Family involvement boosts students
Recently, students in my education classes at Arizona Western College have been involved in surveying teachers in our public schools and asking them about some challenges they face in the classroom.
One of the questions asks teachers to talk about challenges with parent involvement. I'm always saddened when I read their responses. Here are a few examples:
“There is a lack of parental support.” One teacher responds, “There is no reinforcement of correct behavior or study skills. Sometimes when I call the parents, they will not return my phone calls and I'll never be able to get in contact with them. At this year's parent/teacher night out of all 128 students, only two parents showed up to meet their child's teacher.” Only two parents! Is that shocking to anyone else but me?
Another teacher shares her discouragement: “Parents do not seem to care what is going on at school with their children, or else they are too busy to get involved.” Too busy to get involved with their kids! How can that be?
And this teacher describes the challenges of parental involvement as just plain frustrating! Knowing that the child has so much potential and would be successful if they had the extra help and guidance at home.” Who wants to take that parent and spank them?
The article "Parent Involvement and Student Achievement" states, “The evidence is now beyond dispute: When schools work together with families to support learning, children tend to succeed not just in school, but throughout life.” The article goes on to say that the most accurate predictor of a student's achievement in school is not income or social status, but the extent to which that student's family is able to do the following:
Create a home environment that encourages learning; express high (but not unrealistic) expectations for their children's achievement and future careers; and become involved in their children's education at school and in the community.
Let's look at these three areas and see what it requires to take an active role in our kids' education.
Creating a home environment that encourages learning begins with safe supervision of after-school care for your child. Parents should find time each evening for a conversation with their child about the events of the day at school.
A routine for a child should include a healthy meal for dinner, a time and place for homework and a regularly scheduled reading time. That means turning off the cotton-pickin' TV! (I can give you plenty of research about the correlation between the amount of TV your child watches and their grades in school, if you'd like). And each day we should send our children to school well rested, ready to learn.
Our children should hear from us that we value education and that we expect them to do well and work hard. After a six-year longitudinal study of low-income, minority children in the Chicago public schools, Arthur Reynolds found that the most consistent predictors of children's academic achievement and social adjustment were "parent expectations of their child's educational attainment."
And finally, become involved in your child's school and community. Go meet your child's teacher and become partners. Discuss how you can work together as a team to provide the support your child needs. Always talk respectfully about your child's teacher, clarifying your desire for your child to respect them as well.
A research project titled A New Wave of Evidence reminds us “All families can contribute to their children's success. Family involvement improves student success, regardless of race/ethnicity, class, or parents' level of education.”
I fear that we have made excuses too long for our working parents, our parents that don't speak English, our parents that are poor or uneducated. It's time that all of our parents step up to the plate, take on their responsibility and become involved and supportive of their child's education.
Karen Spencer teaches speech/communication and education at Arizona Western College. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.