By GreatSchools Staff
Schools across the nation are discovering a powerful force for school improvement: parents.
Parents aren't just volunteering to help with teacher luncheons and fund-raising campaigns; they're helping to raise the academic achievement level of children at their schools. An added bonus is that children of involved parents tend to do better in school.
How big a difference can parents make in schools? Here are some examples:
Tapping new sources of data and federal funding earmarked for parent involvement, community groups of all stripes are organizing efforts for education reform. The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation estimates that about 150 such groups have formed during the past decade to improve student learning in inner-city districts alone. The foundation has spent $10.6 million on 65 grants targeting school reform since 1999, and it plans to spend $6.4 million more through 2008 to document, evaluate and disseminate information about community-driven school improvement projects.
Parent involvement takes many forms. The Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) has taught more than 325,000 California parents how to navigate the school system and keep their children on track. "We are not asking parents to go in and tell teachers and counselors how to do their job. We emphasize that parents should go to school monthly and work with the teacher to design a plan for their child," explained David Valladolid, president and CEO.
At the other extreme is the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership (CIPL), which trains parents to push schools to higher levels of achievement by all students. More than 1,000 parents in 176 school districts in Kentucky have completed its six-day parent training course, which teaches them how to interpret school data, understand learning standards and initiate school improvement projects. Graduates work with a coach for 18 months following the training.
This army of parents trained by CIPL has championed many projects, including "Science Wizards" family events that caused one school's science scores to rise 14 points on state tests, a booklet that demystifies special education regulations and workshops that improved students' writing.
Parent involvement definitely pays off for the children of those who get involved. In A New Wave of Evidence, a review of 51 studies published between 1995 and 2002, Anne T. Henderson and Karen L. Mapp found that students with involved parents are more likely to:
There's also plenty of proof that school-wide parent involvement efforts translate into academic gains. For example:
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