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States Should Require Schools To Craft Family-Support Plans, Chiefs Propose

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By Lisa Jennings

If the United States is to meet its education goals for the next century, schools must do more to enlist families as "partners in the education of their children," the Council of Chief State School Officers said in a report released last week.

The report includes a proposal that state education agencies require all schools to develop family-support initiatives that would be included among criteria for accreditation.

"The time is ripe for reform in how our school systems interact with families and other agencies," asserts the report, "Family Support, Education, and Involvement: A Guide for State Action."

"To be successful," it says, "policies and programs cannot concentrate solely on the child but must simultaneously address the needs of two generations--the parent and the child--for they are interdependent."

Developed by a task force of state school chiefs, the report offers recommendations for the development of a comprehensive policy of family support, involvement, and education.

It also includes a catalogue of existing state and local initiatives in this area, as well as a brief review of the research supporting such programs.

Gordon Ambach, executive director of the CCSSO, stressed at a press conference one of the report's central themes: that state education agencies must become the "prime movers in connecting schools with health and social services" to meet a variety of family needs.

"A key to this idea," Mr. Ambach said, "is for schools to become genuine community centers, offering other services on site, or nearby, to make sure all needs are met."

Pointing to state action in Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, and Missouri, the report seeks to provide by example, it says, "an image of schools helping families helping schools to form unbroken support and assistance to the child."

The document summarizes a variety of programs, such as school-based initiatives for young parents that provide, in addition to actual child care, information on child development, parenting, dealing with personal problems, and planning for self-sufficiency.

Local Option on Governance

In addition to mandated programs, the report recommends that state education agencies establish guidelines for districts on the role and responsibility of families. It does not, however, advocate one particular model above another.

Schools should be encouraged to promote parental involvement in school decisionmaking, according to the report. But Mr. Ambach stressed that it should be up to districts whether to allow parents a governance role.

The report also recommends that:

Schools collaborate with local governments, agencies, community and social organizations, and business and industry to develop incentives for family involvement.

Community involvement in schools be increased through greater recruitment of volunteers, the extended use of school facilities, and the provision of social, economic, and cultural and recreational services.

Resources be made available for hiring school-family liaisons, establishing state and local "family centers," and providing the services of such professionals as psychologists and social workers in schools.

Schools provide training aimed at assuring that teachers, volunteers, and parents work well together.

State-aid incentives be provided for needed construction and renovation of facilities.

Schools provide services for health care, parenting education, and early-childhood development.

The council also released last week the final draft of a comprehensive report on school restructuring, which includes a state-by-state analysis of restructuring activities. (See Education Week, Nov. 15, 1989.)

Copies of both reports are available for $10 each from the council's Resource Center on Educational Equity, 379 Hall of the States, 400 North Capitol Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

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