By Crystal J. Gallegos, Assistant Principal, Chavez/Huerta K-12 Preparatory Academy, Pueblo, CO
(This was first posted to the National Institute for Latino School Leaders blog.)
Schools across the country are working diligently to get parents more involved in their students’ education. As educators look for innovative ways to engage parents in their schools they are also seeking assistance from the outside community.
There are numerous reasons parents are not engaging in the educational process. These include, but are not limited to: transportation, work, money, intimidation, a feeling of the unknown, insecurities, language, and socio-economic status. Each of these factors must be taken into account when encouraging parents to come and participate at school.
There are numerous outside programs that can be replicated with success at a school, such as: Padres Comprometidos (an NCLR program), Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO), Family Nights, Classroom Parents, Parent Volunteer Groups, and Conversation Groups between parents and administration. The partnership between schools and families are the driving force of student success.
Along with engaged parents come engaged students. According to Henderson & Map (2002), students with involved parents : earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs; are promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits; attend school regularly; have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school; and graduate and go on to postsecondary education.
Recognition of parents’ engagement is critical to having a successful experience. Recognition can be made in numerous ways like parent pictures on a bulletin board, in an assembly, during National Volunteer Week, banquets, on the announcements with their student’s name, t-shirts, and certificates. Parents need to know that their hard work is well received and appreciated.
As a working mom with two school-aged children I must find ways to actively participate in their education. I know that my mom volunteered in my classrooms and it made me feel proud and I want to be able to give that to my children. In reflecting upon my times in their school I feel proud and connected. I am able to engage with other parents, see my child’s face light up when they see me in their classroom, and help their teachers with tasks they may not have been able to complete.
Mr. Larry Parks is a Veteran Elementary Spanish teacher at Cesar Chavez Academy. For the past five years he has seen a direct correlation between student achievement and parent involvement. “When parents come in, I am seeing that they want to know what their child is learning and this makes them feel like they could support them in a more effective way. Parents have told me how happy they are that their child is exposed to the Spanish language.” Mr. Parks. further indicated that the child’s attitude towards learning improves when their parents come in.
Parent engagement is rewarding for everyone involved. I highly encourage every parent to engage in their children’s schools. The one thing I am sure of is you will keep coming back for more!