Just how involved should parents be in their child's education?
"My words would be, get involved. Parents need to know what their child is doing on all levels," Yolanda Palmer, federal programs supervisor for the Webster Parish school system, said.
Webster Parish parents should be aware that the school system, under Title I, has a parental involvement in education policy. Palmer says most parents know of the policy, but knowing does not translate to active involvement.
Palmer said the policy outlines responsibility at the district and school level, identifies shared responsibilities and clearly defines parental obligations. At the beginning of each school year, all student in grades 4 through 12 along and each parent or guardian must sign a "statement of compliance."
In that statement, parents agree to ensure a child's daily attendance at school, ensure the child's arrival at school on time each day, ensure the child completes all assigned homework and agrees to attend all required parent/teacher/principal conferences. Usually, Palmer said, parents are attentive during the early years.
"Kids usually get support from pre-K until about the fifth grade. After that, it falls off," she said. "Junior high years are when kids need their parents or guardians more than ever. Parents should never let them go."
As a former school counselor, Palmer remembered how frustrating it became to keep parents interested in what their child was doing at school, especially when it came to maintaining good grades.
"I met with groups of parents at all grade levels. They'll come for a pageant but when it comes to grades, it's a different story. Extra curricular activities are great and kids need those, but
I want my child to get a good education...I want to know what's going on," she said.
Changing times in education mean changes in what and how students are taught, Palmer said. Often, those changes do not make learning easier.
"Curriculum is changing; school is hard," she said. "My heart goes out to students and parents. I look at my child's homework and I wonder how some parents feel. They don't feel competent to do what is asked of them, so they avoid it."
In the school-parent compact, the importance of communication between teachers and parents on an ongoing basis is stressed. At a minimum, annual parent-teacher conferences are recommended along with frequent reports to parents on their child's progress.
Palmer agrees the importance of communication between parents and their children is a critical element in education.
"I know how important it is to show how (parents) care," she pointed out. "Some kids' backpacks come home the same way it went to school. Parents need to communicate, to ask what's going on. When their child leaves, parents should tell them to do their best and pay attention."
Palmer said other important responsibilities in the school system's program include instilling in children proper respect for their parents and teachers and other adults. Parents can also learn much by volunteering in their child's school and classroom, attending school-sponsored programs in which their child may be involved and by joining parent/teacher organizations.
"Parents need to know what's going on," Palmer said. "It is sad when kids take it on themselves to handle problems the parents need to be handling."