Urban Family Engagement Network

Research clearly shows that when parents are consistently engaged in their children’s education, students perform better in school. When parents are engaged in a variety of ways, students achieve
higher test scores, enroll in higher level classes, realize a decrease in missed school days, develop enhanced social skills, graduate from high school, attend college, and secure productive work and rewarding careers. This is true regardless of economic standing or familial background.

The education challenges that persist nationwide are often magnified in urban communities, where the majority (82%) of the nation’s population live, yet the resources for education are often strained. In the nation’s 50 largest school districts, approximately half (53%) of students graduate from high school, which is drastically lower than the national average (71%). Data shows that children from low-income and ethnically diverse communities are taught by the least-experienced teachers, receive sub-par curriculum, and attend schools which are housed in the lowest quality facilities. Many students – particularly those in urban schools – lack the fundamental literacy skills necessary to read and comprehend academic texts appropriate for elementary and secondary school and beyond.

Founded in 1897, the National Parent Teacher Association® (PTA) is a registered 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for parents, and a strong advocate for public education. That’s why we created the Urban Family Initiative, now called the Urban Family Engagement Network, in 2009.

Purpose of the Urban Family Engagement Network

National PTA believes the solution to our academic and literacy crisis in urban areas involves a multi-layered approach that promotes partnership between parents, teachers, students, and communities. Since 2009, the Urban Family Engagement Network has existed in: Atlanta, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Queens, and Philadelphia.

PTA’s Urban Family Engagement Network emphasizes a locally-driven model energized by grassroots strategies and projects that train and mobilize volunteer leaders to become peer mentors to families of students in the community. Trained peer leaders are deployed to:

  • Educate families about the school system and how to collaborate with school staff and administrators to improve student learning and overall well-being;
  • Navigate the school system and champion school improvements; and
  • Link families to community resources that will support student learning and overall well-being.

The major outcome of this project is to ensure that more families in urban areas understand the role they can play in their children’s education, the opportunities to participate in school events, the ways to navigate the school system and collaborate with schools personnel to solve problems, and the value of joining other families in organized, parent-focused group settings.