June 18, 2018
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Parent involvement key to education success

By virginia mott

The Legislature is considering a bill that would strengthen the connection between Maine parents and schools. This bill is very timely.

Every year, Parent Teacher Associations nationwide celebrate Take Your Family to School Week, this year February 13 through 17, to honor and draw attention to the value of parents and schools working together to ensure the best possible education for our children. While it’s good to celebrate this important partnership, parents and schools need to strengthen their partnership every day. LD 1770, An Act to Improve Parent Involvement in Education, extends an opportunity to do so.

Now is an important time for us to recognize the power of parent engagement in education. We all recognize that how we educate our children must improve, and many changes are being proposed. Parents must be key participants. If any other change is to be fully successful, it will need parents as knowledgeable supporters both as informed taxpayers and as important participants in the education system. Perhaps the single most important and potentially productive Maine education bill right now is LD 1770.

LD 1770 requires each school board to work together with parents, teachers and administrators to develop a plan to increase parental involvement and knowledge about their children’s schools. The plan will explain how important pieces of information about that school will be made available to parents — information such as curriculum content, policies related to school attendance, and how parents may review instructional material.

The policy will also include procedures for improving cooperation among parents, teachers and administrators in areas that are known to increase student achievement; procedures for promoting communication between schools and parents; ways to enable parents to be more actively engaged in their children’s education; and programs to support involvement by interested parents who want to participate in school board decision-making and as members of advisory councils. In other words, school communities will actively make plans to increase participation of students’ primary educators: parents.

Research shows that making involvement in education more possible for parents — increasing parents’ access to information and including them in decision-making — is a cost-effective way to increase student achievement. The result of one research project shows “schools would have to spend $1,000 more per pupil to reap the same gains in student achievement that an involved parent brings.” That’s a significant amount of money.

It will take an investment of time to create the plan, review it annually and post it on schools’ and the Department of Education’s websites, but clearly there’s an excellent return on the investment.

Other research shows there is a positive measurable impact of engaged, informed parents on students’ academic achievement. As schools work to meet goals for annual yearly progress, as current law demands, isn’t it sensible to provide a mechanism to increase academic achievement through greater inclusion of parents?

Individual schools and teachers have significant effects on students’ education, but children are only in school approximately 25 percent of their waking hours throughout the year, making it essential that parents are part of the team as they contribute to their children’s education the remaining 75 percent of the children’s time.

No parent will be required to take part: the intent is to enable participation of those who want to be involved. Parents need to know how they can be involved most productively and schools need to become more thoughtful and positive about engaging parents. The policy proposed by this bill will bring people together to design a plan that supports parents’ opportunities to be informed and, in their own ways, be members of their children’s educational team. This will help ensure that our children, from early education through graduation, get the best possible education — one of the most important things we can give our children and our future.

Let’s celebrate Take Your Family to School Week along with the PTA, and let’s do that by supporting LD 1770 to make sure that parents are more informed and involved partners in education and have avenues of engagement at every school, every day.

Virginia Mott of Lakeville is president of the Maine Parent Teacher Association.

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