Across the country, you are hearing a louder call for families to be more involved in the education of their students.
For educators, the concept of parent engagement can bring mixed feelings. On the one hand, working with an engaged and supportive parent can absolutely make the difference for a struggling student. And a school supported by such parents is buoyed to a success that it could never accomplish on its own. On the other hand, the concept of parent engagement today also can conjure up instances of entitled or bellicose parents, dead set on getting what they want regardless of the consequences or who else is impacted in the process.
So, parent engagement can be decidedly a mixed bag when the topic is brought up with educators. But when it comes to family engagement and United We Learn – our statewide vision for the future of education in Kentucky – this is a very important and central concept.
Kentuckians told us that we needed to find ways to engage people in our communities, including parents, much more deeply than we had previously. As an agency, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is actively working to include more family voice in charting our path forward in public education.
Kentuckians have told us that we need to work on finding genuine ways to collaborate with people in our local communities, especially people and groups who have not always been at the table when education policy decisions have been made. Each family has a unique story and each child has individual talents to contribute – and those should be valued and understood. Our students and families come to schools with different levels of support and experiences. We must take steps as an education system to meet our students, wherever they are, and give them the support they need to succeed.
KDE’s Family Partnership Council – formerly the Parents Advisory Council – gives us regular input on important initiatives going on at the department and how we can better engage families. We take their input just as seriously as we do the councils that get input from students, teachers and principals.
In my time here at KDE, I have found that all of our advisories provide sound and thoughtful guidance for the agency as we continue to try to improve the educational experience for all public school children in the Commonwealth. That input is vital, as it is our families who know their students the best. They know their interest, their strengths and their challenges, all of which are necessary when we talk about serving the whole child.
I hope all our schools and our families will join KDE in the effort to work more closely together. Teaching is not something we do to our students or at our students. Teaching is something that when done right, we all do together.