To the Editor:
Maurice J. Elias and Yoni Schwab’s challenge of the parent-involvement provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind Act (“What About Parental Involvement in Parenting?,” Commentary, Oct. 20, 2004) implies that parents should not be considered key decisionmakers in their children’s education. On the contrary, the provisions are an essential step toward considering parents as valued participants in the school decisionmaking process.
One cannot argue against the authors’ statement that parents’ main concern must be to attend to basic parenting responsibilities. But active involvement in their children’s education is one such basic responsibility.
Parents must consider that everything that goes on in a child’s school plays a major role in the development of that child. It’s essential to both the school’s and the child’s success, then, that parents hold a stake in determining school practices and policies.
It is nonetheless true that the levels of availability for and commitment to school involvement will vary from parent to parent. That is precisely why PTAs exist—to give parent leaders the forum to step forward, voice the concerns of the families in their school community, and work with the school to address them. And while certainly not every parent is to be considered a curriculum or policy expert, it is unreasonable to underestimate a parent’s ability to determine what is best for his or her child.
If the No Child Left Behind Act were a basic parenting handbook, one would expect it to encourage parent involvement in all aspects of a child’s life. But as it is our nation’s most comprehensive federal education law, the nation’s parents should consider it a victory that their involvement has been included and valued in this legislation.