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Engaging Parents to Support Academic Achievement

Academic achievement is a strong predictor of high school graduation and is critical to long-term success in college, work, and life. A sixth grader who fails math or English, has unsatisfactory behavior, or poor attendance has a 75% likelihood of dropping out. Freshmen in Chicago public schools who earn a B average or better have an 80% chance of finishing high school with at least a 3.0 GPA.

Why should we focus on academic achievement?

Parents play a critical role in helping their child to make satisfactory progress. Students especially depend upon their parents for ensuring their learning needs are met in and out of school and for monitoring their homework.

What schools can do

  • Inform parents about what children are expected to learn and do at every grade level through school orientations as well as school newsletters.
  • Hold parent/teacher conferences to identify strengths and strategies for improving student success in school.
  • Identify non-traditional ways to connect with parents unable to attend regularly scheduled parent/teacher conferences.
  • Communicate regularly about children’s progress, not just when problems arise.
  • Send home homework or learning assignments.
  • Hold family math and literacy workshops aimed at helping parents learn about what they can do at home to help children advance their skills.

What community agencies can do

  • Partner with schools to help parents understand what to expect in a high-quality educational program and how to determine the best match for their child.
  • Help to identify positive solutions when conflicts arise between school staff and parents about how to promote a child’s academic achievement.
  • Assist parents in identifying when their child might be at risk because of an undetected learning disability and/or they are disengaging from school.
  • Partner with schools to offer workshops on family math and literacy as well as other relevant parenting topics.
  • Use home visitors who reflect the cultural and linguistic background of families to help parents acquire skills to assist their children at home.
  • Create lending libraries offering families access to learning materials that they can use at home.

What parents can do

  • Think about the kind of educational program your child needs to learn and thrive, and seek placement in those schools which meet his or her needs.
  • Know your child’s teachers. Let teachers know that you want to be contacted immediately about any concerns.
  • Attend parent-teacher conferences and regularly seek out information about your child’s progress.
  • Request a developmental assessment if a learning disability is suspected.
  • Watch for signs that your child might be at risk.
  • Use activities at home to develop their knowledge and skills, and utilize community resources (museums, libraries, youth centers) to create additional opportunities for learning.

Further Reading

For more information on parent engagement, read the following articles: