Parental engagement key to success for Every Student Succeeds Act

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire | 4/11/2017, 11:34 a.m.
According to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), President Barack Obama’s education law, states and local school districts are required ...

According to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), President Barack Obama’s education law, states and local school districts are required to intervene in the lowest-performing schools, including those that serve low-income children and minorities. That requirement has educators, parents and community stakeholders searching for innovative strategies to fulfill the mandate, as the law begins to take effect next school year.

“Interventions can be anything from changing the principal or some of the personnel to closing the schools, converting them to charter schools or transferring the students to better schools,” said Marilyn Rhames, a 2016 Surge Institute Fellow, parent of three school-aged children and an alumni support manager at a K-8 charter school in Chicago.

Rhames and other parents, who also work in education and in organizations like the National Black Parents Association (NBPA), said that, historically, school officials tend to make cosmetic changes that don’t necessarily address the problems; parents might find this frustratingly ineffective.

Rhames continued: “It’s not clear which path states will take right now but, historically, they’ve not closed many schools.”

Further, history has shown that, without pressure from parents, schools don’t always provide the right instruction or atmosphere for children of color and the ESSA law should help to ease that problem, said Andrea Flake, a mother of four K-12 students. Flake is a member in the northeast chapter of the NBPA.

“The more we know the truth about what is going on in the classroom, we, as parents, can band together and put the proper pressure on educators to make sure our kids are getting what they need and certainly what they deserve,” Flake said.

ESSA promises to advance equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged, high-need, and minority students, said Dr. Allen Lipscomb, a professor at the College of Social & Behavioral Science at Cal State University Northridge.

“Addressing not only academic needs, but mental health needs and what trauma looks like…these identity markers play a crucial role in students’ ability to succeed,” Lipscomb said.

Rhames said that parents need the truth, which should include student testing data, parental surveys and discipline reports.

“Schools need to listen to parents,” Rhames added.

A report released in March by the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute in Washington, D.C., revealed that 90 percent of African-American community leaders believe that they have a strong responsibility to help improve the education that Black students receive.

Researchers offered four recommendations to improve the education of Black students including expanding community networks to further advocacy efforts; providing leaders with the tools to advocate for Black youth; championing the message of positive African-American community engagement in education; and being involved.

“As the ESSA implementation moves forward, there are various ways that Black leaders can help shape education reform at the local and state levels,” Brian Bridges, a co-author of the new report, said in a statement. “[This] is a call to action for Black leaders to use their influence to not only highlight the crisis in education for Black youth, but to also find tangible ways to get involved.