TESTIMONY SUBMITTED TO THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS HEARING ON PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT IN SCHOOLS
OCTOBER 8, 2019
Thank you Senator Rice, Assemblywoman Jasey and members of the Joint Committee for the opportunity to submit this testimony on the important topic of parental involvement in schools.
Successful schools and school districts stand on a firm foundation of parental involvement. From the time a child enters pre-K or kindergarten, the involved parent forms a partnership with the school, building relationships with teachers and administrators, attending school functions when possible, and reading school communications. That parent also contributes feedback and constructive criticism when necessary. Building relationships through involvement takes an investment of time and effort, but that investment pays off handsomely. Involved parents celebrate when the school and district succeed and help sustain schools in hard times.
Positive involvement is an integral part of a healthy school climate. It raises individual and collective student achievement and strengthens the school community as a whole. Enlightened school leaders welcome parent participation and listen to parent voices.
But there are times when parental involvement can have the opposite effect, increasing stress on students and staff. This happens most often when parents live vicariously through their children, “hovering” over them, micro-managing their school experiences, and taking up the school staff’s time and energy with a persistent stream of highly specific demands, requirements, and criticism. This kind of negative involvement burdens everyone, including the children it is intended to help.
There are times when each of us has to advocate with school staff for his or her own child, and some children face more bumps in the educational road than others. Navigating those occasional bumps, whether they are learning or discipline-related, is not the same as “helicopter parenting.”
Parents who practice positive involvement approach school issues constructively, offering solutions, rather than making demands. They do not fixate exclusively on their own children, but focus on improving school communities.
Anyone involved with education knows that students and those who care for them every day face higher levels of stress than ever before. This stress shows in increased anxiety, anger and depression among students. It causes burn-out among school staff and a decline in school climate. Parents who bring anger and controlling behavior into schools contribute to the problem of school-related stress, not the solution.
Fortunately negative involvement is the exception, not the rule. Most parents want the best outcomes—for their own students and the schools that they attend. Even in these security
conscious times, school officials must make sure that their doors and their hearts are open to parental involvement. It is the lifeblood of school communities.