Parent involvement is such a multi layered issue in our public schools. It isn't caring - ask any parent, I doubt any would say they don't care about their child's education.
I definitely agree with Nancy, that funding PTA would more than likely result in wasted funding. "Shaving the cream off the top" is this old adage - with any new program, you'll typically see the same parents come time and time again, the engaged ones. Those that aren't, exhibit the same behavior. Why is that?
1) Feeling welcome: Many parents may have had poor experiences with schools, especially high schools. There's a lack of trust, there's a lack of welcoming, and parents don't feel they can make a difference. Marion-Sterling has recently opened a Parent Welcoming center and have been proactive in inviting them to stay within the school - that's a start.
2) Don't know how: Many parents lack the skills to be good parents - things that many take for granted - parents reading to kids, parents helping with homework, parents checking up on grades - many parents are trapped in the middle of the cycle, because they did not receive these things. Many are at such a low education level that they're not capable of helping their own children with school work.
3) Don't have time: Struggling schools have a disproportionate amount of single, head of household compositions. The parent is working, caring for their child(ren), with no time for extra activities at the school. Without easier ways to communicate, better reasons to show up, the parents don't see the value in it and would rather rest.
What can be done? I love the thoughts of inter-generational learning. CMSD's Parent University was established last year, the first time schools opened their doors to offer activities within the school district. Interest and enrollment is increasing, especially in the sector of computer literacy, a program I helped established. Through that - parents are taught basic computer skills, how to access and use the school website and the schools internet-based applications, and are assisted with getting a computer and internet at home.
Programs such as this are crucial - if we're expecting the parents to be able to be engaged with their childrens' education, we have to make sure we're not taking their own education and upbringing for granted, and giving them the tools and education they need to be teachers, learners, and organizers themselves.
Posted Jan 18, 2013