Prioritizing Family, School and Community Engagement

By Amy Buffenbarger

Representatives from dozens of national, state and local organizations involved with public education gathered in Alexandria, Va. last week to participate in NEA’s National Summit on Family, School and Community Engagement.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel opened the event. “As educators, we know that the development of the whole child extends beyond the walls of the classroom,” Van Roekel said. “We must harness the coordinated power of social services, parental engagement, service-learning opportunities for students, extended learning and after-school programs to ensure our children’s success.”

Educators, education leaders, parents, family and community activists, business leaders and representatives of the faith community met for two days of small group and panel discussions. Success stories were shared and challenges, such as making family and community engagement a greater priority and effectively reaching out to parents, were addressed. Participants developed policy, legislative and regulatory recommendations to be initiated at the federal level, including the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

In addition to including stronger family and community involvement roles in ESEA reauthorization, parental and community engagement are key goals for NEA Priority Schools Campaign, a multi-year effort to bring permanent transformation and improvement to America’s lower-performing priority schools. Over on the Priority School Campaign’s blog, former Teacher of the Year Kim Oliver Burnim, who participated in a panel about community and teacher roles, talks about her outreach efforts at Broad Acres Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.

Carrie Rose, the Executive Director of the Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project, traveled from Sacramento, Calif. to attend the summit. The Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project started with a partnership between a local teachers union, a faith based community organizing group, and a school district that uses a home visit model to build relationships between families and their schools.

“I came to this summit to hear about the common challenges faced by my peers trying to strengthen parent and teacher relationships for positive outcomes,” Rose said. “I want to learn what is available at the federal level to help our local efforts.”