Parent Engagement is Key to Student Success

Feature | By Veronica V. Sopher –

Many of us have had that gut-wrenching feeling as we proudly walk up to our child’s school and then realize that our sweet offspring are walking fast ahead of us – and do not share our excitement that we are there alongside them. Then, it gets worse. To avoid the appearance that they even know who we are, they spot a friend across the courtyard and take off. “Wait! What? You don’t want me holding your hand and walking next to you as we walk into your school?”

If you have not experienced this, you are one of the lucky ones. I hope you never do, but for many of us, it is a harsh reality of parenthood. However, there is good news! There is plenty of research that outlines why you should not let these types of rejection from your child get in the way of walking into their school and staying engaged. Parent involvement is an essential factor in your child’s education process.   

We have all read the pamphlets and flyers that share how important it is to join your child’s school PTO/PTA or booster club, but research shows that parent involvement has more of a correlation to educational outcomes, including attendance and academic performance, than previously reported. This goes beyond donating your time for a carnival. It is about showing your child and their friends that there is a caring adult who wants to support their school.

According to an article in The Journal for Educational Research, parent involvement in their child’s school is directly related to students being less likely to become involved in substance abuse, violence and other problem behaviors, including those associated with HIV and STD risk. Researchers also cite parent engagement as a key to addressing dropout risks and motivating higher education aspirators. This was found to be true for students at both the elementary and secondary level, regardless of the parent’s education, family income or background.

So if and when your child runs the other way when they see you coming to volunteer at a school function, know that you are doing the right thing. You are staying connected to where they spend a vast majority of their time. Being at school allows you to become familiar with the campus administrators, the teachers, the janitors and cafeteria staff. In essence, you are joining the circle of adults on a school campus, and you are adding to the campus culture that supports your child and their friends.

Tips to Help You Get Connected

Do not worry if you are not able to spend hours at school. Not everyone can, and that is okay. You can still stay connected via social media by sharing posts from your child’s school, by making comments on the campus’ tweets and by sharing important campus announcements and celebrations. Support and get involved in any way you can. There is no perfect formula for parent involvement.

Volunteering and engagement do not have to look the same for every family, and it changes as your student gets older or if your work situation changes. You would be surprised at how many high school seniors love when their parents show up to events, even if they insist on driving themselves. When your child sees you engaged in their education, your actions show them that they are loved and supported. It proves to them that they have cheerleaders on their side rooting for them and they know they have a support system.

We want our young people to walk tall and go out into the world ready to take on challenges and learn and grow into strong, caring citizens. Strong parent engagement adds to a child’s success, and you can help not only your child but others as well. Get involved and find ways to volunteer your time and your talents.  Also, if you no longer have students in your home, consider visiting a neighboring school and offering a hand. Schools can never have too many caring adults.

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”
                                                                  – Booker T. Washington

4 Tips on How to Get Involved

1. Traditional PTO/PTA and Booster Clubs: Visit your campus website and get connected. Be sure to join the mailing lists. Many parent organizations offer discounts or scholarships for membership if your family needs assistance.

2. Social Media: Most schools have social media channels. Be sure to follow them and retweet and share essential posts. You want to be an ambassador for your school and share the good news that builds trust and confidence with the school. Strong community support can make a huge difference for the campus culture.

3. Volunteer/Mentor: There are always volunteer opportunities at school but also consider volunteering or mentoring at another campus. Not every school has a large parent volunteer base, and often your time as a mentor at another school could significantly impact another child and their educational path. Opportunities like these are found on your district’s website, or you can call your district directly, or ask your employer if they have a program set up with schools near your workplace.

4. Career Day: You would be surprised at the demand for presenters for career day programs. Be sure to sign up when you see a request for presenters. If presenting is not your thing, pass along the invitation to anyone else in your circle of friends and colleagues. Students need to see what opportunities are out there and hear from those professionals directly.