As students across America complete their annual assessments and end-of-year tests awaiting their results, many parents are in desperate need of the insights from Laura Bay, president of National PTA.
As head of our country’s largest volunteer child advocacy association, Laura Bay holds the combined insight of millions of families, students, teachers, educators and community leaders who are working toward family engagement in schools.
Laura knows firsthand how parents can strategically use annual assessments to support and improve their student’s education. She also tells us how parents can move beyond involvement and into engagement in their local schools. If this is a new concept for you, then keep reading. Finally, I wanted to hear from Laura what Spanish-language resources are available from the PTA that can help Hispanic parents better understand the status of their child’s education.
Q: National PTA is an amazing resource for parents, families and teachers. What resources can you recommend for families that have a child going through their annual assessment or end-of-year testing?
A: National PTA has compiled a variety of resources for families on assessments. The resources can be accessed at PTA.org/Assessments. Be A Learning Hero and Understandthescore.org also offer great assessment resources for families.
Q: By now, many students have already completed their annual assessment. When can parents receive the results and what should they do next?
A: Results from annual assessments provide valuable information about children’s academic strengths and weaknesses that can be used to better support children at home as well as advocate for their student’s academic needs at school. When parents receive their child’s score report, they should use the report as a springboard to discuss with their child’s teacher the progress their child has made and in what areas he or she needs additional support. Parents should also use their child’s results to find resources and supplemental activities to support their learning and achievement. Be A Learning Hero has a great tip sheet with tools to help parents make the most of their child’s annual assessment scores. Understandthescore.org is another great resource to help parents understand their child’s score report and results.
States differ as to when they release their assessment results. All states are working to provide score reports to parents more quickly. Parents should contact their child’s teacher and/or district or state leaders to find out when they will receive the results and to advocate for faster turnaround of the score reports if needed.
Q: In general, we know parental involvement and engagement is critical to a child’s educational success. How would you describe the difference in involvement vs. engagement?
A: Involvement encompasses parents participating at school and completing tasks or similarly, the school involving parents in activities. Engagement, on the other hand, encompasses families, teachers and schools developing a relationship and partnering to support children’s success and school improvement efforts.
With engagement, families are active participants in the life of the school and feel welcomed, valued and connected to each other, school staff and to what students are learning and doing in class. Engaged families continuously collaborate with the school staff to support students’ learning and healthy development both at home and at school. They are also empowered to be advocates for their own and other children to ensure that students are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success; and are equal partners with the school staff in making decisions that affect children and families, and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs.
Q: In our American school system, how would you describe the difference in a parent's role versus a teacher's role as it relates to a child's educational journey?
A: Education is a shared responsibility. It is important that parents and teachers develop a relationship, keep in touch often and work together to support children’s learning and success.
Parents must be active participants in the education of their children; and schools must facilitate a welcoming environment, foster clear communication and engage parents in the decision-making process.
Teachers can provide parents with information about learning goals for the school year, expectations for homework—and what to do if there are problems with homework—and ways parents can get involved and support their child’s learning at home. In a similar way, parents can provide knowledge and information to teachers about their children to support their growth and academic achievement. Parents also can assist with homework and talk about school matters at home.
Additionally, parents are their children’s best advocate. Parents should be empowered to use their voice to ensure their own and other children are treated fairly and have access to learning opportunities that will support their success.
Q: Spanish speaking and other minority students can face special challenges in their education. What advice and/or resources does the National PTA recommend for these families?
A: Spanish-speaking and other minority families face cultural and language barriers that make it challenging to be engaged in and support their children’s education. A key component to helping Hispanic children succeed and helping families be engaged is arming them with tools and resources to support their children at home.
National PTA and organizations with which our association collaborates offer a variety of Spanish-language resources to empower Hispanic and Latino parents to support their children’s success, including:
- Parents’ Guides to Student Success, which feature key items children should be learning in English language arts and math in each grade, activities that parents can do at home to support their child’s learning, and methods parents can use to build stronger relationships with their child’s teacher.
- State Assessment Guides, which include state-specific information about their assessment consortium, the testing timeline, sample test questions, impacts on students, new accountability systems and ways for parents to get involved and support their child’s learning at home.
- Clave al Éxito, a mobile tool that includes videos and tools for parents to engage in their child’s education and better communicate with their child’s teachers on their academic progress.
- BeALearningHero.org, a website through which parents can find tips, fast facts, videos, guides and other resources specific to their children’s needs.
- Fuel Up to Play 60 en Español, which includes information, resources and activities for parents to help their children lead more active and healthier lives.
- The Smart Talk, a digital tool that helps families have conversations about online behavior and set ground rules together for technology use. As more and more kids get devices and go online, it is important that parents talk to their children about how to live safely in the digital world.
National PTA also has collaborated with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Univision on a webinar series to educate school and community leaders on ways to empower Hispanic and Latino families to engage in student learning.
Q: The National PTA talks a lot about Statewide Family Engagement Centers. What are these and why are they so important?
A: The Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) program is included in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new law governing the federal role in K-12 education. The SFEC program will provide states and districts with the capacity to support implementation and enhancement of meaningful family engagement policies and initiatives. It will also deliver much-needed professional development for educators and school leaders to strengthen family-school partnerships and parent-teacher relationships. Additionally, SFECs will provide direct services to families to arm them with tools to effectively work with their child’s school to improve their child’s academic outcomes and overall well being.
Family engagement is at the core of student success and school improvement efforts. The SFECs program is critical to help schools effectively partner with families as well as empower families to effectively support their children’s learning and development.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He has been named by CNN and Fox News as “the leader of the Hispanic Evangelical movement."
Faith and Education Coalition is an initiative of the National Hispanic Christian Leaders Conference (NHCLC), with 2,568 members representing almost 3,000 local churches in 44 states.