., you should certainly make your way to the viewing rooms in California or join the livestream online.

Participants who pre-register and are present in either location are eligible to win grand prizes. Register today by visiting www.nnpa.org/essa/events.

Dr. Elizabeth Primas is an educator, who spent more than 40 years working towards improving education for children of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds. Dr. Primas is the program manager for the NNPA’s Every Student Succeeds Act Public Awareness Campaign. Follow Dr. Primas on Twitter @elizabethprimas.