State law requires state agencies to develop models and guidance to promote parent and family engagement.
State of Rhode Island General Laws § 16-94-3. Findings of fact
(a) Research supports a positive correlation between family engagement with a student's school or school district and the performance of the student, school, and district. Students whose parents are involved in their education have better school attendance, earn higher grades and higher test scores, are subject to fewer disciplinary problems, and have a greater long-term success following graduation from high school. (b) The benefits of greater family engagement also extend to families and teachers. Parents develop more confidence in the school and in themselves as parents. Teachers experience improved morale and receive more support from families. (c) It is often difficult to obtain a comprehensive amount of feedback from all stakeholders across the educational spectrum when making educational policy. Well-intentioned education-related initiatives which are introduced or produced without sufficient feedback or input from families/guardians of students involved often produces negative feedback from these families/guardians, which results in potentially effective initiatives being interrupted or abandoned altogether. (d) The creation of a state-wide family engagement advisory council would help to streamline this process and promote the implementation of strong, positive educational initiatives.
State of Rhode Island General Laws § 16-94-4. Family engagement advisory council established
(a) Creation. There is hereby established a state-wide family engagement advisory council. The purpose of the council shall be to serve as an advisory body to the governor, the department of education, the board of regents, and to school districts. The council shall consist of twenty-one (21) members to be appointed by the governor, to be selected as follows: one of whom shall be a member from the Rhode Island Parent information Network; one of whom shall be a member from the Rhode Island State PTA; one of whom shall be a member from the Child Opportunity Zone Network; one of whom shall be a representative from the Rhode Island Department of Health Division of Community, Family Health and Equity; one of whom shall be a representative from an agency or association with experience and expertise in family engagement; four (4) of whom shall be current educators from within Rhode Island school districts, which shall include a district level administrator, a principal, a teacher, and a school committee member; one of whom shall be a representative from the department of education; and eleven (11) of whom shall be parents and/or guardians of children currently enrolled in a Rhode Island public school. School districts, agencies, and associations with expertise in family engagement shall be solicited for proposed nominations and recommendations for the parent/guardian members. (b) Terms. All the members shall serve for a term of three (3) years and/or until their successors are appointed and qualified. A member shall be eligible to succeed himself or herself. A vacancy other than by expiration shall be filled in the same manner as an original appointment but only for the unexpired portion of the term. (c) Officers. The officers of the council shall be a chairperson, who shall be a representative of the family/guardian members, and vice chairperson and a secretary, who shall be elected from the membership. Officers shall be elected annually by a majority vote of the council members; a majority of the appointed members shall constitute a quorum; the council is authorized to obtain or to contract for any services that may be necessary to enable it to carry out its duties. A majority vote of those present shall be required for action. (d) Expenses of members. The members of the council shall serve without compensation. (e) Gifts, grants, or donations. The council is authorized to receive any gifts, grants, or donations made for any of the purposes of its program, and to disburse and administer the gifts, grants, or donations in accordance with the terms of it.
State of Rhode Island General Laws § 16-94-5. Duties of the council.
(a) The duties of the family engagement advisory council shall include the following:
- (1) The council shall research and generate a series of recommendations on how to develop family engagement policies and practices that meet the following principles and Standard for family-school partnerships:
- (i) Welcome all families to be active participants in the life of the school, so that they feel valued, connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning in class;
- (ii) Communicate effectively by ensuring regular two-way, meaningful communication between family members and local educational agency and school staff in a manner, language, and mode of technology that family members can understand and access;
- (iii) Support student success by fostering continuous collaboration between family members and local educational agency and school staff to support student learning and healthy development at school and at home;
- (iv) Speak up for every child and empower family members to be advocates for all students within the school;
- (v) Share power and assure that family members, local educational agencies, and school staff are equal partners in family engagement decision making;
- (vi) Collaborate with community and partner with community organizations and groups to turn the school into a hub of community life;
- (vii) Create a continuum of family engagement in student learning and development from cradle to career;
- (viii) Train and support superintendents, principals, and teachers to fully engage families in the education of their children;
- (ix) Participate in evaluating the effectiveness of family engagement strategies and policies; and
- (x) Participate in developing recommendations for creating a positive school climate and safe and healthy schools.
- All such recommendations shall be forwarded to the board of regents, governor's office, department of education, and local school districts.
- (2) Provide assistance and advice to the board of regents, governor's office, department of education, and local school districts on family engagement in Rhode Island public schools and the impact on student achievement, communication, partnerships with community and other groups, and school family engagement practices and strategies.
- (3) To identify best practices in family engagement in Rhode Island public schools as well as in other states, and to develop recommendations on how to incorporate, implement, or adopt such practices in Rhode Island public schools.
- (4) Make recommendations to the board of regents, governor's office, department of education, and local school districts, on state resources and materials which could promote and improve family engagement in Rhode Island public schools.
(b) The council shall submit an annual report to the board of regents, the governor, the department of education, and local school districts summarizing the council's activities during the year.