This is Parent Involvement Week in Minnesota

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

With more and more Minnesota schools being labeled as not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress due the mandates on schools by the No Child Left Behind Act, there is an immediate need for all stakeholders to do their part to help close the achievement gaps of children. To do this, it is going to take a lot of money and effort to establish stronger early childhood development programs so that students enter kindergarten with fewer or no gaps. There is also going to have to be more programs to help children already in school that do not meet their grade level achievement goals that the state tests are based on.

Parental “engagement” is one of the best ways to close the achievement gap without spending a lot of money. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has declared Sept. 14-20 as Minnesota Parent Involvement Week, a time to celebrate the powerful role parents play in their children’s education with activities at schools statewide.

Why is parent involvement in education important?

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– Research shows that students learn more, have higher grades, and have better school attendance when parents are involved.

– When families take an active interest in what children are learning, students display a more positive attitude toward school and behave better both in and out of school.

Student achievement increases when families and schools work together in true partnership.

At the last Minnesota School Board Association conference, parent “engagement” was the “buzz word.”

A keynote speaker at the conference was Steve Constantino. He stressed how engaging all families in the classroom will lead to a path of achievement by all. He spoke of becoming the principal of Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Virginia in 1995. This school had the lowest test scores in the state, a 15 percent dropout rate and only 58.7 percent of the students attended regularly. By 2003, Stonewall Jackson High School had the second highest test scores, a dropout rate of 1.3 percent, and 98.8 percent of students attended school regularly. In 2001 TIME magazine named Stonewall Jackson as High School of the Year. Constantino attributed this turn around to having more parents engaged.

I checked with a few of our local educators and came up with the following list of how parents can be engaged in their child’s learning:

– Call or e-mail your child’s teacher periodically to check on progress.

– Find time to read to/with your child every day.

– Do homework with your child.

– Attend conferences with your child.

– Always know where your child is going and who they are with.

– Model a positive attitude about school around your child — even if school was difficult for you.

– Ask your child how school was today. Don’t accept the answer “fine” or “boring”. Get specific!

– Play board games with your child.

– Sit together at meal time and talk. Research shows that kids who eat meals with their parents without TV do better in school.

– Know your child’s reading levels so that you can use the public library

– Getting plenty of sleep is very essential

– Research will tell you that healthy eating and appropriate exercise improves learning

Parenting is teaching. Whether we want to be or not, we are all teachers. We need to be good role models because our children are watching us all the time. I have never met a parent that did not wish for a better life for their child and education is the first step in that direction.

Bill Villarreal is a member of the Albert Lea school board.