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Georgia looking to parents for student engagement boost
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Parents from across the state have been asked to help the state Department of Education increase parent and family engagement to help promote student success.

On Thursday, State School Superintendent John Barge announced the names of 36 parents who will form the 2013 Parent Advisory Council, including a representative from Hall County.

Robert Smith, parent of an eighth-grader at South Hall Middle School, has been chosen by Barge to participate on the council for the year.

“We’re trying to increase student success by actively engaging the parent in the child’s education,” Smith said. “Some people look at it as making the parent a teacher and that’s not what it is because some parents don’t even understand what their child’s doing. It is engaging the parent into being active. If their child’s struggling, they can bring it to the school’s attention.”

The council will meet three times throughout the year, providing parental feedback and input on new policies, projects and materials that influence students and their families.

Smith, who has been doing similar work for Hall County Schools for about four years, said a part of the council will be to look at new ways to reach parents, including using available technology.

“What’s the best way?” he said. “Because the old methods of sending things home by flyers, having meetings at school, so we’re looking at the avenues to increase parental involvement.

“It’s really opening the avenue of communication between the parent and the teacher with the student’s success as the ultimate goal.”

Council members will also act as advisers and ambassadors in their respective communities.

“I am looking forward to getting to know a new group of parent advisors and discuss how our policies affect their children on a daily basis,” Barge said in a press release. “Having parent involvement is critical to making education work for all Georgia students. Hearing directly from them is the best way to ensure their children get what they need to be successful after high school.”

Smith said Hall County has been working on increasing parental involvement already.

“Hall County is doing a very good job with at least trying to be on the leading edge of increasing parent involvement,” he said.

“In Hall County, we worked to try and increase parental involvement, and it’s at all levels. A lot of people look at it as how do you get a parent to come to school and do something, but that’s not necessarily it. It’s how do you have the parent become involved with their child’s education so that we avoid problems later on.”

The parents, including Smith, were nominated by their local school districts at the beginning of the year, and members were chosen by a committee of representatives from the Georgia Department of Education.

“The whole point of this is to try and increase parent involvement with their students and it’s not necessarily attending school functions, but it is also working with your child at home, knowing what your child is doing in school and how they’re doing at home,” Smith said.

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