The largest child advocacy organization in the United States, National PTA, has launched a multifaceted parent involvement initiative to increase awareness of the benefits of parent involvement and the need for building successful partnerships in school reform efforts.
National PTA worked with Congress to initiate the PARENT Act, which sought to strengthen the parent participation policies in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In January 2002, the ESEA was signed into law as the No Child Left Behind Act. It authorizes more than 40 programs that provide federal funds to nearly every school district in the nation. This law now includes many of the parent involvement provisions of the PARENT Act and, for the first time, defines the term “parent involvement” based on National PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnership Programs.
What is Parent Involvement
The PTA defines “parent involvement” as the participation of parents in every facet of children’s education and development from birth to adulthood, recognizing that parents are the primary influence in children’s lives. Parent involvement takes many forms, including:
- Two-way communication between parents and schools
- Supporting parents as children’s primary educators and integral to their learning
- Encouraging parents to participate in volunteer work
- Sharing responsibility for decision making about children’s education, health, and well-being
- Collaborating with community organizations that reflect schools’ aspirations for all children
Parental rights under the ESEA
Through the efforts of National PTA, ESEA expands and formalizes parent involvement to benefit student achievement. The parent involvement provisions were included in the law to ensure that:
- Parents will get information in a language they understand,
- Parents’ participation on decision-making committees is expanded,
- Educators will have access to training on how to work with parents effectively,
- States will evaluate school-level parent involvement practices to ensure they are effective,
- Technical assistance will be provided to schools having difficulty implementing parent involvement activities.
What can parents do at home to get involved.
- Parents must realize that they have the primary responsibility for their child’s education. Education begins with the family.
- Convey positive attitudes toward the school. Respect for school personnel must be taught in the home.
- Encourage your children to use their minds. Help them to apply what they learn in school to real life situations. This will help them to realize that what they learn in school and out of school are tied together.
- Be sure your child has a quiet place where he or she can study in private, away from other family members, radio, television, etc.
- Read to your children, beginning when they are very small. Good reading is essential, even in this age of computerized education. When they are old enough to read by themselves, have them read to you or take turns reading to each other. This is a good way to be sure your children are reading their textbooks, and understand what they are reading.
- Take the time to review the books your children are using in school. If you know what they are studying, you will be better prepared to help them and evaluate their progress.
- Ask your child to describe what they did that day in a specific subject area. Use open-ended questions.
- Just asking what they did in school usually brings a “nothing” response.
- Don’t emphasize the grade students earn. Instead, emphasize what they have learned in that area and how you can help them learn even more.
- Attend parent-teacher conferences. Be prepared with your own questions and concerns, and also be prepared to listen to what the teacher has to say.
- As responsible citizens, parents should make an effort to learn more about educational issues and exercise their rights to voice their opinions and vote.
Our Role as the PTA
- Encourage your school board to develop parent involvement policies that would support parents as decision makers and develop their leadership in governance, advisory, and advocacy roles.
- Advocate for legislation and policies that protect the right of parental involvement in shared decision making.
- Learn about the selection policies and processes for choosing curriculum materials in your school, community, and state. Find a place for PTA and parent involvement in that process.
- Work with state teacher certification agencies to require parent/family involvement training for teacher certification and re-certification.
- Before scheduling meetings and events, be mindful of the ethnic and cultural backgrounds in your PTA community. Try to avoid scheduling conflicts between PTA and other community events.
- Make parent involvement a priority in your PTA. Form a parent involvement committee to work in this area and to present progress reports at your meetings.
- Work constructively within the PTA and the school, with respect for democratic procedures and diversity of opinion.
- Welcome your principal and allow time at every PTA meeting to report school news to the parents.
- Conduct surveys to determine the educational interests and needs of your community. Then plan informative programs and projects to meet those needs.
- Evaluate your activities on a regular basis to be certain they are responding to your community’s educational interests and concerns, and that parent involvement is a priority.
- Increase opportunities for the development of parenting skills and take advantage of the information offered by the state and National PTA.
- Assure access to an equitable and quality education for all children.
- Know, help, and interact with students, teachers, administrators, and community, and facilitate interactions between them.
- Involve students, requesting input where there are programs that directly involve them.
- Bring together parents and school officials in an informal atmosphere, such as covered dish dinners, art/science exhibits, or an informal coffee hour discussion.
- Remind parents and teachers that they are allies in the quest for their child’s education.
- Attend school board meetings regularly, making informative reports to the PTA.
- Learn the responsibilities and limitations of boards of education. Remember that school directors are also volunteers.
- Make PTA members aware of the functions that are legally charged to school directors, such as policy making, employing the superintendent, approving budgets, monitoring and implementation of school policies, approving curriculum, and studying trends in education and needs for the future.
Our Children. A bi-monthly magazine, published by National PTA, with in-depth features examining the issues affecting children today, including education, health, and safety matters. Contact National PTA for subscription information.
National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. This quick-reference booklet describes the six national standards that were identified by National PTA for developing effective parent and family involvement programs. Provides research findings on the benefits of parent involvement and outlines the six standards areas. Includes quality indicators checklists. Contact the state PTA office to purchase a copy.
National PTA Web site – www.pta.org
Pennsylvania PTA Web site - www.papta.org
Public Education Network - www.publiceducation.org