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Greatest tool is parental involvement

Greatest tool is parental involvement

Posted: Saturday, September 17, 2011 7:02 pm
By: Crissy Haslam, Special to The Press

It’s back-to-school time and store shelves are spilling over with pencils, notebooks and wide-ruled paper.  But parents, as you walk the aisles in search of back-to-school essentials, know that the greatest tool for your child this school year is something you won’t find on the store shelf – your involvement.
Budgets are tight, and times are tough; that fact is very real to families on a daily basis, and I do not take that lightly.  
I also know from experience that parenting is incredibly difficult, and every stressor in life competes for attention and strains a parent’s capacity to be involved in his or her child’s progress at school.  
Furthermore, school is a bad memory for many parents, and their child’s school building does not always feel like a welcoming environment.  Some families feel that their role in a child’s education is to send them to school and let the teacher do the teaching.
There are plenty of theories on the most effective ways to improve education in Tennessee, but a strong body of research shows that parental involvement matters for student success.
What happens inside the school building is important, but school administrators and teachers face certain limitations because children who are unhealthy, unsafe, unengaged or unprepared are less likely to thrive in school and in life. Because school-age children spend 70 percent of their time outside of a school building, one of our best chances at lasting change starts at home.
Fortunately, many of the best ways to get involved in a child’s education are FREE.  Borrow books from the public library, communicate regularly with your child’s teachers, and stay informed about what they are learning in school.  
Parental involvement is so much more than delivering cookies for the school bake sale – it’s about playing a collaborative role with teachers and doing our best to prepare our children to learn.
Given that families face tremendous challenges every day, community support is an important part of the success of our schools.  If your child is no longer in school, volunteer to help a neighbor’s child. Ask a school if you can read with a struggling student.
Donate a book to the 61 percent of low-income families who do not have books in their homes. Connect with a local faith-based community or nonprofit organization in your neighborhood to get involved.
There is a host of reasons for parents and communities to be invested in the success of our schools.  Our kindergarten students are not just five and six-year olds – they are our future workforce.
Low test scores and high dropout rates ultimately lead to high unemployment and low productivity for our state.  The fate of our state’s economy rests on the success of our students, and family engagement is the most accurate predictor of student success.
So parents and community members, this year it’s not just back to school for Tennessee students, it should be back to school for all of us.
Crissy Haslam is First Lady of the State of Tennessee. For parent involvement ideas, visit

WCP 9.15.11


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