Parents Lament Lack of Regular Communication With Schools

Although the majority of parents do participate in some family-oriented activities at their children's schools such as parent-teacher conferences, read correspondence sent by teachers and administrators and help their kids with their homework, fewer take a more active role such as offering their time to help out in the classroom. A recent analysis of the data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics also shows that parental participation rates drop sharply among low-income families and those who speak English as a second language.

The report, titled Parent and Family Involvement in Education, collected responses from nearly 17,000 parents canvassing their views on the quality and quantity of communication between schools and families as well as their feelings on their level of involvement with their children's education. Parents of public, private and home schooled students took part in the survey.

Eighty-seven percent of students in kindergarten through grade 12 had parents who reported receiving newsletters, memos, e-mail, or notices addressed to all parents from their child's school; 57 percent of students had parents who reported receiving notes or email from the school specifically about their child; and 41 percent of students had parents who reported that the school had contacted them by telephone.

The most common school-related activity that parents reported participating in during the school year was attending a general school or a parent-teacher organization or association (PTO/PTA) meeting (87 percent). Seventy-six percent of students had parents who reported attending a regularly scheduled parent-teacher conference; 74 percent had parents who attended a school or class event; 42 percent had parents who volunteered or served on a school committee; 58 percent had parents who participated in school fundraising; and 33 percent had parents who met with a guidance counselor.

Although families of minority students were less likely to engage with their children's schools directly, that doesn't mean that they were less invested in helping their kids succeed academically. The survey found that African-American parents and low-income families were more likely than their white and better-off counterparts to monitor their children's homework. While 67% of all families did so on the regular basis, the percentage for African-American families was 71% and low-income families was 72%.

Whatever their socio-economic backgrounds, however, almost all families held out hopes that their kids will complete high school and the majority hoped to send their children to college.

One percent of students in grades 6 through 12 had parents who said that they did not expect their child to complete high school; 9 percent were not expected to pursue education after high school completion; 8 percent were expected to attend vocational or technical school after high school; 17 percent were expected to attend 2 or more years of college; 28 percent were expected to finish a 4- or 5-year college degree; and 37 percent were expected to earn a graduate or professional degree.

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