Parenting and school reform


Steven A. Melnick, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Chair, Education Department

OpEd: Parenting and school reform

Fair or not, you can’t help hearing that our schools are failing. The outrage is everywhere and the blame is being placed squarely on teachers, administrators and what is perceived to be a dysfunctional system. While teachers and administrators bear the brunt of that criticism, parents seemingly have no role or responsibility and remain unscathed in those contentious debates. But parents set expectations, provide support at home and have a responsibility to assure their children are at school on time and ready to learn. How can we continue the discourse on improving our nation’s schools without talking about the role of parents?

There is no question many of our nation’s schools are troubled, particularly in rural and urban areas. Consider that the Baltimore Education Research Consortium (February 2011) identified four predictors at grade six of future dropouts: chronic absence, failing grades, over age for grade and suspension from school for three or more days. They report the class of 2007 had a chronic absence rate of 32.4% ... nearly 1/3 of all students missed at least 20 days of school. Although that rate has fallen since 2007, we’re talking about kids in grade six — 12-year-olds. Where exactly are 12-year-olds if they aren’t in school? In other cities, some high schools report daily absentee rates of 30% or higher for students in grades 9 through 12. What role do the parents play in assuring that children are in school and ready to learn?

Increasingly, parents report less free time for parenting. At the same time, there are many interactions parents can easily have with their child(ren), setting the stage for student success in school and life: setting high expectations, involvement in extra-curricular after-school activities, being a role model by reading to/with their child(ren) regularly, providing and using technology, helping with homework, eating meals together and perhaps most importantly, simply talking with their child(ren) on a regular basis and providing rules and discipline.

Teachers and administrators are certainly influential in a child’s education and can provide high-quality curriculum and instruction along with a positive learning environment. However, until parents share responsibility equally with teachers and administrators, true school reform is destined to languish.

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