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Spotlight on ESSA and Family Engagement

Happy family at MD PIRC event

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has put a much-needed spotlight on family engagement. Advocates for parent and community engagement see the newly revised federal ESSA as an opportunity to expand their impact on states’ academic goals, plans for school improvement, and other areas of policy. The new law, like NCLB, requires districts to set aside one percent of their Title I funds. Of that, 90% has to be distributed to schools. There is a new emphasis on shared decision making and evidenced-based practices.  Parent involvement is replaced with parent and family engagement, which could foster more collaboration between schools and the wider community.

Historically, educators have had difficulties engaging community members of low income urban areas in their school improvement efforts, sometimes because they lacked the skills to engage and sometimes because they lacked the desire to engage. ESSA now requires school officials to listen to community members and work in partnership for school improvement. The equity assistance centers (EACs) and other civil rights groups share this responsibility to work at the state and local levels to encourage and support authentic family, school, and community engagement. EACs can demonstrate to school leadership how parental engagement leads to higher student achievement and builds capacity across the states. EACs can also provide a vigilant eye to ensure sure that families are at the table in the development and implementation of state plans. We look forward to bringing our family engagement expertise to the new Region I.


The MAEC blog is designed to engage hearts and minds of school and district leaders across the country to engage in issues that you have identified as being essential in education. Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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