STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

"Super" parents and kids get ready to go back to school

Emily D. Elliot

Kids do better in school if their parents are involved.

But when I hear about schools pushing parent involvement, it conjures up visions of a parent I, and many other parents, can't be.

I think of a parent who goes on all the field trips, attends all the meetings at school, and remembers to send in all the forms on time.

Then David Musselwhite made me feel much better when he told me that being an involved parent does not mean achieving super-parent status. Musselwhite is a member of theMichigan Parent Teacher Association, a state organization serving all the local PTAs.

"You don't have to be the parent in the school building all the time," said Musselwhite. "Any level of parent involvement improves achievement."

Musselwhite suggests, parents start with some simple steps like setting up a "homework corner," a designated place where a child always does their school work.  Another step is going into parent-teacher conferences with a plan of what questions to ask your child's teacher.

But not all types of parent involvement will help make kids more successful.The type of parent involvement that does translate most readily to student success is when parents work with their kids at home to support whatever it is they are learning in school.

Even when kids are getting good grades, parents who care about their kids’ education grapple with some big issues beyond the classroom. Issues of neighborhood safety, school funding, and preparation for higher education impact students’ ability to become successful and well-educated adults.

The state PTA runs a series of parent involvement days to try to prepare parents to deal with these environmental issues. They're holding anevent September 15th in Detroit (which has already seen a big jump in parent involvement) and planning several more across the state, including one in Muskegon Heights to help parents navigate the city'srecent move to turn all the district's schools into charters.

These sessions are "not about bake sales or fundraising," says Musselwhite, but about advocacy and training parents to be effective champions for their kids inside and outside of school.

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