Studies show children benefit tremendously from parental involvement in their education, from elementary school through high school. Research conducted by the U.S. Department of Education shows higher academic performance at schools with greater parental involvement.
According to this research, "Three factors over which parents exercise authority — student absenteeism, variety of reading materials in the home and excessive television watching — explain nearly 90 percent of the difference in eighth-grade mathematics test scores across 37 states."
The benefits of parental involvement go beyond improved test scores. Kids with involved parents are less susceptible to the negative peer influences that seriously affect school performance and contribute to other risky behaviors.
With school just beginning, perhaps now is the time to reflect on our involvement as partners in our children's education and make a pledge to strengthen that partnership.
Research supports at least four effective ways for parents to be involved in their child's schooling. A parent's first and foremost role is as a teacher in the home. Parents turn on the receptors in their child's brain during their early years of life by being warm, loving and responsive and simply taking the time to talk, read or sing to their child.
Second, parents can be partners in the educational process itself through helping children with homework, volunteering in classrooms, creating a rich home learning environment and working closely with teachers to enhance the learning of their youngsters.
Third, through taking part on school committees, parents can participate in decisions that affect day-to-day school operations. Schools need to be open to such involvement and not give parents the message that they want parental involvement only on the school's terms.
Fourth, parents can act as advocates for quality education by "working at the local, state and national levels to impact legislation and policies that directly impact children."
Among other things, the parties pledge to share responsibility at school and at home to give students a better education and a good start in life. Schools promise to be welcoming to families; reach out to families before problems arise; offer challenging courses; create safe and drug-free learning environments; organize tutoring and other opportunities to improve student learning; and support families to be included in the school decision-making process.
Families pledge to monitor student attendance, homework completion and television watching; take the time to talk with and listen to their children; become acquainted with teachers, administrators and school staff; read with younger children and share a good book with a teen; volunteer in school when possible; and participate in the school decision-making process.
Increasing parental involvement is a key to the academic achievement of our children. Will we pledge to make it happen? Whatever form your pledge may take, you may want to post it on your refrigerator door so that it's not forgotten.
Dr. Steve Duncan is a professor in the School of Family Life. E-MAIL: S_duncan@byu.edu