A few months ago I attended a community meeting where the topic of discussion was public education and how community members could support teachers, students and families.  The folks around the table shared how the organizations they represented were working to support public education.  A professor from an area college spoke about the college’s new teacher prep program and the encouraging results they were seeing with their graduates.  I asked if during the student’s training the students had received instruction on family engagement, and the professor replied that they had.  When I asked who taught the class, the reply was that a professor in the college of education touched on the topic of family engagement during the course on classroom management.

Wait, someone that might not be familiar with the topic is teaching family engagement theory?  I have to admit, it bothered me.  In August 2010, the Tennessee State Board of Education adopted standards on family engagement that are based on the Parent Teacher Association’s Six Standards of Family-School Partnerships, and every district and school in Tennessee is graded on their implementation of those six standards, with the results listed on the state Report Card.  So, who better to present this information other than trained parent leaders who have experience in family engagement, both the best practices and the not-so-good practices?  For those who know me, it should not be much of a surprise that parent leaders were invited to teach the class after all!

I have been asked, as the newly installed President of Tennessee PTA, what the future holds for members and leaders.  That’s an easy question.  My vision is that we see a change in the public perception and view of PTA from a fundraising group to the authority on parent and family engagement in public education, an expert in the development of parent and community leadership, and a strong advocacy association.

Every school district in Tennessee should have a viable family engagement policy; every school should have a sustainable family engagement plan of action; every teacher and administrator should receive quality, embedded, ongoing professional development on the Family-School Partnership Standards; and finally, parents and families should be provided with multiple opportunities to become engaged in the schools that their children attend.

Tennessee PTA is celebrating its 100th year of work in 2011.  As we begin the journey into the next 100 years, I am hopeful that more districts, administrators and teachers will come to understand the value in making parents partners in the education of Tennessee’s children. I am confident that PTA members and leaders will continue to work to provide training and information on family-school partnerships to schools across the state; collaborate and find solutions to issues affecting our families, children and youth; inspire and develop new leaders at every level; and empower parents to take an active role in their child’s education so that we can advocate for the educational success of every child with one voice.

Together, along with your participation, I believe we can accomplish great things for Tennessee’s children.