Consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in Georgia, East Cobb is also home to some of the state’s highest ranked schools. Top-notch academics combined with diverse extracurricular activities contribute to the success of a school, however one of the key factors that make our schools stand out is the level of family engagement.

According to a recent study by the US Department of Education, “raising the next generation is a shared responsibility. When families, communities, and schools work together, students are more successful and the entire community benefits.” The study shows that the more families are invested in the life of the school the greater student achievement is in both grades and test scores, attendance is higher, graduation rates are higher, and alcohol and drug use is lower.

Creating a partnership between families and schools goes beyond attendance at events like movie nights or Open House. There are many ways to be involved on a deeper level:

Get to know your school’s administrators and office staff. These are the people on the front line and responsible for everything that happens inside the school. Being a familiar face will help strengthen the relationships between home and school. Most schools hold regular Lunch and Learn or Parent Forum meetings where parents have a chance to talk with administrators about strategic plans for the school. Make a point to attend these and build relationships with school staff. It will help you not only understand the decision-making process but also have a chance to give input or ask questions.

Routinely check in with your child’s teachers. Ask for ways you can help them create supportive learning environments. Is there anything they need for their classroom? Are there resources your kids need at home to help reinforce classroom instruction? Sometimes the simple act of letting a teacher, and your kid, know that everyone is on the same team is a powerful tool.

Attend PTA, Foundation, and School Council meetings. Get involved. There are DOZENS of meaningful volunteer opportunities that help you be part of the parent leadership team in your schools. Not only will you know what is going on at the school, but also you will be connected to the people making decisions and have an opportunity to provide input into the process. Even as little as an hour of your time can make a difference.

Build relationships with families of similar interests or backgrounds outside of your usual social circles. Parents who share similar backgrounds and interests can form powerful advocacy groups to work together for the benefit of their students.

Talk often with your kids about school. Ask questions that go beyond “How was your day?” or “What did you do in school today?” Especially during middle and high school, frequent communication is important. Helping students navigate these years starts with a strong family support system. Regular communication will help you identify potential issues before they become full-fledged problems.

Illana Burkhart is the Family Engagement Chair for ECCC PTA’s, and serves as Co-President of Davis Elementary PTA. She moved to East Cobb in 2014 and has two children who attend Davis Elementary School, a second grader and a fifth grader. She has a passion for community engagement and has worked in the non-profit sector for over 15 years. She and her family are sports and outdoor enthusiasts. She is a past board member of The First Tee of Aiken and currently serves on the US Forest Service National Recreation Resources Advisory Committee representing the Southeast Region.

Becoming more engaged will not only help your own child but will increase the overall performance of the entire school. Every one of us can help keep our East Cobb schools on top!

This article was written by Illana Burkhart, Family Engagement Chair of the East Cobb County Council of PTAs, and originally appeared in the April issue of the EAST COBBER magazine, on page 8. Click here to view the digital edition.