Michigan Survey Shows Importance of Parent’s Expectations in Education

Teamwork between parents, teachers, and school administrators is vital for student and school success. In some areas, the connection parents have to a school can be very tenuous, leaving them feeling like outsiders whose opinions or observations have no effect.

To understand the disconnectedness between some parents and schools, the Michigan Education Association and a coalition of school and family organizations undertook a two year long study called “Your Child”. The results are quite revealing.

The first part of the study was conducted in April, 2004. 88% of parents said they should participate in curriculum planning and setting policy for the school. However, 50% of teachers said that parents seldom or never make useful recommendations. 95% of parents said that they are involved in their child’s education in the classroom, but 55% of the teachers reported that parents aren’t involved in their classroom in any way. 80% of parents expect teachers to discipline children and teach values. Only 24% of the teachers surveyed believe this is a fair expectation.

6% of parents believe that behavior is the main issue for their children in Michigan schools. Another 6% believe that family problems are the main issue for their children. However, 57% of teachers say that behavior is the main thing besides grades that parents need to know about, and 82% of teachers said they see evidence of family problems in school.

That’s just the first part of the two year long initiative, which concluded in fall, 2005. Further surveys have revealed equally disturbing data. A disturbing finding of the subsequent three parts indicated that low parental expectations and involvement co relate to a child’s success or lack of it in school. Students who are more likely to succeed have parents who expect them to obtain an advanced degree, are more likely to agree that everyone should have a college education, and define success in terms of self support and educational level.

The adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease comes to mind. A lot of people just don’t squeak! Or the squeaking leads to squawking! The Michigan Education Association has been supportive of teachers finding ways to increase communication with parents, and increase opportunities to listen to parents. It can be difficult to get involvement from parents who are intimidated by the school environment.

For more information about the “Your Child” initiative results, visit http://www.mea.org/design.cfm?p=5503 . Much of the educational reform we need to accomplish will not have as great an impact as it could without the involvement of parents. Some parents never will be involved – but in order to succeed, schools must give those who are involved continued opportunities to communicate with teachers and administrators beyond fundraisers and bake sales.