Recently a group of past Mom Congress Delegates were able to travel to Washington DC to meet with US Department of Education staff and continue a conversation that had begun in November about the importance of positive parent/family engagement in our schools and how to support these initiatives.
We know from various studies that having a family involved in a child's educational opportunities and experiences from the moment they begin school is critical to long-term student success. Many of our states have recently adopted (and some are in the process of implementing) the Common Core State Standards and it is important for parents to be knowledgeable about how this new curriculum is being presented and what the results from the new assessments will mean in the year ahead. As parents we often feel that if we just had the information we could better support and partner with our schools to create a community of learning, where in-school educational time is enhanced by at-home educational experiences.
The staff we met with at the Department of Education emphasized that the partnership with Mom Congress is a long term relationship in achievement and that family is essential in this process. The current Mom Congress delegates could be role models and mentors to other parents. By utilizing the resources available from the Department of Education and supporting the work the delegates do by fostering and nurturing collaborative conversations and projects with DOE engagement specialists, the Mom Congress Delegates would be able to work with different groups of parents (PTA, PTO, Title I, ECE, ELL, etc.) to help find ways for all to be better connected to education.
During this January's State of the Union, President Obama will speak on how education is a shared responsibility. In the months following this speech, Secretary Duncan will be travelling in support of this address. The Mom Congress delegates will be helping to promote these events through their social media networking sites and encouraging attendance and participation. In Cincinnati this past November, Emily Rempe (MC Ohio 2010), at the request of Parenting magazine, hosted Secretary Duncan at a town hall. Last Friday another town hall was held in Minnesota and attended by Mom Congress delegate Chanda Kropp. Many more town halls will be planned through out the year, so stay tuned for details.
Finally, in the year ahead, many of the Mom Congress delegates will be assisting in reviewing and providing input on key publications that the DOE provides and helping distribute these materials once they are available.
All of us who participated in this meeting, whether in person or via a conference call, agree that just having a family engagement policy on paper doesn't necessarily mean that action is being taken. By working together (parents, teachers, administrators, community leaders, legislators, and so forth) we can create amazing communities of learning for all students. For most of us, we lack not the courage to change things, but the skill or encouragement to do so. But by having honest, mutually respectful conversations about our roles in education, and by connecting with the resources that are available, we all can be stronger advocates for change, a change that benefits us all.
Myrdin Thompson has been a Louisville public school parent, volunteer and advocate since 2002. She is the immediate past President of the 15th District PTA and has served on the Kentucky PTA as a legislative committee member. She recognized in April 2011 by the White House as a "Champion of Change" (www.whitehouse.gov/champions); was the 2011 Kentucky Delegate for Parenting magazine's Mom Congress, and currently serves as the Arts Advocacy Mentor for the program; was recognized as the "Mom of the Moment", Parenting Magazine, School Years, March 2010; and a KaBOOM! Playmaker of the Month (June 2008). She has a MA in Renaissance Drama from CSUF. You can follow her on twitter @MyrdinJT as well as her blog www.rootsandwingslibrary.com. She also contributes a blog on education policy and parent engagement at https://www.parentinvolvementmatters.org.