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October/November 2007

Parental Involvement Matters
Participate In Your Child's Success
by Whitney Brennan

Although moving to a new city offers a new beginning, it also presents a fresh set of challenges. Many decisions will need to be made about what is best for you and your family, especially your children, in this time of change. As a parent, one of the most important things you can do for your children during this transitional time is to make sure they have a solid support system. And perhaps the two most important parts of their lives will be you, the parent, and their school. Getting involved in your child’s education unites these two aspects, easing your child’s transition into a new life.

To many, parental involvement means attending a class field trip or volunteering in their child’s classroom for a day. Although these types of participation certainly contribute to a child’s educational success, there are many other ways to get involved—and getting involved doesn’t always mean going to the school. Getting involved also means encouraging education at home as well as getting to know your child’s school. Research consistently shows that it’s important for parents to get involved in their child’s education. And as a parent, perhaps one of the most important benefits of gettinginvolved is feeling more confident in your child’s learning environment.

Indeed, there is much evidence to support the idea that parental involvement improves a child’s academic achievement and contributes to future life successes. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest professional employee organization, is dedicated to improving the country’s education system, from preschool to college. The NEA says a home that supports learning is more important to academic achievement than income, education level or cultural background and that parental involvement results in fewer absences, improved behavior and increased educational success.

Similarly, the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE), a national organization devoted to advancing parental involvement in education, credits parent participation with increasing a child’s grades and test scores and improving his or her social skills. Students with parents who are actively involved also are more likely to enroll in higher-level courses and attend a post-secondary school. Parent participation also increases a child’s self-esteem and motivation—benefits that not only contribute to academic success, but to other life successes.

However, the child, of course, is not the only one who benefits from a parent’s involvement. Participation also benefits the parents. For example, if participation leads to higher grades, improved test scores and better school attendance, then a parent’s confidence in his or her child’s school increases, which is particularly important to those relocating to a new city. In addition, involvement may strengthen the bond between parent and child because parental participation may initiate parent-child discussions, especially about school. Parents also have a higher self-esteem when involved in their child’s education because when the child is more successful, the parent feels as if he or she is making a valuable contribution to this success. By helping their child with school, parents may also advance their own skills and education level. Clearly, it is important for parents to participate in their child’s education. But, as a parent, how can you participate—and how can you find a school that welcomes this participation? There are many ways to get involved—both at school and at home. Of course, parents can act as chaperones on class field trips or volunteer in their child’s classroom. They can help with fund-raisers, class parties and field days; offer to be a guest speaker in a classroom; grade assignments; read with students in the classroom or library; or assist with a school performance or play by making costumes or painting scenery. Some schools may have committees that need parent representatives. But there’s more to parent participation than volunteering at school.

It’s just as important—some believe it’s more important—for parents to get involved in their child’s education at home. At-home participation is important for students of every age, but it perhaps becomes more important for middle and high school students who often do not want their parents to go to their school. No matter the age, always let your child know you are interested in his or her education and that success in school matters to you. Give your child a curfew on school nights as well as on weekends; ask your child about his or her day at school; read with your child; check homework every night, making sure your child understands the assignments; provide him or her with a quiet place to study; and help your child stay organized by setting regular times to complete homework as well as working out a schedule to help your child avoid last-minute preparation. Sue Ferguson, chair of NCPIE, says one of the most important things parents can do at home is to make sure their child gets to school each day. Make sure they have their books,homework and projects, and then take them to school, or make sure they get on the bus. Of course, as your child gets older, he or she may require less direct involvement, but always let him or her know that you value education by asking about school.

Beyond volunteering at school or encouraging education at home, getting involved in your child’s education ultimately means finding the right educational environment for your child by getting to know potential schools and what they have to offer. To begin your search, visit Web sites such as the Georgia Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education to find schools in your area. To narrow down your choices, peruse area publications such as the Atlanta School Guide (770-992-0273), which offers detailed information about public and private schools in Metro Atlanta. Contact potential schools for open house dates so you can get further insight by touring the school—be sure to ask for a handbook. You can also search school Web sites for more information— many sites have a parent resources section.

During your search for the right school, take note of programs schools might offer to encourage parental involvement. For example, The Heritage School in Newnan offers open houses during the week rather than the weekend. Admissions Director Julie Knott says, “This gives parents a more accurate representation of the environment their child will be in. Parents are also invited to observe a classroom.” Heritage also offers a Parents as Partners program, where a new family is paired with a current family, allowing new parents to ask questions and gain a better understanding of the school. Notre Dame Academy in Duluth offers a similar program for potential new students. The potential student can shadow a current student so he or she has a better idea of what to expect when attending the school. When getting to know your child’s new school, be sure to find out how the school measures a child’s progress as well as how that progress is communicated to parents—because getting involved also means communicating with the school.

Find out whether you can request regular meetings so you can stay informed about your child’s progress. Will you be able to ask the teacher any questions you may have about your child? Take the opportunity to email your child’s teachers if this option is available. Some schools may offer innovative programs to further communication between parents and the school. Marietta City Schools provides an online program where parents can monitor their child’s grades and academic history. MCS also uses a program called Connect-ED, which allows school principals and administrators to reach all the parents in the school district within minutes, with one phone call. The system is used to notify parents when their child is absent; to remind them of parent- teacher conferences or state testing; and to alert them in the event of an emergency.

There are many ways to get involved in your child’s education beyond volunteering at school. Research different types of parental participation so that you’re aware of your options. Visit Web sites of reputable sources such as NEA, NCPIE or the National Parent Teacher Association to find ways to get involved. Ask co-workers and friends for suggestions. Most importantly, ask potential schools how parental involvement is encouraged. And if you’re like many parents who work during the school day, you may not be able to participate in every opportunity available. But by finding the best school that allows you to get involved in the ways you can, you’ll have more confidence in your child’s success at school as well as in his or her future.


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