Parenting. The most important factor in education

    To any family of a K-12 student in Philadelphia enrolled in a charter school lottery or wading through the private school admissions process, this time of year is when dreams come true or plan B, C or even in some cases Y, is being put in to action.  For every re-enrollment and sibling entry, there is a kid who didn’t get in, and parents are left putting together the moving parts of a massive puzzle of options asking “now what?”.


    The brilliant part of this system is that it is loaded with different approaches, philosophies and mission statements so that a child’s learning environment can be best suited to his or her needs. The tradeoff is that the entry system can be a gruesome process, mindboggling to parents who are working to achieve the best for their child.


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    Guardians who took part in this goliath system likely spent a good part of the last year investigating the schools that they believe would let their little learners thrive. Hours of discussion, observation and consideration given to the perceptions, abilities, talents, interests, and learning process of children matched with catchment areas, missions, teaching philosophies and of course, tuition.


    As parents writhe in disappointment at the declines and squeal in delight at the acceptances, let us not forget the power of the engaged parent.


    There is no doubt that the benefits of an education that challenges a child’s mind can be a life-changing factor in the success of a person. But according to research, the most important thing a child’s guardian can do for their child’s education is to be involved in it.  That’s right, that’s it.


    Earlier this year, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),  published a paper on three findings of the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a survey of the 15 year olds in the OECD’s 35 member countries assessing the readiness of teenagers for the society they are preparing to enter.  Read what they learned:


    Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all.

    The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family’s socio-economic background.

    Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA. 

    They go on to explain that the most effective parental involvement is the one that is based on a level of engagement in all aspects of a child’s life – taking interest, asking questions and talking about everything.  And reading – literacy, imagination, dedicated 1:1 time, are what makes little geniuses thrive.  And that is something no mission, teaching team or curriculum can do.


    Best of luck to parents of the 2012 school year!

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