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ESSA: New Opportunities for Families and Communities

The federal law includes ways for committees of practitioners, parents, and community members to work with educators to improve local schools.
Published: 07/2020

Schools do not operate in a vacuum; they are part and parcel of the communities they serve.

The Every Student Succeeds Act explicitly identifies ways parents, caregivers, and other community partners can make their voices heard in decisions about funding and assessing schools. Here's what you need to know:

ESSA for Families

  • Authorizes Statewide Family Engagement Centers to support and provide comprehensive training on parent education and family-school partnerships.
  • Supports programs that reach parents and families where they are, including at home, in the community, and at school.
  • Requires school districts to inform parents and guardians of opt-out policies, and allows them to have their children opt out of statewide standardized tests where state and local policies permit.

ESSA for Communities 

  • Authorizes a new $250 million early childhood education program
  • Requires assurance that states will collect and share effective parent and family engagement strategies to local educational agencies and schools
  • Provides resources to improve school climate, including school safety initiatives and activities to address bullying and harassment.
  • Includes provisions for the Community Support for School Success program, which provides grants for full-service community schools. Programs may include:
    • high-quality early childhood education programs
    • high-quality school and out-of-school time programs and strategies
    • support for a child’s transition to elementary school, from elementary school to middle school, from middle school to high school, and from high school into and through post-secondary education and into the workforce
    • family and community engagement and supports including engaging or supporting families at school or at home
    • activities that support workforce readiness including job training, internship opportunities and career counseling
    • social, health, nutrition, and mental health services and supports
    • juvenile crime prevention and rehabilitation programs.

Ways to Get Involved

Parents and caregivers want the best education possible for their children. And, community leaders know that the local economy is bolstered by a top-notch education system that attracts businesses to the community and that prepares a homegrown workforce. Here are a few ways you can get involved in school transformation:

  • Join the local PTA council and work with your school administration to collaborate with district-level committees
  • Establish a liaison to the local education association/union and work together to set priorities that both parents and educators agree upon
  • Connect with school experts who share education goals: organizations dedicated to literacy could reach out to the local librarians' association
  • Host or attend a community conversation with local association/union leaders
  • Offer services, expertise, and participation in collaborative decision-making to improve schools in your community

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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.