Exploring Educational Excellence and Parent Involvement

The education of our children is a community responsibility, but the key to success starts with the parents. The bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act reinforces the role of parents and requires that schools provide them with the information they need to be better involved in their children’s education. So let’s look at Exploring Educational Excellence and Parent Involvement.

As many are preparing for back to school, parents should do their homework to ensure their children receive all the services available to them. That homework should start with the receipt and study of the Adequate Yearly Progress Report. No later than the first day of school, every school is required to provide parents with an Adequate Yearly Progress Report.

This report tells parents and the community how students in the school performed on standardized reading and math tests the previous school year. The report also includes attendance numbers and provides information about how many students took the test. Schools must inform parents if their child is not being taught by a “highly qualified” teacher. Parents should study the report and ask questions of the principal, classroom teacher or school district administrators if they don’t understand the information.

Parents first need to review the Reading and Mathematics Performance section of the report. The report is broken down by ethnic and racial groups that reflect passing rates for each group and the campus as a whole. While the numbers may be confusing and intimidating to some, parents can simplify the report by focusing on the section indicating the yearly change.

First, identify your ethnic or racial group. Are Hispanics doing better than the year before in reading? Did a higher or lower percentage of White or African-American students pass the math test? If there is an improvement, is it what you had hoped for? How did your group do in comparison to the total campus population?

If you are not happy with the increase or decrease in student performance of your group or the campus as a whole, you should make an appointment to talk to the school principal. Also, in special education, parent involvement plays a crucial role. Parents need to ask questions if things in the educational process are not totally clear. In case a parent should disagree with anything, s/he should approach a teacher os a principal right away to find a resolution. Parents should have regular involvement in their child’s education and discuss progress or troubleshoot any difficulties.

Ask how administrators and teachers plan to increase test scores this year and what you can do to help your child improve. You may also consider asking if your child is eligible for supplemental services, such as free tutoring after school or during the school day. It may surprise you to learn that just 15 minutes in the evening reading with your child will greatly improve test scores.

The second area you need to look at is attendance. Simply put, if your child is not in school, she cannot learn. It does the teacher no good to teach to an empty desk. If your child is ill and cannot make it to school, you should contact the school and see if you can pick up material that he or she can work on at home to help your child to stay caught up.

Also, remember to schedule appointments on days off and after school. Pulling a child out of school during the day may be more convenient for you, but very disruptive to learning. If you cannot schedule appointments around the school day, be sure to ask the teacher a few days ahead of time to prepare a packet you can do with your child at home. Be aware, though, that contemporary communications online tools also bring lots of challenges in the online environment for your child. By planning ahead and maximizing your child’s time in school, you can minimize downtime, be well on the road to academic excellence, while keeping your child safe from unwanted online infringes.

The third task for parents is to learn about their child’s classroom teacher and specialty teachers. Is the teacher “highly qualified” in the area he or she is teaching? While a wonderful teacher may not be “highly qualified” based on state standards, parents should learn about the teachers’ strengths and weaknesses and teaching philosophy.

Regardless of the teacher’s qualifications, if you see your child is not catching on to new material, take time to talk to the teacher and see how you can work together to help your child.  Finally, be familiar with the school’s expectations, policies, and procedures. By encouraging academic excellence and teacher respect, you will not only be teaching your child values for a lifetime, you also will be helping him or her to succeed academically.