According to the Department of Education, research reveals many benefits when parents are involved in their child’s education, including:
1) Higher grades and test scores;
2) Better attitudes and behavior;
3) Better school attendance;
4) More homework completed;
5) Less chance of placement in special education;
6) Greater likelihood of graduating from high school; and
7) Better chance of enrolling in postsecondary education.
One example of the difference parental involvement makes can be seen at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, located in a section of Boston, MA, where 66 percent of the children who enter are reading one or more grade levels below the norm. In 1999, a team of educators proposed a charter college preparatory program for a middle school in the poverty-ridden Roxbury neighborhood. The co-educational school emphasizes a rigorous curriculum, character development and family involvement. Roxbury Prep invites family involvement by requiring parents to sign a “Family and School Contract” at the beginning of each school year. By signing this document, parents agree to communicate with their children’s teachers every two weeks. In 2003, Roxbury Prep’s Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) scores were the highest of any predominantly minority school in Massachusetts on sixth- and eighth-grade math and eighth-grade science exams, and second best on sixth-through-eighth-grade English exams. An impressive 82 percent of seventh-grade students scored “advanced” or “proficient” on the English exam. On the 2006 eighth-grade math test, Roxbury Prep outperformed every school district in the entire state of Massachusetts. While test scores have risen, so have graduation rates.
How was this accomplished?
- Parents were expected to be involved and committed.
- Parent-teacher communication was strong and frequent.
- The curriculum was rigorous.
- Teachers had the approach that all students could succeed.
Source: The Education Innovator, U.S. Department of Education, Volume II, No. 22, Washington D.C., 2004.
This week at LifeBound we’ve been conducting parent sessions for Title 1 middle schools in the Jefferson County School District in Colorado, teaching them coaching skills. Most of the content of these sessions is derived from my book, Stop Parenting and Start Coaching: How to motivate, inspire and connect with your teenager. From our work with parents over the past decade, we’ve discovered that these are parents’ biggest fears:
- The fear of their teen having to struggle, or to make “life” mistakes
- The fear that their teen will become dependent on them, or others, in order to survive
- The fear that their children will not succeed in life, and that they—the parents—will be blamed for it.
In my coaching sessions at schools, we address these fears and focus on the following tenets for parents of adolescent-aged children:
- Parents usually tell children what to do, while coaches try to show them.
- Parents try to protect their teens, while coaches try to prepare them.
- Parents often decide what’s best for their children, while coaches would rather let them learn from the consequences of their own decisions.
- Parents want their teens to like them, while coaches offer tough love.
- Parents often remind children of their failures, while coaches build on those failures.
- Parents are often afraid to trust teens, while coaches have no choice but to trust them.
LifeBound’s lead trainer and academic coach, Maureen Breeze, when commenting on these parents sessions, said, “Parents are hungry to learn effective ways to have meaningful conversations with their child or teenager. They sense that things are continually changing for their kids because of technology and friendships. My best advice is to spend time with your kids and the conversations will evolve. Sit on the floor of their room at bedtime, take them for walks, remain curious about their world without being judgmental, and you’ll create a safe space for them to talk to you.”
Coaching skills give parents the tools to build on their relationship with their child and to create opportunities for courageous conversations. For more information about our parenting book and sessions for schools, visit www.lifebound.com and click on coaching.
PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT REAPS BIG BENEFITS
Parent involvement isn’t a luxury — it’s an integral component of student achievement and school reform. Decades of research studies on the effect of meaningful parent involvement programs in schools have found that
- when parents are involved, students achieve more, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ education level.
- when parents are involved, students exhibit more positive attitudes and behavior.
- to have long-lasting gains for students, parent involvement activities must be well planned, inclusive, and comprehensive.
- children from diverse cultural backgrounds tend to do better when parents and professionals collaborate to bridge the gap between the culture at home and the learning institution.
- schools that work well with families have better teacher morale and higher ratings of teachers by parents.
- school programs that involve parents outperform identical programs without parent and family involvement.
- effective programs are led by a team of administrators, educators, and parents and have access to financial resources.
- when they are treated as partners and given relevant information by people with whom they are comfortable, parents put into practice the involvement strategies they already know are effective but have been hesitant to contribute.
- collaboration with families is an essential component of a reform strategy, but it is not a substitute for high-quality education programs or comprehensive school improvement.
Research findings courtesy of the National PTA. Find a more comprehensive summary of the research surrounding parent involvement at http://www.pta.org/.
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