Every year since 2005, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has proclaimed October to be Parent Visitation Month. A helpful guide is published by the ALSDE to assist schools and districts with planning special events for parents and families at school. The idea behind it is to encourage schools and school districts to actively engage parents and families in what’s happening in their child’s educational world. At school. So what is your school hosting for Parent Visitation Month?
A Little Background on the Effort
I have been following along with state efforts since the April 2003 Resolution where the State Board of Education adopted a resolution proclaiming Parent Involvement to be an essential part of a child’s education.
Here is the resolution, now 10 years old:
WHEREAS, it is the goal of the State Board of Education to “Realize Every Alabama Child’s Hopes” through the belief that higher standards mean a brighter future, and that the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education are working hard to develop policies and implement plans to ensure that all Alabama school students are provided with adequate opportunities to learn; and
WHEREAS, findings from over thirty years of research cite:
When parents are involved in their students’ education, those students have higher grades and test scores, better attendance, and complete homework more consistently regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnic/racial background, or the parents’ education level.
Different types of parent/family involvement produce different gains. To have long-lasting gains for students, parent involvement activities must be well-planned, inclusive, and comprehensive.
WHEREAS, the intent of this policy is to establish a course of action that will support the development, implementation, and continuing evaluation of a parent involvement policy and program in every school, which will involve parents at all grade levels in a diversity of roles; and
WHEREAS, in order to provide the greatest benefit for the student, the parent, the school, and the community, parent involvement programs should be comprehensive and coordinated to include, but not be limited to, the following components of successful parent involvement programs:
1. Communication between home and school is regular, two-way, and meaningful.
2. Responsible parenting is promoted and supported.
3. Parents play an integral role in assisting student learning.
4. Schools are open and inviting to parents and families and actively seek parental support and assistance for school programs.
5. Parents are full partners in the decisions that affect students and families.
6. Collaboration with the community provides opportunities to strengthen school programs, family practices, and student learning. (emphasis added)
WHEREAS, the State Board of Education supports professional development opportunities for staff members to enhance understanding of effective parent involvement methods and also recognizes the importance of administrative leadership in establishing expectations and creating a climate conducive to parent participation; and
WHEREAS, in addition to programs at the local school, the State Board of Education supports the development, implementation, and regular evaluation of programs to involve parents in the decisions and practices of the local school districts based on, but not limited to, the components of successful parent involvement programs listed above; and
WHEREAS, the State Board of Education recognizes that engaging parents is essential to improved student achievement:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the State Board of Education recognizes that engaging parents is essential to improved student achievement; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the State Board of Education fosters and supports active parent involvement at the state, district, and local school level with the statewide adoption of this Parent Involvement Resolution; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the State Superintendent of Education will develop additional policy proposals to present to the State Board of Education regarding specific plans to increase parent involvement in the education of Alabama’s public school students.
Implementation of the Resolution Has Been a Bit Sketchy
That is a sound resolution, don’t you think? However, as with any good policy or resolution, the proof is in the implementation. No doubt this resolution was passed in part due to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements for Title I schools to create parent involvement policies and include parents as part of those efforts. Federal funds are used for Title I programs, thus the mandate. But what about overall efforts to improve parent engagement in their child’s education?
We have had more than ten years to implement this resolution.
Here in Alabama, in most places, it’s fair to say that Parent Involvement is given a lot of lip service, but is not actively promoted by school districts outside of a few obligatory “parent nights” or “parent fairs”.
Even then, parent events are usually tied to Title I programs, where evidence is demanded of events and programs for parents of children served by Title I programs, though compliance does seem to be an issue even in Title I schools.
In the end, you can’t mandate sincerity. You can’t mandate genuineness. You can’t mandate belief systems.
If school leaders and teachers don’t believe in reaching out to parents to actively involve them in what’s happening at school, chances are it won’t happen. Researchers have proven that the invitation to be involved must come from the school. Schools must be open and welcoming to parents. Even motivated parents are hesitant if school officials don’t actively create opportunities for parents and families to engage in their child’s education at school. (Begin on page 6 of this document.)
What Is Your School Hosting for Parent Visitation Month?
If you find that your school or district is not doing much of anything special this year, why not take the time to help with planning events for next year? Not all schools have active PTOs or PTAs, and if you can pull together a group of interested parents to plan some events, you might be able to convince your school officials to go along. And hey, it’s only October 8. Maybe there’s still time to pull something together for this year.
See the image for suggestions for activities from the ALSDE.
And for all of us parents out here, here’s a handy quiz from Project Appleseed to determine how involved we are with our child’s education and how well we support our child’s learning.
Involvement or Engagement?
One quick note as we promote the traditionally-named “parent involvement”. Engagement is a more appropriate goal, as it necessarily requires two-way involvement. Check out pages 3 and 4 of February’s Alabama Public Relations in Our Schools (PROS) for a short article I wrote on the difference in the two terms. Let’s move toward using “engagement” in place of “involvement”.
After all, this education thing must be a partnership between schools and families if we’re going to be successful.
Please drop me a line (or post in the Facebook comments below) sharing what events your school is hosting for parents this month. Sharing ideas is a great way to inspire others.