May 31, 2010


Welcome to Men's Week! Our first guest post was written by Jack Rasmussen, my dad and the dean of the College of Education at Weber State University. I come from a long line of educators. I asked my dad to discuss the new "parental involvement in the schools" movement and what he thinks is necessary for a student to be successful regardless of where the child is educated. Among dad's nine children there are three master's degree, one MD, one CRNA, one dental hygienist, one studying to be an audiologist, and one who is just starting the MD journey. We were taught to believe in education. Take it away, Dad.

For what its worth, here's my take on the value (to the student) of parental involvement in the K-12 education system. Please note that I am defining parental involvement as a parent, or parents spending a significant amount of time volunteering at their child's school, helping their child with school work at home or at school, or being extensively involved with co or extra-curricular activities sponsored by their child's school.

First, however, I want three points to be clear: 1) If a parent gets a lot of personal gratification/satisfaction out of being involved at their child/children's school as a volunteer, as long as they are willing to operate within the parameters that the teacher sets, then I think that is wonderful. Wonderful of course for the parent, but not necessarily of any added value to their own child that is in the school. 2) If a parent is willing to help at their children's school, and again carefully follow the protocols set down by the classroom teacher, then they can be a great help to overworked teachers who often have difficulty giving personal attention to all the students in the class. Again, often helpful to some student in the class but probably not to their own child. 3) All bets are off in this discussion if we are talking about a parent volunteering to help their own child who has a handicap or exceptionality where additional individual attention increases the chance of the student being successful.

In the main, I feel that parental involvement is highly overrated in terms of its impact on the academic performance of the child of the involved parent. Most research in the area suggests a high correlation between involved parents and the academic success of their children, but in fact, very little research that I have seen shows any significant cause and effect. In other words, involved parents and successful kids are just common characteristics of a very easily identified population--the population where parents value and stress education, and where kids grow up with the same values and are motivated to be successful at whatever education entails. In my words, kids of good parents are usually successful in school and would be whether or not their parents were heavily involved in the schooling process.

Parental involvement, at the level we are talking about, is not necessary for the success of kids from educationally sound homes for just the same reasons that early childhood programs are not necessary for those same children. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these kids going to early childhood programs or with their parents being involved as volunteers at the school, it just isn't necessary for their kids' success. Even mediocre teachers will have little or no problem getting these students to meet and exceed the outlined learning outcomes of the school and can accomplish those goals without help or interference from the students parent/s.

Unfortunately, there are many students who do not come from educationally sound homes and what society and the K-12 system really needs is for these parents to be better parents at home, rather than be volunteers at school. I think that the parental involvement movement is all about trying to get these parents to school to provide training and modeling about both education and parenting, so as to develop better parents, which will in turn lead to more success with those students with which our schools currently struggle. Unfortunately, the parents that could benefit the most by being in the school are not the ones likely to be there.

To sum up this lengthy treatise, parents need to provide an educationally rich home environment, instill in their children a belief in the importance of learning and the value of an education, and to teach their children to take responsibility for their own learning. If parents do/did this, they would really have no need to be overtly involved in their child's institutional (at school) education because the kid & the teachers could easily accomplish the task without them.

I am certainly not saying that a parent can't or shouldn't talk to their child about what they are studying at school or shouldn't know about their child's grades, etc. Simply that they wouldn't need to be at school beyond parent teacher conference and should rarely if ever have to help with homework or other school assignments. This would be great because the K-12 curriculum is a very small part of what a child should be learning, and, in fact, aside from basic literacy skills, it is probably less important than many other things that parents could and should be teaching their children if they had the time.


  1. What? My associate's RN degree counts for nothing???!?!? Hey, just because I have the lowest degree in the family, doesn't mean I'm not educated. Ruff.