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 Article of Interest - Parent Involvement

Dearborn Launches State-run Program

Parents Play a Vital Role in Kids' Grades.
by Amy Hoover / The Detroit News / September 9, 2002
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Trolley rides, face painting, bagels and magic shows sound like something from a community festival. Instead, they are all part of efforts to increase parental involvement in schools.


Brad Sovoda, 10, welcomes the efforts, dubbed the First Day of School Program.


He entered Nowlin Elementary School in Dearborn as a participant in the program, a Michigan Department of Education initiative that was offered to principals statewide to encourage parental involvement.


Along with the kid-friendly offerings, Brad also got to hear a performance from students at Edsel Ford High School. Brad -- like nearly all of the students who started class Aug. 26 at Nowlin -- was accompanied by at least one parent.


"It's a lot of fun, and a lot better than last year," Brad said of his first day of class.


Principal Ron Bukowski got the community involved to help make opening day memorable. "We wanted the parents and students to feel welcome on the first day of school," Bukowski said. "When parents support their children in school, it reflects in their grades."


State Board of Education President Kathleen N. Straus said parental interest pays academic dividends. "Research conclusively shows when parents are involved in their children's education, they do better in school and the school does better," she said.


The U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics released a study in 2001 detailing the importance of the parent-student connection.


The study centered on grades 1 through 12 and students' parents, including stepparents and guardians.
Results suggest that fathers' involvement is important to student achievement, which is defined as students getting mostly A's and not repeating a grade.


Mothers' involvement is important for getting good grades overall, and for reducing the likelihood of suspension or expulsion.


Findings also show that although stepparents tend to be less involved than biological parents in their children's schools, their involvement can be more effective.


Considering that nearly half the nation's students in grades 1-12 have nontraditional family arrangements, this information is vital for their success.


Forty-eight percent of students living in mother-only families and 46 percent living in father-only families had parents who were highly involved in their schools.


While there are many ways parents can become involved with their children's education, some are more popular. Most parents chose to attend school meetings or parent-teacher conferences.


The least common form of involvement is volunteering at school. Helping with homework is an effective role, but most parents admit they do so only once or twice a week.


State officials said that makes the First Day of School Program important.


"We want to use this opportunity to celebrate the outstanding work our public schools do at fostering increasing parental involvement-- and to encourage further efforts in this vital area, said state Superintendent Tom Watkins.


Parents sometimes want to get involved, but don't know how to do so. Wally Clem, president of the Nowlin Parent Teacher Association, said becoming involved is easy and cuts across all economic and cultural classes.


He recommends that parents start by getting to know teachers. "Become involved in any way you can -- whether it's after school or nighttime activities," Clem said. "It's time, not money that leads to good grades and behavior."


Statistics back him up. According to the Michigan Department of Education, a student was twice as likely to do well in school if his or her parents were involved than if the family was well-off economically but the parents did not become involved.


The Michigan Department of Education suggests a daily routine, monitoring diversions such as watching TV, showing an interest in reading and writing, expressing high but realistic expectations for achievement and encouraging classroom progress.


Nowlin Elementary kindergarten teacher Kellie Bugajski said it takes more than just a teacher or parent to get a child through school.


"We are a community and we need to work together to help our children succeed," she said.
 

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