Friday, June 08, 2012

Students Need an Informed, Intentional and Involved Parent

I spend considerable time on issues associated with parent involvement in education through Parents for Student Success, a non profit I co-founded and Direct in Washington State. The missing link for most students who do not do well in school is an informed, intentional and involved parent. 

Every parent I have met cares about their child's education but lacks the knowledge, a plan and vision needed to manage that education through to a successful young adult.  Parents for Student Success, exists to help parents and schools rethink parent involvement. 

An effectively involved parent understands how to navigate public education systems, they intend for their children to do well in school and in life and they leverage their time, resources and relationships to support this intent.  Their child is clear that their education is a priority for the family.  Our methods are very student based, meaning how does my involvement have a direct and positive impact on my child's education. Many parent involvement programs stop at how parents are attached to the child's school. We call this building based involvement. It has its place and does has an indirect impact. 

If a parent has limited, resources or extended family support, they must leverage their time and energy. For parents of children on education life support, their time must be directed to their child, conversations need to be with their teachers and there must be a plan. 

Getting a child from Pre-School through college or post high school graduation is the most difficult project we will ever undertake.  I have completed that project and have grown children whose success has allowed me to retire early, restructure my life and redirect my resources. 

How we are at home with our children can make the difference between an average education and a great education. Being poor or brown or black or if your parent is designated for special education adds to the challenges of getting the best education. The reasons for the heightened challenge are many but are not reasons that a child can not excel academically and socially. We speak often of intent, a child usually ends up where the parent intends for them to be a failing student or at top of their class. 

Here is an excerpt from research compiled at the Parent Institute,  on the impacts of parents being involved.
 Direct parent instruction of their own children at home positively affects school achievement.
 But parents need specific information on how to help and what to do. 
  1. A study of promising parent involvement programs in the southwestern United States identified seven essential elements of strong parent involvement programs: 
  • A formal, written policy 
  • Administrative support (funding, materials, meeting space, equipment, staff) 
  • Training for staff, parents and community members 
  • A partnership approach (joint planning, goal setting, definition of roles) 
  • Two-way communication (frequent and regular) 
  • Networking (to share information, resources and technical expertise) 
  • Evaluation (to allow districts to make program revisions on a regular basis).53A study of successful federal, state, school district and school building parent involvement initiatives identified the following key themes: 
  • Parents and schools share common goals 
  • Parent involvement programs must continue beyond early childhood 
  • Programs must include all families 
Parent involvement programs make teacher’s jobs easier 
Program development is not quick 
Grants encourage participation 
Family/school coordinators are crucial 
Programs need rooms for parents 
Programs must reach out to parents without requiring parents to come to school 
Technology (radio, TV, audio- and videotapes, computers) can help improve parent involvement 
Programs need to be evaluated.54 
When parents’ time for school involvement is limited, carrying out learning activities with children at home is one of the most efficient ways for parents to spend their time.  Traditionally, teachers tend to favor parents who come to school. 

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