Education Commentary

A Family Plan

February 20, 2018 2 min read

Policymaker and practitioners alike agree that parents must help out with their children’s education. While it’s true that study after study has come to that conclusion, it’s not like it took high-level research to enlighten educators on the issue. It only makes sense that parents must be their children’s first teacher and remain partners in their formal education.

It’s that very simple nature of the parent-involvement issue--the fact that it is so obvious, so much a given--that is so frustrating to those who wonder why it doesn’t happen more often. Much more often.

Teachers and administrators in the public schools have long argued that parents assume responsibility for many different aspects of their children’s schooling; otherwise, they say, all the other energy and effort spent on trying to improve education is destined to fail.

President Clinton voiced some of their frustration in his State of the Union Message in January:

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“We can’t renew our country until we realize that governments don’t raise children; parents do. Parents who know their children’s teachers and turn off the television and help with the homework and teach their kids right from wrong-those kind of parents can make all the difference.”

But the burden falls not on the shoulders of moms and dads alone. “Parents who know their children’s teachers” implies teachers who know their students’ parents.

Principals, superintendents, and school board members--they, too, must learn to include parents in the process of education. Many parents feel uncomfortable--even unwelcome--in the schools their children attend.

Achieving the goal of greater parent involvement will require some fundamental changes in the way parents-and educators--do their jobs. As several of the following essays make clear, involving parents in the daily progress of their own children is vital, but only a beginning.

Parents must take part in a wide range of educational activities. And educators must not only tolerate and encourage their involvement, they must guarantee it. Schools themselves must change, to provide services and facilities that meet the needs of students, educators, and parents.

This special Commentary report includes recommendations for how to make the e changes from 10 people--parents, teachers, scholars, policymakers--with experiences and interests from across the educational spectrum.

Several of them could have written books on the subject (some of them have). U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley--who last month launched a nationwide parent-involvement campaign--could have discussed broad policy at the national level. Instead, Education Week asked each participant to focus on just one area of concern, or one suggestion for enhancing the working relation hip between educators in public schools and the parents of the students they teach.

This special report, the third in a series examining crucial issues in education, is being underwritten by a grant from the Philip Morris Companies Inc.
A version of this article appeared in the October 05, 1994 edition of Education Week

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