Parents need help, not shame, in school involvement

WILL FRIEDMAN, PH.D. and Carolin Hagelskamp, Ph.D.

Reprinted from Chicago Tribune, on June 18, 2013

The Tribune's editorial board was right to note the importance of parent involvement in education, but it missed the mark by oversimplifying the issue ("Parents have to be involved in their kids education," Editorials, June 13).

Initiatives to boost parent involvement will fall short if education leaders do not recognize a key fact: It's not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Parents have different priorities and needs - similar to students. Efforts to support their involvement must take this basic truth into account in order to be effective.

It will require much more than simply sending home report cards and publishing data. Public Agenda, a nonprofit researching public policy, found that 19 percent of parents don't feel ready or able to commit more time to their children's education. At the same time, these parents are concerned for their kids' learning and looking for guidance on how to help them succeed.

Instead of calling parents neglectful when they aren't present in school, leaders should focus on more constructive solutions. Put aside assumptions, examine parents' needs and provide flexible approaches to encourage involvement.

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