Education Expo Promotes Parental Involvement

By Donna Ware
Donna Ware
Donna Ware
September 22, 2008 Updated: September 24, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Washington, D.C.’s first Family Education Expo focused on the importance of parental involvement in education. The theme of the Expo was "Education Excellence: All Students, All Parents, All Families".

Just how important is parental involvement in a child’s education? Parental involvement is key, according to Lillian Perdomo, Executive Director of the Multi-Cultural Community Service-DC Parent Information Resource Center.

To a Washington Post report that “city-wide programs do not have sufficient enrollment,” Perdomo responded by coordinating city-wide resources in an effort to “provide better services city-wide and coordinate efforts to work with families.” The final goal:  “make education resources accessible, build collaboration and good will.”

Perdomo’s organization facilitated collaboration between 25 community-based organizations and District government agencies that are working with parents and families to increase the academic achievement of students in D.C. The commitment to increasing outreach to D.C. communities and parental involvement is evident in the strong support for the inaugural Expo.

This year’s Expo featured an exhibit hall with community groups, nonprofit organizations, and D.C. government agencies sharing information about the educational programs and services available to parents and families. In addition, the expo offered morning and afternoon workshops on topics targeting parents with children from pre-school to college, a children’s pavilion, childcare, language services, a light breakfast and lunch, and free transportation.

“It’s the parent’s job to advocate for their child, but many lack the knowledge of how the system works”, said Perdomo. She added that, “Providing support for parents and professionals to help children to succeed” is key. Perdomo also sees the need to give parents the skills and tools that their own parents may not have had, in order for them to play an active role in their children’s educational success.

Debbie Gist, the head of the DC Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE), who spoke during the event said that “the State Board of Education had a hearing last week to help understand the issues around parental involvement, to identify ways to help [parents be more involved], and to help establish parent involvement policies.” Gist’s office and the State Board of Education set standards for education.

“Education is not just in the classrooms, but a part of our community,” said Ward 5 Councilmember, Harry Thomas, Jr. He added that this type of event “combines community assets together, shows tie-in, and reinforces education.” Councilmember Thomas also spoke during the event.

According to the organizers, this will be the first of many opportunities to outreach to parents and provide the support that they need to help their children receive an excellent education in the D.C. school system. Although this may be a good first step, the question is how will the District ensure structure, support, and accountability for parental involvement going forward?

The Expo was held at McKinley Technical High School in Northeast D.C. on Sept. 13.

Donna Ware