Parental Involvement Is as Easy as PIE!
A special program in Phoenix, Arizona, makes parents true partners in their children's education. "Parent involvement will probably make more difference than anything else we could ever do to help our children learn," says Bonnie McReynolds, the teacher behind the program. Most schools live by a few simple tenets. Those basic principles usually include references to a strong curriculum, a caring atmosphere, and parental involvement. While most teachers work hard to develop and maintain solid programs in which kids come first, they're at a loss when it comes to figuring out where to begin when it comes to getting parents involved.
Not Bonnie McReynolds.
McReynolds has earned her Masters degree in parental involvement, figuratively speaking.
McReynolds' "PIE program" is an acronym for "Partners in Education," though it could stand for Parental Involvement in Education too. For that's what it is. Parents as partners.
"I've always felt that parental involvement was the answer to many of the problems facing teachers and students," says McReynolds, a fifth-grade teacher at Westwind Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona. "I'm talking about problems of academics and social problems, such as discipline or tardiness."
And McReynolds' program is a success. The statistics (academic and social) are just part of the proof. Parents are pleased with the results too. They feel more involved with their children's education and more connected with the school.
"The program has carried over to our home too," said one parent. "We worked together as a team. I've never had such a great relationship with my son."
THE RESEARCH IS THERE!In 1994, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley announced the formation of a nationwide partnership to "promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation." Riley based his statement on 30 years of research.
"Although I haven't been teaching that long," McReynolds says, "I always have known that the family was a critical link. Parental involvement must be a focus in the classroom if we are to be able to achieve high academic standards and create productive citizens."
And the research supports McReynolds' point of view:
A 1992 study (Barton and Corey) showed that controllable factors -- such as absenteeism and tardiness, the amount of TV watched, and the kinds of learning activities that are offered at home -- make a huge difference in the average student's achievements. Reading achievement is more dependent on learning activities in the home than is math or science achievement (The College Board, 1994) and the single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children (Anderson et al., 1985).McReynolds' based her PIE program on the research (see Resources below) and on her years of experience in the classroom. "Eight basic and essential facts" comprise the core of the program:
Dozens of studies point to one important conclusion: What the family does is more important than family background (income, parental education, marital status, family size, etc.). Parents need to know that they can influence learning. And, in most cases, they need to be shown how they can do it.
Studies show that schools must take the lead in actively pursuing parental involvement. Encouraging parents to participate in their children's education is more important than family background in determining whether or not parents get involved.
- Family involvement is a critical part of high quality education, a safe and disciplined learning environment, and student achievement.
- What the family does is more important that what the family income or education level is.
- All parents want the best education for their children.
- Most parents want to be more involved in their child's education, but many don't know how to become involved.
- Most teachers feel that parent involvement is a vital part of student achievement, but many of them do not know how to get the parents involved.
- Schools need to encourage and promote parent involvement.
- School practices that encourage parents to participate are the most important factor in whether or not parents will participate.
- Schools need to encourage parents to become partners and thus be able to make decisions about their children's education.