Public policy must enable parents and community leaders to serve their schools, districts and community more efficiently and effectively. Parents are the most important teachers of values to their children. Children benefit when they see their parents engaged in their education.

A 1966 report titled “Equality of Educational Opportunity” (otherwise known as the “Coleman Report”) concluded that the key predictors of student performance were social class, family background and education and family attitudes toward education. Researcher Eric Hanushek added that the significance of the Coleman Report was that it “dramatically changed the currency of policy debate to student outcomes. Prior to the report, school inputs – spending per pupil, teacher-pupil ratios, and the like – were customarily viewed as roughly synonymous with results.”

Our organization also encourages adults, including retirees, to regularly volunteer their time or serve as a mentor at their local schools and community libraries, whether they have a school-age child or not. Parents must be actively engaged in their communities and seen in their children’s schools.

At the federal level, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was designed to improve outcomes for all students, including low-income and otherwise disadvantaged students, with family engagement always a key piece of the law. The underlying belief was that educational gaps can only be narrowed when all stakeholders – schools, families, students and community members – work together to reach the common goal of improved student achievement. School districts and schools receiving Title I, Part A funds are required to jointly develop and agree upon a written parent and family engagement policy with families of participating children, and then distribute it to those families.

The ESSA law provides many opportunities for family engagement, but local school districts and individual schools need to create conditions to build relationships with families that are focused on their children’s learning. One major step in creating these conditions is the development of a high-quality parent and family engagement policy at both the district and school level.

We are way beyond simple community involvement. All citizens are already involved, even if you are just a taxpayer. I firmly believe public education should focus on building community support and engagement. There is strong evidence that parental involvement and engagement can have a positive effect on children’s learning motivation, well-being and learning outcomes at school. It is hard to define the appropriate amount of engagement for parents in the education process. There is no one size fits all, and it may vary from child to child, district to district.

Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn often talks about the important role of parents in education. Basically, the point is simple: Engaged parents are critical partners in student success. When more parents are involved, children do better in school. Schwinn is making parent engagement a higher priority in Tennessee. Parents should welcome this opportunity to engage.

Professional Educators of Tennessee has long encouraged the need to implement real and meaningful parent engagement and dialogue in our schools. We understand that parent engagement provides a variety of unique and meaningful opportunities for educators seeking to improve engagement between parents and members of the community. Educators are recognized and held in high regard when the community places great value in the education of students. So, we welcome real parent engagement.

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