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Thinking About New Ways
To Involve Parents


Many barriers -- including work schedules, other time constraints, and parents' self-concepts -- keep parents from participating in their children's education "A classroom assistance program offers one of those opportunities. The program is sponsored for parents who are unable to volunteer during the day. Weekly volunteer sessions are held in the evening. Teachers who need materials photocopied or laminated or cut-and-pasted provide detailed instructions. The parents are provided with the equipment to complete the projects." (Jeffrey Castle)

Several years ago, principal Nancy Ondrasik helped her district develop a VIP (Volunteers In Partnership) program. "We now have a very active VIP group in most schools. Parents sign up to tutor, run papers, hang up bulletin boards. Among the many activities that program spurred was this year's Sparkle Day Parents organized the whole event. Local businesses donated all kinds of items, students painted walls or murals, outside landscaping work was done, desks and equipment were repaired."

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Have you been successful at getting parents actively involved in your school? What methods have you used to do that? Is there something you've done that others might learn from? A successful idea you have used that might work for others? Click to join the conversation. Share your thoughts and ideas so other might learn from your experiences.

A special circumstance several years ago taught principal Barbara Wood about a great way to get parents involved. Her school's counselor had persuaded the community to provide the McGruff anti-drug and anti-crime materials and puppets for each classroom, "but as the year went on we realized that for the teachers this was one more thing to do. Many were not planning to use the curriculum as it was meant to be used because they didn't have the time. So Susie Comstock, our counselor, asked for parent volunteers. Those volunteers were trained by her and given suggestions on what and how to teach curriculum objectives. Now, each year we ask for and train new volunteers, and each week a team of mothers -- and a few dads -- arrives at school, activities and lessons prepared"

Dee Anna Manitzas subscribes to the anything-you-have-to-do philosophy. The staff at her school invites parents to school every time progress reports are issued. "At first, the parents were really enthusiastic about this, but as the year has gone on the parents seem a little harder to find." But Manitzas and her staff continue to have 100 percent participation because the school counselors and teachers make home visits to deliver reports when parents don't show up.

Drawing a big crowd on PTA night isn't a given either. "We have found that in order to get parents to attend, we have to have kids involved somehow. I make sure that our first graders perform at every April meeting. That's when PTA elections take place for the following year." That strategy can pay big dividends. Parents of younger students may commit to the PTA and the school for years to come. (Mary Ellen Imbo)

Take Five more to read this entire article from Education World's "Principal Files" series:
"Principals Share Parent Involvement Ideas"
(Education World -- February 28, 2000)