What Is a ParentCamp?

What Is a ParentCamp?


ParentCamp is a free "un-conference" that brings parents, caregivers, community leaders, educators, and children together to have conversations about how best to support students. It is an opportunity for those within the school communities—parents, teachers, students, and community and faith-based representatives—to expand relationships, strengthen partnerships, share, network, and learn.


The event is particularly timely in light of the recent authorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which contains several laudable family engagement provisions. The law provides authorization for statewide organizations to establish family engagement centers to carry out parent education and family engagement programs; and to provide comprehensive training and technical assistance to state educational agencies, local educational agencies, and organizations that support family-school partnerships. As a result of ESSA, organizations now will be able to apply for grant funds to establish statewide family engagement centers, which will assist parents in participating effectively in their children's education and in helping their children meet challenging state academic standards. Elements of the law will encourage families to engage in activities that will improve student academic achievement and support learning in the classroom with activities at home and in after-school and extracurricular programs. In addition, a Dear Colleague letter and early learning resources for immigrant families will be shared.


At ParentCamp, attendees who come from diverse backgrounds and neighborhoods, and who serve in a variety of roles in their educational communities, lead in-depth, face-to-face discussions about what is best for students. The events rely on the expertise and perspectives of the entire room, not just those of a main presenter, which distinguishes the event from a traditional conference. Discussion leaders begin the conversation and offer initial resources, but those in the room (and those following on a Twitter feed) add the depth and much-needed creativity that will help to improve outcomes for our nation's children. Every participant puts his or her unique strategies and ideas that could benefit student learning, teaching, and parenting on the table.


ParentCamp is one approach the Department can use to examine systemic and sustained ways for parents and caregivers to communicate, collaborate, and actively participate in educating the whole child. In the eyes of the participating parents, parent advocates, and community and faith-based representatives, the Department has set the right example by hosting stakeholders at the epicenter of education. Attendees felt that hosting a ParentCamp at ED showed how critical it is to make parents feel welcome to participate directly in their child's education, rather than treating the home and the school as separate entities.