A symposium at the White House Thursday explored how increasing family engagement can drive school improvement.

The meeting brought together administration officials, philanthropists, and researchers to discuss ways that parents and schools can work together more closely.

“Children do not live outside of the context of their families,” said Carla Thompson, vice president of program strategies at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which helped organize the event.

If you want to have “a real chance for education reform,” she said, “everyone should understand they have a role in it.”

The Kellogg Foundation in April announced an investment of $13.7 million to 30 grantees nationwide who are promoting parent leadership in different ways.

Thompson said the foundation envisions family engagement as much more than “one-off open-house school nights” or parent teacher conferences.

In some places, she said, parents are becoming directly involved in decision making, helping to develop curriculum, hire teachers, and decide which after-school programs to adopt.

“For us, it’s about bringing the community into school buildings and the school into the community so that everyone is focusing on improvement.”

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