NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Are Parents Willing To Be Involved In Their Children's Schools?

March 17, 1999

A goal of education reformers is to involve parents in the control or management of their children's schools -- but parents tend to shun such activism, according to a new study from the Public Agenda research organization.

  • When 1,220 parents were asked what should be their most important role in their children's education, 83 percent said checking homework and encouraging them to learn.
  • Some 68 percent would rather chaperone class trips or class parties.
  • Only 4 percent wanted to help choose staff and develop curriculum.
  • By a 2-to-1 ratio -- 48 percent to 23 percent -- parents say that attending teacher-parent conferences to know what their children should be learning is not as important as teaching children to be respectful and to have good work habits, the study said.

Only 31 percent of parents would be "very comfortable" serving on a committee to decide which teachers or principal to hire, 27 percent would be willing to propose changing how teachers teach, and 36 percent would help decide how to spend the school's money.

While 85 percent of teachers would approve of parents proposing changes in the lunch menu, only 15 percent want them proposing changes to classroom teaching methods.

However, Christopher Cross, president of the Council for Basic Education, faulted the survey for wording it so as to give "false choices" -- noting that parents' priorities naturally focus on their own children.

Source: Tamara Henry, "Few Parents Seek Bigger School Role," USA Today, March 17, 1999.


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