Back to School

I'll admit to being more than a little misty-eyed when I saw our youngest head off for the first day of school for this, her senior year. She works hard and has faced many academic challenges in her K-12 experience thus far, showing resilience and strength of character in facing them. She follows two older brothers, now college grads, and though she is still on the journey, in many ways just beginning, I couldn't be more proud.

We know families play essential roles in student success, beginning with their critical role in children's school readiness. Children depend on all of us to support their development everywhere they learn: at home, in PreK programs, in school, afterschool programs, in faith-based institutions, in community-based programs and activities. Engagement is continuous across a child’s life and entails enduring commitment but changing parent roles as children mature into young adulthood.

Researchers describe effective family involvement as a shared responsibility, meaning that schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage families in meaningful ways in which families are committed to actively supporting their child's learning and development. The strongest research evidence indicates that parental beliefs, attitudes, values, and child-rearing practices, as well as home–school communication, are linked to student success.

The Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council (PCEI) to the Commissioner and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has created a set of Family, School, and Community Partnership Fundamentals in Massachusetts. The Fundamentals describe six guidelines schools can use to plan, benchmark, and calculate effective school, family, and community involvement policies and practices. They support high expectations for such partnerships with the goal that coordinated, comprehensive, and systematic supports will create opportunities for all students to achieve academic proficiency and beyond.

The Department's 2015 Strategic Plan includes a goal for supporting students' social-emotional health through the use of the Fundamentals incorporating "engagement strategies into ESE grants, policies, services, and resources from across state agencies and stakeholders, and to strengthen and expand the Department's capacity of educators to support family and community engagement."

Engagement is intentional and integral when it acknowledges the child at the center of schools, families, and communities, and is focused on student learning and development that impact student skills, grades, achievement, health, safety, discipline, and other attitudes and behaviors, as well as to develop students' talent in art, music, technology, and other areas. 

Families not only play a critical role in a child's school readiness but in their decision to pursue higher education. Effective partnership is essential regardless of parents' level of education, country of origin, or socioeconomic status. It's a complementary role through collaboration with schools, educators, and community organizations that establish meaningful relationships for student success.