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Involving Parents in Children's Education

No one doubts the importance of involving parents in their children's education. The debate is about the best way to do so.  Although it's too soon to draw conclusions, a new program called Academic Parent Teacher Teams is promising ("Program aims to get parents on their children's academic team," Los Angeles Times, Nov. 25).

Started in 2009 by WestEd, a San Francisco education research group, the strategy builds on the traditional parent-teacher conference by  providing parents with skills to help their children learn at home.  Parents meet with teachers every 60 days to review their progress in implementing goals. The program is used at 158 public schools in 14 states and in the District of Columbia.

I hope it expands, but at the same time I urge realistic expectations. That's because it's easy to forget that poor families, particularly those newly arrived in this country, too often don't know how to reinforce learning.  It's certainly not a question of not wanting to. It's that learning is a partnership between school, home and community.  The more help that schools get, the better the outcomes they can produce.

But even the most motivated parents from impoverished backgrounds are overwhelmed by responsibilities that are absent from the lives of other parents. For example, when both parents have to work to bring in much needed income, how likely is it that they have the time and energy to follow through on their educational duties with their children? I trust that Academic Parent Teacher Teams will address this reality.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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