Parental Involvement

More parental involvement is one of those things that’s tossed around casually in conversations about schools. Kudos to Fairfax County teacher Steven Rothman for saying publicly what a lot of people say privately…it’s not an unmitigated blessing…

13 Replies to “Parental Involvement”

  1. Is the problem in Fairfax the same as it is in DC?

    I’ve talked with teachers and principals who would welcome parents who were this deeply involved in their children’s educations.

    Isn’t there some happy medium that could be reached?

  2. Sociologist Annette Lareau has written extensively about this problem in her books Home Advantage (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000), which includes a chapter entitled “The Dark Side of Parent Involvement: Costs for Families and Teachers,” and Unequal Childhoods (University of California Press, 2003).

  3. It’s odd because I think a big problem in NYC is too little parental involvement. If my local school were crammed to 250% capacity, as is the one in which I work, the community would be out with torches and pitchforks. I’d join them, too (after school hours, of course–I rarely bring my pitchfork to work).

    Maybe the chief accountability officer, Jim Liebman, senses this, and that’s why he literally runs from involved parents.

  4. I believe that parent involvement is great. However, there is a thin line between concerned and overbearing parents. I don’t agree with the fact, that parents can go to the principal and have exceptions for their child when they should have done the work in the first place. I do think that more responsibility needs to be placed on the student. We shouldn’t have to stay after school to make sure that the student is doing his/her work. The student should have used the class time wisely. If a student has a question about an assignment at the end of the day, stop in and I would be more than willing to offer a helping hand. Some parents I believe, think we are babysitters. We have a classroom full of other students that also need our attention.

  5. We’re not allowed to talk about this in polite, left of center environments. We have to pay homage to parental involvement just like we have to claim that curriculum alignment, a focus on instruction, and professional development – and of course “high expectations” are the key. I doubt anyone who is actually in the schools really believes that these nostrums are enough, but we follow the rules of the game and advocate these painless panceas.

    Frank McCourt has been blunt in questioning the mantra of parental contacts as the key, and he did so while criticizing outsiders who get involved enough in education to get good stories for cocktail parties.

    There is some truth to all of these half-truths, but we really need more honesty in regard to the prime nexus of parental involvement in high poverty schools, which is parents supporting their children as they go through the disciplinary process. And we should honestly say up front that the “system” is so dysfunctional that it is no wonder that it brings out the worst in everyone.

    We should also admit that confrontations involving discipline and made worst by to characteristics of American culture, our anti-intellectualism and our history of a punitive and discriminatory criminal justice system. In America, there may not be shame attached to having a child flunk out of school, but it is extremely embarrassing to have a child caught up in a quasi-judicial system. It is more shameful to have a child suspended than to have a child underachieve academically.

    Parents are no different than anyone else in our system where we are afraid to assess disciplinary consequences because it might hurt the child’s chances of graduation, but we go along with educational policies that drive a much larger percentage of students out of school.

    I don’t have answers, but I have a counter-intuitive approach. We need to clear the air and have honest conversations. Actually, the dysfunction could be used to our advantage. We could admit up front that all stakeholders have plenty of reasons to be aggrieved. Then we could have public discussions that are necessary before we can address the politics of creating safe and orderly schools.

  6. I adore Frank McCourt. But without frequent parental contact, my job would be entirely different–very much for the worse, I think.

    Of course, McCourt can probably hypnotize kids, or anyone, just by talking off the top of his head. We haven’t all got that gift.

  7. I agree that parental involvement is good, but everything in moderation, right? In my district parents are either blaming the teacher for the child failing, or not involved at all. Where is the happy medium?

  8. Some schools have too little parental involvement (“If only there were support at home to reinforce the reading…”), others have too much. There comes a time when you have to cut the umbilical cord. You can be a supportive parent without enabling your child to their detriment. Children should take responsibility for their actions – or lack of – as should adults. We are teaching children the wrong thing by saying “Oh you didn’t do your homework? Thats okay, Mr. Smith assigns too much anyway.” These kids grow up to become adults that are late to work, or call in sick when they have a sniffle. I fear for what some of these parents are doing to these kids, and that these poor children are growing up believing that the world revolves around them, and that mom/dad will come to their rescue if they ever do something wrong.

    YES, we want parental support and interest in their child’s education. That is great! Give your child support by showing them that you care about them, are there for them, and by teaching them that respect and responsibility are important life skills.

  9. Parental involvment is a interesting topic. I do see many parents “crossing the line” so to speak when it comes to too much parental involvment. However, in the majority of my experiences I wish I had too much involvment than not enought. Just a thought

  10. Ths is a tough one. Parents in my district don’t show up until the end of the year when they get the letter saying their child wll be retained, then its all the teacher’s fault. Sometimes it seems we just can’t win.

  11. I have a wide range of parental involvement in my classroom. I have some that are over bearing and feel that they should be a part of everything we do in the classroom. I have some that are supportive of their child, myself as the teacher, and are willing to help. I also have some that will not attend anything, do not support their children, and feel that learning should be solely the school’s responsibility. My main concern is not the overbearing parent. Although they can be annoying and expect more attention, I can deal with that. I want to try to involve the parents who are not involved. The ones who do not give their child much support. I feel that the first step to increasing their feeling of responsibility and need for interaction would be trying to understand the reasons behind it. When you understand the root of the problem, it will be easier to fix. Some may not have the time because they are working extra jobs. Others do not know what to do to help. Still there are others that have a poor attitude toward school and need to be given some proof that school is a good place that is worthy of their support. I try to communicate with all parents through phone calls, email, newsletters, websites, notes, etc. I would like to try to develop family nights to help with homework, provide fun learning activities, etc. Does anyone have any ideas about advertising or structuring such an event?

  12. I have been on both sides of this issue, as a teacher and a parent. As a teacher, some parents have been too involved, but most have not been involved enough. As a parent, I try not to meddle in my children’s teachers business. At times I have felt this has hurt my own children because of me being able to over-sympathize with teachers. Have any other teachers felt that way before concerning their own children’s education?

  13. “Parent involvement,” in my experience as a parent with kids attending a very well-funded, high-performing school, has meant 3 things:

    1. extensive parent fundraising & enthusiastic support for annual tax increases

    2. parent cooperation and compliance with the wishes of the administration and teaching staff — In my district this has been taken to the extreme of the school board adopting a formal Code of Conduct for parents. A Code of Conduct for teachers has not been adopted although state law requires it.

    3. parent assumption of responsibility for monitoring individual student performance, reteaching course content, and hiring tutors when all else fails (“tutors” meaning, often, district teachers)

    Boiled down to its essence, parent involvement in a wealthy, high-performing school district means that the school is responsible for inputs, and the parent is responsible for outputs.

    As to the question of whether or when a parent has “crossed the line,” that, too, is defined and adjudicated by school personnel, not parents. I myself have been seen as a murderous helicopter parent, a checked-out mom who has failed to sign and return grade reports in a timely manner and is therefore responsible for my child’s erratic grades, and a parent who is involved and supportive — all within the same time span.

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