Parents play vital role in student success
Sherry Bird spends two mornings a week in Deb Bergmann’s first-grade class at Ridgeview Elementary School. She doesn’t get paid for her time, but that’s not the reason she’s there.
“I enjoy being with my children, and this is an expression of love to them,” Bird said. “They know that I care enough about them to come and spend time where they are.”
Bird has volunteered at schools since her oldest daughter, now 11, first started. This year, she can often be found in her 6-year-old daughter’s classroom.
Bird moved to Craig two years ago from Kansas City, Mo., where the school’s her children attended depended heavily on parental involvement.
“Parents did paperwork, and parents served lunch,” Bird said.
In Moffat County, schools aren’t as dependent on volunteers. But parents affect what teachers and schools are able to offer.
“All three elementary schools would not be able to do the swimming program without volunteers,” Bergmann said.
‘They love it’
Some schools depend on volunteers for party planning, chaperoning field trips and helping with behind-the-scenes work necessary for a successful class.
“Teachers work so hard,” Bird said. “When I’m there it frees them up to do other things, like teach. I’d much rather they use their time to teach than to cut out 20 cards or make 30 phone calls.”
Bird and other classroom volunteers work one-on-one with students or help with accelerated reading computer tests so teachers can stay in the classroom and work on other areas.
“If they’re the kind who can follow through and show up and be dependable, they’re invaluable,” Bergmann said. “The kids just thrive on the extra attention. They love it.”
There are myriad volunteer opportunities in the school district — from helping with a one-time event to assisting on a regular basis — teachers such as Bergmann say there’s always something to do.
“I would never turn down help,” she said.
There are several opportunities for parents to become involved in the school district, and not all are in the classroom. Each school has a parent advisory committee that reviews individual school policies and expenditures. A school accountability committee looks at districtwide policies and districtwide accreditation.
“Part of that is covered by law, and the other part is what we’ve developed to be family-friendly,” school district Superintendent Pete Bergmann said.
Parental involvement tends to be higher in elementary schools levels than in junior high and high schools.
“It definitely fades as children grow older,” he said.
Part of that, he said, is that parents are learning, too. They’re learning about the district and individual schools operate. Once they’re familiar with the system and the processes, they tend to entrust more to the schools.
“When their children are young, it’s all fresh and new,” said Bergmann, who is married to Deb Bergmann. “Once they understand how it operates, unless they aren’t satisfied, they pretty much stay out of it.”
Reaping the benefits
That’s not the only reason involvement fades.
Once a student gets into fifth grade, neither their schedule nor the social structure accommodates parent volunteers as well.
“At that age sometimes kids don’t want their parents in their life period, let alone at school and in the classroom,” Pete Bergmann said.
But being involved doesn’t necessarily mean joining a committee or helping in the classroom. What a parent does at home to encourage learning is just important, Bergmann said.
Schools aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of parental involvement. According to “Family Involvement in Children’s Education: Suc–cessful Local Approaches Idea Book,” publication sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education,students whose parents are actively involved in their education have better grades, test scores and long-term academic achievement.
Students also attend school more regularly, complete more homework and demonstrate more positive attitudes and behaviors than those with less-involved parents.
Parents and teachers typically agree that increased parental involvement can make a significant difference in student performance. A 1999 study by Public Agenda, a nonpartisan, non-profit public opinion research group, reports that 69 percent of teachers surveyed say that most parents need to get more involved in their children’s education, and 71 percent of parents surveyed said they wish they could be doing more.
“It absolutely makes a difference,” Bergmann said. “Parental involvement in a child’s education is as important or more important than any of the interventions we have.”
Academic success has three critical components: the student, the parents and the teacher, educators say.
“You need all three,” Berg–mann said. “If you have a highly involved parent, that child is going to succeed.”
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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