Education Dept. Eyes 'Family Engagement Strategy' to Help Kids Learn at School

By Susan Jones | December 10, 2012 | 10:13 AM EST

Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits a classroom at DC Scholars Stanton Elementary School in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, to discuss ways of boosting parental engagement in students' education. (Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood)

( - Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the government "hasn't done enough" to support "family engagement" in their children's education, according to a blog on the Education Department's website.

Visiting an elementary school in Washington, D.C., last week, Duncan joined more than 80 "family engagement thought leaders" at Stanton Elementary to discuss the correlation between parental involvement and students' academic success -- "and how the Department of Education can provide more support."

The blog describes DC Scholars Stanton Elementary as an example of a school that is building positive relationships with families.

Stanton, for example, has replaced traditional parent-teacher conferences with three 75-minute group meetings at the school. These "Academic Parent Teacher Teams" bring groups of parents or guardians together with teachers, who explain what families can do at home to reinforce what children are learning in school. The teams also set goals for student achievement, and parents give teachers feedback on what's working for them.

Teachers may also visit students’ families at home, the blog says.

Stanton’s family engagement strategy is the type of initiative the Education Department says it would endorse.

Along with help from a federal School Improvement Grant, Stanton’s APTT project "has contributed to a dramatic increase in the academic performance of students and a cultural shift at the school," the blog says.

During his visit, Duncan heard teachers, parents and the school principal speak "passionately in support of family engagement and how it has benefited the entire school community. One teacher said the school's family engagement strategy “made me want to keep being a teacher.”

The blog includes a video of an actual Academic Parent Teacher Team meeting at Stanton.