As a new school year approaches, discussing how communities, students and schools can work together to improve educational outcomes for our children is important.
Statewide, general public opinion about our Texas school system tends to fall short of bragging rights. Yet, when questioned further, the same public is likely to give their local public schools stellar marks – especially if they are engaged in their child’s education. The reason is because the closer you get to public schools, the clearer the benefits and outcomes are seen.
House Bill 5, passed in 2013, brings sweeping changes to our Texas public schools. Among other things, it raises the awareness of educational planning in middle school and bridges the value of learning between high school and college. It also opens the door to career and technology opportunities.
One of the most important sections of the law involves the concept of community and student engagement. HB 5 provides schools the opportunity to work with community members to evaluate how well their district is doing in terms of engaging parents, students, and other stakeholders.
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The value of engagement cannot be overstated. As a mobile society, new students are introduced to local public schools every year. New families bring individual beliefs and values from across the state, the country and the world to a community. As communities change, so do community expectations.
The goals of a school district aim to reflect positive local community values. Without genuine engagement by both sides, the value of public education is diminished – school districts lose touch, communities lose confidence, and our children lose the opportunity for the best possible education.
As required by HB 5, the community and student engagement section of this bill was implemented during the 2013-14 school year. Due to time constraints and a hard deadline, the first year was more about the “process” – creating, completing, and reporting the newly required data.
If we are to succeed in maximizing the rewards of true community engagement, the 2014-15 school year and beyond must be about “outcomes” – building on strengths and correcting weaknesses to grow strong resilient local schools.
HB 5 has introduced a period of change. As shared owners of our local schools within communities across the state, we have an opportunity to continue improving our children’s educational experience. The method is crystal clear. It requires a high level of involvement by everyone within a community – making education the highest priority.
Bobby J Rigues is on the Aledo ISD School Board, a Leadership TASB Class of ’09 - Master Trustee and is the creator of “Make Education a Priority.”