Friday, February 14, 2014

Family and Community Engagement

Family and community engagement in children’s education is essential to help every child reach his/her potential. Studies have shown that when families are engaged in their children’s education, student achievement improves, test score increase, and students are more likely to graduate. There are several approaches to family/community engagement and PTAs should look at how they are supporting each of these:

Engaging Home/School Connections--includes participating in parent/teacher conferences, helping with homework, communicating with teachers, and providing a home environment that encourages and values education. This is the most important type of parent engagement as it relates to student achievement. 

PTAs should encourage all parents to build home/school connections and increase their engagement in their children’s education at home. Your PTA can help inform parents of the importance of getting engaged in their children’s education through articles in PTA newsletters, information on bulletin boards, PTA websites and new student welcome folders.

Supporting Education--such as volunteering at school and in PTA. Volunteering at school and at PTA events enhances student learning and opportunities at schools. Volunteering is also very rewarding for parents as it gives them a glimpse into the activities at the school and provides an opportunity to get to know other parents and the teachers and support staff at the school. 

Look for ways to get more families and community members involved in your PTA. Try to connect individuals skills and interests with volunteer opportunities. You can do this by asking what skills or interests individuals have that they may be willing contribute to the learning environment, what activities they may be interested in volunteering in, and the times and days they would be available. 

Hosting Parent Education Programs--includes programs PTA provides to help parents learn to be engaged in their children’s education, educate parents on various issues affecting their children, and provide support to families. PTAs should develop a plan of the educational programs they plan to offer each year. Advertise these events well in advance so parents can make plans to attend.

Providing Advancement Opportunities--includes participating in PTA leadership training opportunities to learn new skills to advance to higher levels of advocacy and leadership involvement. PTAs should always be on the lookout for those who are interested in willing to receive training to serve as leaders in this association. 

Provide all elected and appointed officers with opportunities to receive leadership training by the Washington State PTA. There are many opportunities to receive leadership training, including region conferences, PTA and the Law workshops, and the Washington State PTA convention on April 25-27, 2014.

Advocating For Children--involves individuals who have received advanced training through PTA and are willing to speak up on behalf of children at school board meetings, city and county government meetings, as well as testifying at state legislative proceedings. 

Every PTA should appoint a legislative chair. In addition to attending local school board meetings or city and county government meetings, PTA legislative chairs also follow the state PTA’s legislative efforts and helps to mobilize their members to respond to action alerts.

Encouraging family/community engagement is one of the most important activities of the PTA as it relates to the mission of the association. Examine what your PTA is doing in each of these areas and make a plan to expand your efforts to help strengthen your PTA and school community.