Meanwhile, educators continue to expect parents to be involved in the educational process. Well meaning teachers and school leaders provide lots of activities to get the parents into the schools, believing this is somehow the key to success. I have personally watched many of my colleagues telling parents what they should be working on at home with their children. Many parents believe that if the child gets things wrong on homework, it will somehow be a reflection on their parenting skills. This leads them to be much too involved in the homework process, and negates most of the benefit the child would have gained by doing the work independently. All of this has stemmed from ongoing belief that parental involvement is a predictor of school success. Unfortunately, this belief is erroneous. From some recent research by Keith Robinson and Angela Harris of the University of Texas and Duke respectively, we learn there are only a few things that parents do that truly result in increased achievement. These included having educational aspirations for their children, talking to their children about what is happening in school, and requesting a particular teacher.
After watching kids and their parents in and around schools for nearly three decades, I would like to add to the list of things parents can do to help their kids achieve. These observations are by no means the result of empirical research, so take them as my experience and nothing more.
1. Have a predictable, structured schedule in the home. This should include routines for what happens after school through bedtime, along with what happens each morning when you get ready for school.
2. Prepare everything that needs to go to school the night before and place everything by the door where you leave each morning.
3. Feed your children actual meals of good, nutritious food. This means the kids should not arrive at school struggling to chomp down a breakfast burrito while hurrying to class. Be sure your child has lunch, or the money to purchase a school meal. It also means sitting down to dinner together as much as possible - and talking about events of the day (see findings from the Robinson/Harris research).
4. Be sure your child gets to school with plenty of time to transition into the day. This means you may have to get up just a little bit earlier.
5. If you drop your child off in the carpool lane, be sure s/he is ready to jump out quickly. If your child doesn't have things organized before getting into the car, there will be trouble getting out of the car. In my experience, this difficulty of getting out of the car and into the building, is almost always a predictor of deeper issues. When I was supervising the carpool line, I called it the 5 second rule. Any kid who took more than 5 seconds to get out of the car, was a kid who had achievement issues.
6. Be sure your child can leave school on time, or at the appropriate time after all after-school activities are completed. Don't let your kid be the last one picked up.
So, in a nutshell, parents should feed their children, ensure a daily routine, talk to their children, and get them in and out of school on time. Teachers should teach children, help them understand their homework, and supervise the learning process in school-based academics. Schools, families and communities should work together to ensure that all children have high educational aspirations (more to come on this topic). All children would benefit from a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each group. Respecting appropriate roles and expecting everyone to play only their part would go a long way toward improving our educational system.