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The Dark Side of Parent Involvement


In education, encouraging parents to be involved in their children's schooling is like motherhood and apple pie. Everyone likes it, and who would argue against it?

But a study published last month in the American Journal of Education suggests that parent involvement can have a downside, too.

Researchers Elizabeth McGhee Hassrick of the University of Chicago and Barbara Schneider of Michigan State University spent more than 200 hours observing classrooms and interviewing parents and teachers at an unnamed charter elementary school in a large city. The school's 100 percent African-American enrollment included families from a range of income levels, from working poor to upper middle class.

According to the study, the middle-class parents essentially "surveilled" the teachers in the school. They kept close tabs on the goings-on by volunteering in their children's classrooms during the school day, networking with other parents, and peppering teachers with questions during their free time.

The low-income parents, on the other hand, rarely engaged in such activities. They relied on their children to tell them what went on at school.

The teachers chafed under the scrutiny, but the constant presence of the middle-class parents did persuade educators to open up the proverbial closed-doors of their classrooms. The problem, though, was that the middle-class parents used the information they gathered to advance their own children's education, which further disadvantaged the classmates from poorer families.

That's food for thought.

I don't know whether the scenario that the report lays out is typical, but I have met parents like those the authors describe. And I've not been above buttonholing other parents myself for intelligence on the best teachers and classes available at my local public schools. But where is the line between responsible and over-zealous parent involvement? And is it up to educators to let us know where that line ought to be?


Do you not think that if your organization policed itself regarding school requirements, such as those for Special Ed (including IEPs), NCLB, and prompt parent notification as required, the parents could have a positive influence instead of having to be sure the requirements were enforced?

Because of their lack of physical structure, virtual or online schools may, in fact, promote a leveling of the playing field between social classes as described in this article.

Virtual schools offer students the opportunity to engage in learning at any time and anywhere. Thus, parents who may not be able to be physically present during traditional school hours have the opportunity to take part in their student's learning with an online or virtual school course.

In response to "The Dark Side of Parent Involvement." First, it is a blessing to have parental involvement in any form. Second, administration and teachers can establish the parameters/tone for parental involvement. Areas covered could be classroom protocol (student/teacher interaction during class instruction, comments when appropriate, teacher question/answer period during lunch/planning, etc). My third comment is that no parent, regardless of socioeconomic level, should be blamed for taking or seeking additional information that would ensure the academic success of their child. Currently working in an urban school setting it is about getting to those unengaged parents, both low-income and middle class, the importance of their involvement. I know that all things being equal (child is healthy with no physical or mental challenges)that attentiveness, application of self, and engaged parents proves both academic achievement and success to all regardless of income.

I have been a dedicated parent volunteer in my children's schools since they started Kindergarten. I have almost always asked the teachers what they would like me to do and followed through to the best of my ability. When my daughter badly needed above grade level instruction, I worked with a group of 4th graders including my daughter to read and discuss the Odyssey in the fall and Shakespeare's MacBeth in the spring. The following year, I taught Algebra to seven 5th graders including her.

Some of the students I have worked with and continue to work with ranged from those with no nurturing parent to those with very nurturing parents and from families ranging from those with no money to those with too much money.

Expecting a single teacher to fully meet the needs of all 20 to 40 students is unrealistic. Parents who are able to teach and willing to work with the teacher can help ALL students to achieve their potential. Even the best teachers my children have had couldn't reach ALL students. A different adult with a different outlook and teaching style can reach more students.

The bottom line is that I have sought to help students and improve achievement for many students, always working under the direction of at least my child's teacher.

I don't mind the parental involvement as long as it does not interfere with the child's achievement. The school Im working now, has a Dual language component to it. The majority of the parents that are involved are the middle class working parents, CIA, reporters, doctors, etc. These parents, at least this year, have their children in a dual language program and yet, do not support their children's learning a second and when their children get a "B" on their subjects, they complain stating that their child are "A" average. They want to run the classrooms, they tell teachers what to do and how to run the classrooms. It has become a nightmare for teachers in this program. Such is that many teachers have left the program and asked to be transferred to a regular classroom. They do not want the harassment. A teacher like myself is coming to a "wits end" and planning to move out of this program. Is this really happening in other schools? I think that there is a miscommunication about parental involvement. Many years ago, parents were not involved in schools, and yet the children did very well. I am an advocate for parental involvement as long as they do not interfere with the child's learning and the teacher, the one authority in the classroom. I have noticed the disrespect many teachers have received from these parents. A line has to be drawn somewhere. We do not go to their jobs and tell them how to run their jobs, why is it that they think they can do it to us?

I am extremely concerned about letting parent volunteers be involved in the actual teaching of the children. What training do they have that would enable them to teach writing, algebra, and so on? Are there any standards that must be followed?

I think parental involvement in the wealthy, suburban public schools has gone WAY too far. Volunteering in the library or helping on field trips is one thing. Taking on some of the teaching duties is another.

When I went to school in the 70s and 80s, my parents were not involved in the classroom. I graduated with honors. Why can't we let our kids be kids, and let their teachers do their jobs?

Some teachers resent parent involvement. As a matter of fact, they are defensive the very first time a parent ask about their child. They only will call a parent if the child is disrupting the class. Otherwise, as long as the child seats passively without participating, the teachers are just fine. After all, they are only require to teach the state's bare minimun. Furthermore, they love to blame the parents for students failure. The truth is that students failure is a direct consequence of poor teaching. I used to simpathise with teacher. Now, I believe I hate them for being such a hipocrites. They are only there for one thing and that is their paychecks and the benefits and to bully students because they would never survive in a real professional environment. I can count the number of teachers that are truly professional in their field in my left hand. And guess what I have fingers left over after counting them. In addition to that, I also believe that an undisclose amount of teachers these days are nothing but closet criminals waiting to strike. Poor kids and teenagers indeed! What the heck is wrong with a school that allow their teachers to give the "class clown" award. What kid deserve this? Should we give them the sick, snot, and handicapp kid award too. Please don't let me start with the perfect attendance award. Jeez whiz! School now days are about obedience and not learning. Simple as that. Why else would a kid pass from one grade to another having 4 F's in his/her main subjects.

The middle class is right to do just that. Don't back down. If they don't like it, then they need to let someone else do the job.

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