Parent and Family Engagement and ESSA

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), is a reauthorization of the educational standards set forth through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 1965. The ESSA puts into place provisions aimed at helping low-income and underprivileged children succeed in school and chief among this legislative groundwork is a sharp focus on the role of parent and family engagement in the learning process. The positive influences of parents and families, in conjunction with the community as a whole, have proven beneficial in keeping students in class and driving them to achieve. Dropout rates are the lowest they’ve ever been and the many tenets of the ESEA and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) have contributed greatly to this outcome. The ESSA seeks to continue that progress through funding of core requirements that promote parent and family engagement under Title I and Title IV of the Act.

Under Title I of the ESSA, federal funding is allocated to school districts around the country based on enrollment rates of children living below the poverty line and participating in free or reduced meal programs. As part of the statute, 1% of this funding is mandated towards promoting parent and family engagement through training school staff in engagement methods, developing programs aimed at the home, distributing best practices data on engagement activities with a particular aim towards disadvantaged families, and providing subgrants to schools that collaborate with organizations or businesses with a proven track record in positive family engagement in the community. In addition, by law, parents and/or guardians of low-income children are required to be given an opportunity to provide input into how Title I funds are spent.

Under Title III of the ESSA, federal funding is allocated to school districts around the country based on enrollment rates of English learners in their district. English learners comprise approximately 10% of total K-12 student enrollment across America. The allocated funds are to support English language acquisition for academic success. The focus is also on Culturally Relevant Family Literacy and can be used to purchase books and materials for programs that parents can relate to with their children.

Title IV is another funding component of the ESSA dedicated to parent and family engagement by which federal grants are allocated to organizations throughout the state that are dedicated to establishing family engagement centers. These centers are designed for the purposes of developing engagement policies and assisting parents and family members to understand and participate in these policies geared towards eliminating existing barriers to successful, positive family engagement with students and promote achievement in student learning. These mandates are some of the most supportive and reassuring steps taken towards keeping the importance of parent and family engagement at the forefront of education.

For many schools, a challenge might be to reach out to parents of the students who are English Learners.  The Latino Family Literacy Project can train teachers to work with parents to increase the parent involvement efforts at their school with Hispanic parents for family reading, ESL, and vocabulary development.