Stop Blaming The Schools: Parental Involvement Is More Important For A Child’s Education

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teachersYou know all those conversations we have in the media and in politics about how schools are failing our children and teachers need to be evaluated more harshly? You know how parents are spending thousands upon thousands of dollars to ensure that their children have the very best education money can buy, so that they’ll hopefully grow up to be successful, self-sufficient members of society? You know how public schools get horrible reputations for single, isolated incidents that are hyped by the media to make us all irate about the state of education in this country? Well I hope all of the people who feel so passionately about schools and their performance sit down and really think about this new study. Because it shows that parental involvement is more important in determining a child’s success than the quality of the school he or she attends.

Especially in the current political climate, teachers have been the enemy of the public. Their unions have been painted as harmful to students, even when they’re fighting for classroom conditions that benefit kids. Their pay and their actions have been scrutinized and critiqued by plenty of people who do not have college degrees in educating children. Their accomplishments have been marginalized and brushed aside. Teachers of have been under attack.

So I cannot help but to get excited when proof comes out showing that parents are the most important part of the education equation. The blame cannot rest solely on those toiling away in our public schools. If your child is struggling in school, it’s possible that you need to be the one to step up and get involved in any way you can.

What’s more than that, when people complain about the rising cost of private schools, I think we should all be pointing out that their luxury education isn’t worth as much as a parent simply giving their time and energy. We don’t have spend thousands a year. We need to pay attention. We need to get involved. If you don’t believe me, listen to the experts.

“Our study shows that parents need to be aware of how important they are, and invest time in their children — checking homework, attending school events and letting  kids know school is important,” study researcher Toby Parcel, of North Carolina State University, said in a statement. “That’s where the payoff is.”

I am not saying that schools and teachers don’t matter. That would be more than a little ridiculous. Of course they do. But parents matter more, and we should remember that next time we’re criticizing the educational system. We should think about that when we’re debating whether $8,000 a year tuition in elementary school is worth it. More than anything, being involved in your own child’s learning is what will really make the difference.

(Photo: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)


  1. Justme

    October 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Absolutely agree 100%. I teach middle school and MOST teachers are truly here for the students. We are not the enemy. We only have them under our care for a short amount of time. There’s only so much we can do. Check their homework, help them learn good study skills. Show them you value their education and you will see them blossom.

  2. Sara

    October 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I completely and totally agree. One of the most frustrating things about the whole discussion of education reform is the almost complete absence of talk about the necessity of parental involvement. Schools are not just places to drop off your kids for eight hours of free babysitting. A teacher is responsible for what happens in his or her classroom, and PARENTS are responsible for what happens outside of the classroom, for making sure that their children are sent to school prepared to learn and respect the educational process.
    I’m not saying that schools don’t need to be fixed, or that the system for training, recruiting, evaluating and retaining teachers doesn’t need to be changed–it does, badly. Too many excellent teachers are leaving the field because of their frustration with the current state of the profession, and too many mediocre teachers are being allowed to stay in the classroom. But that cannot be the whole discussion. As long as we have a society that doesn’t value education or respect the work that schools do, the problem won’t be fixed.

  3. CW

    October 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    It isn’t just about the involvement that you personally put into your own child’s education. It is also about your child’s peer group. This is the main reason why people pay out the nose for a private school education- it’s to help make sure their kids’ classmates are from families that similarly value education, rather than having your kid go to school with gang members, teen moms, and future dropouts.

    • Justme

      October 11, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      Yes. Peer groups play a role in a child’s education but having worked in very high income schools…trouble makers, teen moms and drugs exist in every school and income bracket.

    • Katia

      October 12, 2012 at 3:02 am

      Agree! I was just thinking about this today. Bullying is also stopped before it gets out of hand at private schools.
      I consider myself an involved parent and I will choose private school if I can 🙂

    • ..

      October 12, 2012 at 5:42 am

      That’s actually not true at all. Having been bullied for 8 years in private school, not true.

    • ...........

      October 12, 2012 at 5:40 am

      What a stupid comment. I went to a ridiculously expensive private school for my entire elementary and middle school education before transferring to a public school for high school. The public school might as well have been private because it was had a great school, in an extremely rich area. Through transferring I ended up with friends at multiple public and private schools, in an area with horrendous poverty right next to extreme wealth. In other words, I’ve seen both sides.

      I know my public school experience isn’t exactly comparable to an inner city public school, but your comment shows true naiveté. Maybe you have kids in private school who are still young? Have you MET private school teenagers?? Kids at private schools do so many drugs and drink sooo much. I mean really, “gang members, teen moms, future dropouts” because that’s clearly what all kids are unless they go to perfect private school?? What a disgustingly elitist attitude. I can’t even put into words how gross I think your attitude is.
      “Families that similarly value education”….so I knew lots of kids at some of the best private schools in CA, many of whom cheated on every test, and took tons of Adderall and Ritalin, even coke, to excel in classes. Granted, they now go to Stanford and Harvard, but at what cost? I know at least one who was caught plagiarizing and was expelled in her senior year. Your child’s peer group can be fabulous or awful ANYWHERE. You can be in South Central LA or Beverly Hills, Pacific Heights or East Oakland. There will be smart, motivated kids…there will also be kids who abuse drugs, have too much sex, and don’t take school seriously. No matter what school, no matter how much you pay to go there. I went to parties with the truly poor kids (like, people got stabbed it was not a good area,) and I went to parties in mansions with elevators and tennis courts. Guess which parties had a whoooole lot more going on that parents wouldn’t approve of? It was the ones in the nice big houses with kids whose parents bought them a nice private school education complete with a sense of entitlement and tons of spare money for drugs and alcohol. And you know what, although that’s actually how I and most of my friends grew up, I can see that private school is absolutely not the end-all and be-all for ensuring that your kid ends up on the right path. I think that it actually does boil down to parental involvement and the kid’s personality. Please do get over yourself now. Angry rant over.

    • Bri

      October 12, 2012 at 7:09 am

      Yup. I also went to both private and public schools in very wealthy areas, and believe me, there were just as many girls getting pregnant in the rich areas as in middle-class and lower-class ones. The difference is that most of the time, their parents whisked them off for an abortion before word could spread too far and damage the family’s reputation.

    • CW

      October 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      The middle and high schools my kids are zoned for had to ban students from wearing certain colors because of problems with gangs. The high school also has a relatively high dropout rate and high teen pregnancy rate. The district even had to open a special program for teen moms because so many girls are getting pregnant. The private schools may have issues with drinking and drug use (what high school doesn’t?) but they don’t have remotely the same number of “bad apples”. I want my kids’ classmates to be the future Harvard and Stanford students, not the future welfare queens and prison inmates…

  4. Lindsey

    October 12, 2012 at 1:05 am

    Thank you! I teach high school. During the course of a week, I teach material, have them practice on their own, do remediation for those who are struggling, do enrichment for those who are getting it, assess (sometimes through a test or quiz), reteach and reassess. I also make myself available for tutoring before school, after school and during lunch. Many of my students (and some of their parents) seem to think that all of their learning should happen in the 55 minutes they are in my class and that they are not responsible for anything after school during the 6+ hours before they go to bed. Of course not all struggling students have uninvolved parents; some of those students (especially those are in special ed) have very involved parents. However, most of my struggling students have parents who have basically check out in terms of their child’s education.

  5. SJP

    October 12, 2012 at 10:58 am

    I agree 100% about parental involvement being key, but you tainted your article with your judgmental generalization of parents who send their kids to private school.

    I’m one of “those” parents. We live in Texas, not NYC, and we do not spend tens of thousands on tuition. The school we chose is about $5K a year per student. This is a less than half of what my peers who both work full time pay for infant/toddler day care. In our city that runs about $12K/year. We are not in the elite 1% either — we made life choices that would allow for us to live off of one income so that one of us could be home with our children when they were small. In our case, we’re both Engineers, and I stayed on working full time and my husband quit his career to stay home when our first child was born. We live in a modest house, we drive paid off older cars, and live an overall frugal lifestyle in a city with a low cost of living. He started his own consulting firm out of the house that supplements my income and we use some of that money to pay the tuition. So financially, we can do it through frugality and hard work. Most of the families at our school are of similar backgrounds – middle/upper middle class, working hard every day.
    So why do we spend the money on private school? It’s not because the public school down the street is struggling, or the teachers are lousy, or because of the kids/families who go there. The teachers in those schools work just as hard as the teachers in our school. There are some involved and some hands off parents in both schools. In fact I know there are some at our school that think that because they pay to send their kid(s) there the school needs to DO MORE to educate their children and it’s the school’s fault if they fail. I completely disagree with them. As for the schools, the elementary school in our neighborhood is rated “exemplary” by the state’s standards. It has a lot more money and resources than our small parochial school.
    So WHY then do we do it? Primarily, it’s tradition. My parents, my husband, and I all went to Catholic elementary school. As parents we often want to give our children the things we had as kids (that we liked or appreciated). Second, I don’t agree with the whole standardized test nonsense going on in our public schools. The fact that our local school is so highly ranked is in part because they try so hard to do well on those tests – a big turn off for me. The curriculum is built around the tests. They send home hours of homework for 1st graders to help prep them for the tests. Our school does not participate in that whole thing; they do offer the Iowa test once a year as a check in on performance but there is no prep work. The teachers have a little more flexibility in how they teach, and due to lower class sizes, they spend less time on crowd control (my son’s 1st grade class had 16 kids).
    The other main reason is the religious aspect. We are not bible thumping conservatives but we feel that our religion and our faith is part who we are, and we want that supported at school. My kids pray at school every day, they go to mass every Friday, and there is a focus on morality throughout the day. Sure we can give them that faith at home, but getting at school all day reinforces it. I chose the school based on the environment I saw in person – not on some generalization about private schools.

  6. Me

    October 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    @ CW Have a ball in your small-minded, fantasy bubble. Here’s a big thumbs up to your stupidity. Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to smack you in the face.

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