Carrie Rose, Executive Director of the nationally-recognized Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, recently attended a National Education Association-sponsored conference in Tennessee about parent engagement/involvement. You can read more about it in my previous post, “Union-Led Conference Targets Family Engagement in Schools.”
You can also read an interview I did with Carrie last month.
Carrie was kind enough to write a short report for this blog about her experience there:
Recently, Yesenia Gonzalez, one of the founding parents of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, and I had an opportunity to present the work of our non-profit collaboration and participate in a family, School, Community Engagement Summit in Nashville last month. This event, hosted by the Tennessee Education Association in partnership with the National Education Association and multiple other state partners, had over 300 participants and was designed to facilitate a dialogue on policy and practice for improving family engagement in schools and actually begin to shape recommendations for policy and practice via a compilation of measures local and state policymakers should consider and ultimately implement. While we attend many conferences and presentations during the year, this gathering differed in a few key ways.
First, one of the first things we noticed right away was a true feeling of optimism. As a recipient of Race to Top funding, Tennessee’s gathering provided a unique conversation where ideas were shared in an atmosphere of available resources. Both Yesenia and I realized that it had been a long time since we’ve been involved in a conversation about family engagement where cost was not an immediate concern/barrier to address.
Second, I was struck by the high ranking public officials who attended the summit. All talked about the importance of aligning interests and parent engagement as important to education reform efforts. In fact, given that most of our work happens at the site level with staff, students and families, I was interested in the fact that most participants in the sessions we attended and held were community members, state education department staff, and district administrators (many also identified as parents or caregivers).
Third, both Yesenia and I noticed that there was a lot of conversation about the changing needs of the community, students and families. Language resources, for example, were needed in much greater numbers than in the past. There was also a significant amount of conversation about the changing understanding of effective family and community involvement and a reflection on past work and outcomes.
Finally, as we left, I wondered what all of the formal recommendations would be, how much of it would be research based, and what the next steps on those recommendations would look like as they moved forward in Tennessee. On the whole, I thought that the idea of regional summits lifting up successful grassroots practices and engaging community members in forming recommendations for consideration at the statewide level was great and should happen everywhere. I understand other summits are taking place and wonder how much it differs in communities without the resources currently available in Tennessee.