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
Brad Sovoda, 10, welcomes the efforts, dubbed the First Day of
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
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
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
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
"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
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
Nowlin Elementary kindergarten teacher Kellie Bugajski said it
takes more than just a teacher or parent to get a child
"We are a community and we need to work together to help our
children succeed," she said.