Parents Must Be Involved: Why and How?

“…. the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.”

Research has found a family’s involvement in their child’s education is a much more accurate predictor student achievement than the family’s income or social status. When parents support and encourage learning student achievement increases.  In many instance there are breakdowns in home-school communication because parents don’t understand the educational lingo teachers and administrators use when discussing student progress or educational needs.  This is even truer when the children have special education needs. Special education has a lot of  abbreviations, jargon, and acronyms.

Let’s think of parents’ difficulty understanding the school’s lingo as their  educational literacy level.  This refers to all aspects of communication: listening, reading, speaking, and writing.  Parents, no matter how well educated, may have trouble comprehending the legal jargon or educational terminology presented to them in documents and at meetings. When they don’t understand the process, the curriculum, or the program, they are not involved in the learning process; their children tend to be less successful.

With a lack of understanding come a lack of participation and involvement.   A lack of involvement directly affects a child’s motivation, self-esteem, and overall attitudes toward school. It also creates a disconnect between home and school impacting a child’s ability to succeed.

A child’s school success is linked to parents being equal partners with their child’s educators and administrators. This partnership helps ensure the child gets the best education possible and performs to his/her potential, whatever that looks like. The better informed parents are about the special education process, the better equipped they are to ask smart questions and have meaningful conversations.  These conversations empower parents and enable them to become active participants.

All professions have jargon, abbreviations, and acronyms; education is no exception. Educational lingo creates barriers and prevents parents from being active participants.  Educators and administrators must understand the importance of presenting information in user-friendly terms.

Special Education law has given the responsibility of explaining the process to the local school districts.  Parents are given or sent their ‘Procedural Safeguards.’ Even if they can read the document, the technical terms are confusing. Parents with limited English are at a greater disadvantage.

Most parents find educational reports and document confusing and intimidating. They are embarrassed and reluctant to ask questions. This is true of parents who are well-educated as well as parents who have a limited formal education. In some cases, parents are so confused they don’t even know what to ask. Without meaningful home-school communication, students’ educational success is at risk.

Parents need help in navigating the special education process, but are often afraid or embarrassed to ask questions.  They may attend state and national conferences, search the Internet or seek advice from consultants and advocates. When they expand their knowledge, they gain the confidence to actively communicate with their child’s educational team. This allows them to understand their child academic, social and emotional needs. Effectively communicating and participating leads to their child’s improved educational success.