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Back to School Tips for Parents


Q. I'm ready to turn over a new leaf and get more involved in my children's schools. One is in grade school and one is in middle school. How can I be more effective this year?


1. Join the parents' group and promise to give just three hours. If you like it, you can give much, much more time. But at least do the bare minimum, and your child will be better off for it. Organized parent groups are effective in getting attention from educators and the community, and with a group, parents are much less likely to be ignored or minimized if they have concerns. An organized group helps spread the work out among several people, and helps everybody be better informed, too.


2. Research the issues. School officials and district PR should not be your only source of data. Use the Internet. Read. Network. Find out what's going on in other schools and states.


3. Ask questions. There's too much "groupthink" in school settings. An informed, caring, observant parent can be a breath of fresh air.


4. Find out what percentage of the student body is reading below grade level. If it's more than 10% or 15%, your school is using the wrong reading instruction. Change it, and you'll solve lots of problems.


5. Dump whole math. Get the math curriculum changed to a traditional one such as Saxon. This may take years, but do it.


6. Get a group together to study the books selected for your children to read for English. Maybe they're OK. Probably, not. Make your group's objections known, with alternative suggestions.


7. Follow the money. Study the district's annual financial reports and explain them to others. Keep a sharp eye on nonclassroom expenses. Report waste and fraud.


8. Assert parental rights. Insist on respect. Opt out your child from objectionable activities.


9. Inform your community. Align your parents' group with other civic groups. Befriend your local education reporters. Feed the media with letters to the editor and story tips.


10. Vote, be active and improve schools. Volunteer time and talents on a classroom, schoolwide or districtwide basis; attend all or at least most of your child's activities; be clear on candidates' stands on issues, and attend at least one school board meeting per year.


Homework: Book, Helping Your Child Succeed in Public School by Cheri Fuller.


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 04 2008


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