Serious parental involvement in schools serves communities well and improves students’ academic performance, speakers and attendees at a forum said Saturday.
Bake sales and parent-teacher conferences no longer suffice as the vehicles for parent participation, said Willie Williams, who organized the event. Communities and schools increasingly are recognizing the importance of giving parents a say in how schools function.
The conference, called the Parent Engagement Forum 2011, took place at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Williams said more than 100 people attended over the course of the daylong event.
Participants in various sessions at the forum suggested that the degree to which parents act as real decision-makers depends on the school.
One Omaha mother who declined to give her name said administrators at her child’s school “don’t want to change” and generally reject parents’ suggestions.
“Partnerships require that two people approach each other,” said Lisa St. Clair, a University of Nebraska Medical Center researcher who oversees a $2.7 million grant to develop partnerships in Nebraska schools.
St. Clair said parents also need to make it clear that they’re interested in teamwork by saying, “I’m here to serve. I’m here to help.”
The federal grant, which runs out this year, has funded the Nebraska Parental Information and Resource Centers.
Among its successes, St. Clair said, is Belvedere Elementary School’s parent-resource room, where parents can obtain books to read with their children, and use a computer to look up their children’s grades and work on resumes.
Another involved an evening English instruction program at Everett Elementary School in Lincoln. At that school, parents and others decided some mothers and fathers for whom English wasn’t their native tongue should have an opportunity at the school to learn the language.
St. Clair said such programs have helped students improve their academic performance. The schools can’t do it alone, she said, nor can parents.
Williams’ Coalition of Minority Parents and the U.S. Department of Education put on the forum.
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