Letters to the Editor

Family engagement is critical for school improvement

More than 40 years of research shows — no matter a family’s income or socioeconomic background — family engagement in education is essential for student success. Students whose families are involved attend school more regularly, earn better grades, enroll in higher-level programs and have higher graduation rates. Research also shows that family engagement is critical for school improvement, as well as plays a key role in helping communities grow strong and thrive.

Despite strong evidence of the important role families play in student achievement, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind (ESEA/NCLB) doesn’t include critical improvements that prioritize family engagement.

ESEA/NCLB has been up for reauthorization since 2007. Currently, the U.S. Senate has a bipartisan reauthorization bill, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), that is expected to be debated and possibly voted on before the end of the month.

Florida PTA is advocating for the inclusion of language in the bill to support state and local capacity building through Statewide Family Engagement Centers as well as an increased investment in family engagement for qualifying local education agencies. The association calls on Florida’s Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to support these two amendments that will be offered during Senate consideration of the bill.

Recent reports have found that states and districts across the country are increasingly prioritizing family engagement and adopting systemic and sustained efforts to integrate families into the fabric of their schools.

In Florida, over the last two years, ten local PTAs were identified as National PTA Schools of Excellence for their achievements in building strong family-school partnerships. While progress is being made, all states and school districts need additional capacity and resources to scale up best practices that have been proven to positively impact student learning.

As a parent and the leader of the state’s oldest and largest child advocacy association, I have seen firsthand the positive impact of family engagement on school improvement and students’ academic achievement. I also have witnessed the ability of engaged families and schools to come together and make true, meaningful improvement at the local level. It is essential that the reauthorization of the ESEA/NCLB provide for family engagement as it is proven to make a difference for children, schools and communities.

Florida PTA urges our senators to support additional provisions in the Every Child Achieves Act that would provide states and districts the capacity and necessary resources to implement effective family engagement strategies in every school to help every child succeed academically and reach his or her full potential.

Mindy Haas, president, Florida PTA, Boca Raton

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