3 January 2012 11:43 AM

Parents Make the Difference

by Dr. Rick

I’ve just read two reports that confirm what parents and teachers have long known – and what the Dr. Rick Blog has long advocated.  The more parents are involved in their kids’ learning, the better the kids do.  Not at all surprising, but good to have recognized.  Again.


The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science, the subjects most necessary for college success.  American teens have not been covering themselves with glory lately.  To find out why, PISA interviewed the parents of 5,000 students.  How did they raise their kids?  How did that affect their kids’ scores?


Not surprisingly, the main findings of these interviews reflect what common sense tells us, what the Dr. Rick Blog has advocated repeatedly, and what teachers attest to daily.  Parents who read to and with their kids on a regular basis, who show an active interest in their kids’ learning, and who talk regularly with their kids about school and other subjects are giving their kids a real and powerful leg up in school and life.


Another study, from the Center for Public Education, focused on partnerships between parents and schools.  The findings?  This sentence says it best: “Programs and interventions that engage families in supporting their children’s learning at home are linked to higher student achievement.”


Here’s a brief summary of the take-aways of the two studies, with some of my own comments from past blog posts.


  1. Read with your kids.  The earlier the better.  The 15-year-olds who came from a background of reading from their earliest years had a significant performance advantage over kids who didn’t.  Socioeconomic background didn’t play a role.  Reading did.  Read to them.  Let them read to you.
  2. Show an interest.  Talking with your kids about school every day, showing a genuine and active interest, and being consistent with it are things every parent can do.  Kids love it when we’re involved, even when they roll their eyes and try to give monosyllabic responses.  They know we have their back, we’re supporting them, and we’ll be there for them.
  3. Talk with your kids.  Simply talk. Talk about the day, about friends, about lunch, recess, classes, and teachers.  Talk about sports, family history, local heroes, books, movies, music.   Talk about the school play, the band concert, the soccer team.  Build strong verbal, conversational, social skills.
  4. Stay involved with homework.  Here’s how. Make sure there’s a routine set up for homework and study.  Know the important due-dates for book reports, science fair projects, and social studies essays.  Keep the kids on track by breaking down big projects into smaller ones.
  5. Insist on good teachers.  Nothing beats a good teacher in every classroom, but even the best teachers need support from parents.  They can’t do it alone.
  6. Support school and community efforts to involve more parents.  Most schools have programs that reach out to parents.  I’ve seen parents’ book clubs discussing how to make the most of home study.  I’ve seen teachers create parent/child work packets that can go home with kids and encourage parents’ involvement.  Parents want to help.  If they don’t know how, schools can show them the way.
  7. Have high expectations about attendance.  Attendance matters. Can’t keep up if you’re not in class.  Can’t participate if you’re not in class.  Can’t learn from peers, can’t ask questions, or can’t actively engage if you’re not in class.
  8. Have high expectations about school behavior.  Learning is so much simpler if everyone plays by the rules.  Make sure your kids’ classroom behavior is appropriate for maximum learning.
  9. Share your goals with your kid’s teachers.  Teachers like knowing what families’ academic goals. As a teacher, it helps me to know that you’re working with your child to improve her reading comprehension, say, or her punctuation skills. Now I can work with her.
  10. Communicate regularly with teachers.  Go to meetings when you can, email, keep up with teachers’ pages on the school website.  When kids see that we adults are working together to assure their success, they know we’re serious.

Reports like these two are important for lots of reasons – academic, social, pedagogical – but they’re most powerful when they confirm our parental and teaching instincts.  Parental involvement matters.  





1/16/2012 8:26:36 AM

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