By COURTNEY CULEY
Capital News Service
LANSING—More than half of Michigan residents surveyed by Michigan State University said the most important reason schools have struggled is a lack of parental involvement.
Big Rapids High School officials say encouraging such involvement is a reason the school was selected as one of the top 20 high schools in Michigan in 2010 by U.S. News and World Report.
“It’s important to the community for parents to be involved,” said Tim Haist, Big Rapids Public Schools superintendent. The schools stress those relationships.
“A lot of times I use the saying, ‘students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’,” he said, “and in Big Rapids we feel that way.”
It’s been an important factor of the district’s success, he said.
The district uses a lot of parent volunteers and emphasizes strong attendance at parent-teacher conferences, Haist said.
State officials agree.
“There’s no question that involvement by parents is a critical factor in the success of kids in school,” said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.
It takes a ton of effort by the teachers to include parents, Calley said.
Educators need to have a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude, he said, make sure students learn.
To enforce that attitude, Calley said, incentives need to be put in place.
Teachers need to be rewarded for the growth of their students and for innovation, he said.
Where parents are unavailable, state programs can help, he said.
The state has direct responsibility to create a good environment for foster kids and the kids of inmates, he said. He referenced a program he is involved with to support the children of inmates.
“Successful schools have high amounts of parent involvement,” said Jim Ballard, executive director at the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals.
Parents need to work in a partnership with the school, he said. They need to know about school events and assignments and discuss them at home.
“If you want to have your child go to a successful school, and you want your child to do well at your school, you have to be involved,” Ballard said.
Often, homework gets posted on the Internet along with a class agenda, he said, and parents can look these up and make sure their student completes it.
“There’s no silver bullet that’s going to help all schools,” said Doug Pratt, director of public affairs at the Michigan Education Association.
Some schools need to increase parental involvement, he said, but others need to improve teacher quality and need more resources.
“Money is at the heart of a lot of that,” Pratt said. “You can’t have small class sizes, great teachers, and the time to do parental involvement if you don’t have funding.”
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.
By COURTNEY CULEY