Parents in schools

There is plenty of research showing just how critical a role parents play in their children’s educational success. Just about any way you slice it, a parent being supportive and involved – at home, in schools, in conversations about school – results in better educational outcomes for kids. There is only good that comes from parents being active participants in education – for students, for schools and for their productivity as employees. To that end, there is a community benefit to encouraging parents’ presence in schools, and employers can participate by making it an option for their workers.

The National Education Association has compiled data showing the unmitigated positive impact that parental involvement has for kids’ achievements. Among the advantages such engagement can have are: higher grades and test scores, enrollment in higher-level programs, regular school attendance, improved behavior and social skills, and a higher likelihood of graduating and continuing on to college.

Those benefits should and do compel many parents to be active participants in their kids’ education, at home and at school, but it is not always a possibility to take time out of the work day to volunteer at school. Employers can change that and, in so doing, make their workers more productive in the long run – all the while supporting families in their collective educational endeavors.

There are many employers in the area that do encourage volunteerism – in schools and otherwise – among their employees, making time during the work day for workers to lend a hand outside the office. In many office environments, doing so is easier for employers and their workers alike. And the benefits go beyond those helped by the volunteerism. At a recent Herald editorial board meeting, an Animas High School board member recounted his days managing employees at Microsoft, where volunteering was encouraged, saying that workers would return from their work-day visits to their kids’ schools and elsewhere rejuvenated and more productive for having gone.

The mechanics of providing such flexibility becomes more complicated in other employment settings, such as service-focused jobs. We encourage employers to find a way to make it an option for their workers to lend a hand during the school day. And schools, too, can help by providing off-hours volunteering options or scheduling programming to accommodate working parents.

Schools also can help foster a broader spirit of volunteerism by encouraging parental presence beyond the early school years. Elementary schools are welcoming to parents and rich with volunteer opportunities; that atmosphere closes as children progress through the school system. Durango School District 9-R’s middle and high schools are markedly less populated by parent volunteers than the district’s elementary schools. There is room to improve that equation so that parental presence does not diminish as children progress through their school years.

The answer to the age-old question of how to improve education is not a simple one, and increased parental participation by no means is a magic bullet. But with a community commitment to supporting students’ educational efforts by encouraging parents to be active participants in education, more answers might arise. It is an excellent investment in and for educators, employers and families.

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