Parental Participation: Collaborating to Support Student Learning

by Tina Spencer, M.S.

Parents have much to offer to support student learning and can be the key to their children's success in school. Not surprisingly, parent involvement has been included in all stages of their children's educational plans with the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Also, with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), even more educational support is needed from parents of school-age children.

As partners to teachers, parents provide much-needed help to ensure the academic success of their children. Parent involvement is not only needed, but also greatly valued. A good strategy for parents to enhance the learning of their children is to know what to look for in their children's journey through the educational system.

Here are a few questions, adapted from the Special Education Parent Guide (Virginia Department of Education, 2003), that parents should ask school personal:

  • What level/types of books should I be reading to my child?

  • Is my child coming to school regularly?

  • What are some good study habits that I can help my child develop to fit his/her learning style?

  • What does my child's curriculum/IEP look like for his/her level of achievement?

  • How can I help with my child's homework?

  • What kinds of activities can I do at home that will relate to information being taught at school?

  • How can I help my child apply his/her school learning to real-life situations?

  • How can I help my child become a better test taker in order to show how much he or she has learned?

  • What are some tips I should know to be supportive and encouraging to my child?

National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs-National PTA (the National Parent Teacher Association, 2003) points to decades of research showing that when parents are involved with their children's education, positive results do occur. In particular, they note the following outcomes correlated with greater parent involvement:

  • Higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates

  • Better school attendance

  • Increased motivation, better self-esteem

  • Lower rates of suspension

  • Decreased use of drugs and alcohol

  • Fewer instances of violent behavior

  • Greater enrollment rates in postsecondary education

Parents must keep the lines of communication between themselves and their children's teachers open. Teachers must be aware of how much parents want to be involved in their children's education and value parent support and participation. The key to academic success for all children is having their parents and teachers work together.

References

The National PTA. National standards for parent/family involvement programs-National PTA. Retrieved December 2, 2003, from http://www.pta.org/programs/content.cfm?ItemNumber=3126

The Virginia Department of Education. Special education parent guide. Retrieved December 2, 2003, from http://www.doe.virginia.gov/special_ed/parents/parents_guide.pdf

Date: February/March 2004