A common topic in the discussion of educational reform is the issue of parent involvement. Traditionalists cite a past where parents taught their children the basics and the tenets of common sense while progressives tout the need for a more holistic educational environment that blends home and school. Both agree that a major issue in current schools is a mindset that teachers should shoulder the majority of the burden of child rearing from ages 4 to 18.

One of the core values of the new education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act, is fostering that kind of integration. Under ESSA, at least one percent of Title I funding received by schools is to be earmarked for activities to involve parents in schools, like Parent-Teacher councils and workshops for parents, with a specific focus on low-income families, where parent involvement is often desperately low due to lack of time or education.

Along with these budget goals, Frances Frost, the Family Ambassador for the U.S. Department of Education has extended a statement of advice for families. Her most important point is that families need to make themselves familiar with the statutes of ESSA and schools should offer education in that.

“Establish positive relationships with school administrations and teachers,” Frost emphasizes. A list of tips for establishing that rapport includes making a good first impression by reaching out early in the school year, establishing and following a plan of contact (Email once a month? Quarterly calls?), and helping to plan parent events that fit your schedule.

It’s important to be as involved as life allows. If parents can’t physically attend events, they can integrate by engaging those who make decisions about local education. Use the internet and local news to stay current on issues effecting your schools, and address concerns with letters and phone calls to those who manage those issues ensures that you keep your hand on the pulse of your child’s education.

Parent involvement in education is crucial not just to their children’s success, but the success of schools overall.

Photo CC-BY-NC Innovation School