President’s Corner

Our Partnership With Parents

by BILL HILL

The recent passage of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act focuses on improving student achievement for all of America’s children. And although I would submit that our public schools have been working to improve student achievement long before this legislation was passed by Congress, we can and should do more. However, as we struggle with the current fiscal challenges in school funding in each state across the nation, we also must find ways to meet added expectations for student achievement.

For quite some time now, schools have been looked upon as the “do-it-all” institution of learning. Our society expects more than just academics. In today’s world, it also expects public schools to nurture a child’s growth. We accept the challenge to do what it takes to help every child be successful. However, for us to succeed in this daunting task, we need solid partnerships with parents, business leaders and the greater community because we cannot do it all alone.

Parents are, of course, primary in this partnership role of child-teaching and upbringing. Two decades of research undeniably link parental involvement to student achievement. Statistics show that children between birth and age 18 spend just 9 percent of their time in school. As school system leaders, we need to recognize that the curriculum of the home is twice as predictive of academic learning as family socioeconomic status. Parental influence is no less predictive in the high school years. We also need to know that a child’s experiences during the first five years of life set the stage for all later school achievement.

So how can we engage parents to become more proactive in assisting us with improving student achievement? A start would be to share the list below with parents and students as a simple way to encourage greater partnerships among schools, business leaders and the greater community:

* Keep a fairly regular schedule for meals, play and work time. Set a regular bedtime. Children thrive on orderliness. When a child is used to a routine at home, she can adapt to classroom rules more easily.

* Spend time every day talking with your child about his interests, hobbies and friends. Children learn language at home, and spoken language provides children the foundation for better reading and writing. As children grow older, they need daily conversations as a way to develop values, test ideas and share their thoughts.

* Give your child responsibilities at home. These responsibilities might include keeping the bedroom tidy; sharing responsibility for a pet; doing at least one thing daily for the good of the whole family, such as washing dishes, picking up the living room or washing the car.

* Set limits on how much television your child can watch. At a minimum, turn off the television during study time. Consider making a rule that there will be no television until all schoolwork is finished.

* Display your child’s schoolwork. Many families use the refrigerator door for this purpose. Others install a bulletin board on the child’s bedroom door. Let your child know that you are proud of what she accomplishes in school.

* Read to or with your children daily. Studies show this is the single most important thing parents can do to help their children achieve.

* Find ways to help your children feel important. One study by the National Family Institute found the average parent spends 14.5 minutes a day communicating with each child. Of that time, 12.5 minutes are devoted to parental criticism or correction.

* Encourage your child to take part in extracurricular activities. Afterschool drama, music, athletics, community service projects and other clubs or school-sponsored activities give kids a chance to try new skills and receive recognition for a job well done.

I encourage you to work with your schools to foster creative ways for parents to better assist their children at home to ensure academic success. In doing so, we find a way to help them help us with improving student academic achievement across the nation.

Bill Hill is president of AASA.