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Parent Involvement Truths: The evidence that parent involvement can make a significant difference in student achievement is beyond question.

PARENT INVOLVEMENT, SCHOOL PROGRAM, SCHOOL SYSTEMIf we can point to anything in education that is “evidence-based” it is that parent involvement boosts student achievement! Studies include:

• The landmark Coleman Report . It documented the impact of both families and schools on educational achievement and found that the impact of families was overwhelmingly more important than that of schools in explaining differences in school achievement. Coleman’s findings have been replicated again and again over the years in the U.S. and around the world.

• The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement study on the differences between the highest- and lowest-achieving schools in mathematics and science in 39 countries.

In the U.S., 64 percent of the differences in achievement from one school to another were attributable to “home” variables including “parental support for academic achievement” and “socioeconomic status.”

Similar results were found in all 39 countries.

• Research that finds that while socioeconomic status is important, the best predictors of student achievement are:

a.  A home environment that encourages learning.

b. Parents’ high expectations for achievement and future careers.

c.  Parents being involved in a child’s education.

• The landmark Westat study . It found that in schools where teachers reported high levels of “outreach” to the parents of low achieving students, reading and math test scores grew at a rate 40 percent higher than in schools where teachers reported low levels of outreach.

Only one other factor was as consistently linked to student achievement gains—professional development programs that were highly rated by teachers.

So, what were the magic ingredients that the Westat study called “outreach” to parents? It was defined simply as teachers:

1.  Meeting regularly with parents.

2.  Sending materials home to parents on ways to help their child at home.

3.  Telephoning parents, both routinely and when their child was having problems.


Parent involvement research goes on to say that:

• When fathers are involved, children do better in school.

• Student success is related to parent expectations and forcefulness in educational goal- setting.


The research findings on the critical role of parent involvement in no way diminish the importance of schools, great principals and teachers, or a rigorous curriculum. Of course those things are necessary—but they are not sufficient!

Let’s think of it using a health care analogy:

We would never accept a health care system where doctors and hospitals are expected to take total responsibility for a patient’s health—and be solely accountable for it no matter what the patient does or doesn’t do himself!

What the patient does to take care of himself at home is critical. And if the patient is a child, doctors (and society) expect parents to protect and maintain the child’s health through proper hygiene, exercise, food, clothing and shelter—and by carrying out the doctor’s treatment plans.

In education, research shows that the same kind of shared responsibility must also apply to educators, parents and students.


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Multisensory Techniques Help Parents Accommodate Learning Styles: Auditory Techniques:

Auditory Techniques Multisensory techniques that focus on sound and stimulate verbal reasoning are called auditory techniques. Auditory techniques include strategies such as using:

Computerized text readers, augmentative communication devices; auditory trainers; hearing aids; books on tape, podcasts, and peer-assisted reading;

Video, film, or multi-image media with accompanying audio; and

Music, song, instruments, speaking, rhymes, chants, and language games.

Tactile Teaching Methods:


Multisensory techniques that involve using the sense of touch are called tactile methods. Tactile methods include strategies such as:


Preschool and primary games involving jumping rope, clapping, stomping or other movements paired with activities while counting, and singing songs related to concepts;

All tactile activities mentioned above; and  any large motor activity for older students involving dancing, beanbag tossing, basketball, or other such activities involving concepts, rhythmic recall, and academic competition such as current events quizzes, flashcard races, and other learning games.


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What Causes Learning Disabilities?

Learning DisabilitiesExperts aren’t exactly sure what causes learning disabilities. In fact, there is often no apparent cause for LD. LD may be due to

Heredity. Often learning disabilities run in families. Children with LD are likely to have parents or other relatives with similar difficulties.

Problems during pregnancy and birth. An illness or injury during or before birth may cause an LD. Drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, low birth weight, lack of oxygen and premature or prolonged labor may also lead to an LD.

Incidents after birth. Serious illness, head injuries, poor nutrition and exposure to toxins such as lead can contribute to LD.

Learning disabilities are not caused by economic disadvantage or cultural differences, nor are they the result of lack of educational opportunity. That said, children who are denied timely and effective instruction during critical times during their development are at high risk for showing signs of LD during the school years and beyond.


Are Learning Disabilities Common?

Today, approximately 2.4 million school-aged children in the U.S. are identified as having specific learning disabilities (SLD) and receive some kind of special education support.1 These numbers do not include children in private and religious schools or those who are home-schooled.


What Can You Do About Learning Disabilities?

Learning disabilities are lifelong challenges. Although they don’t go away, they should not stop individuals from from achieving their goals. A learning disability is not a disease, and there is no single course of treatment or intervention that works for everyone. The first step to overcoming the challenges posed by LD is to recognize that a problem might exist. Then seek help from qualified professionals, who can provide guidance through a personalized evaluation process. Working with a trusted team of professionals, it is then possible to identify the types of accommodations, services and supports that will lead to success.



The LD identification process is not set in stone and will vary from state to state (for school age children) and from one adult to another depending upon the nature of the presenting difficulties and the professionals enlisted to provide testing and guidance. For example, an elementary school age child who shows signs of dyslexia (specific LD in reading) might demonstrate excellent skills in math, so an evaluation would be tailored to better understand the specific components of reading (i.e., phonemic awareness, comprehension, automaticity) that would help with planning an appropriate course of instruction and intervention.


If a parent suspects that their child might have a learning disability, it is important that they record (in writing) their observations and share them with, teachers, physicians and others who might be able to confirm or add important detail. If informal efforts to help the child overcome these difficulties is not successful (over a short period of time the next step is to initiate (in writing) a request to begin a formal evaluation process.


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Truths Parent Involvement: Truth #1: Parent involvement is all about the children.

ParentInvolvement, SchoolPrograms, SchoolSystemIt’s important to be clear about the purpose of parent involvement.  It is all about making sure that children get the best education possible.

Dr. Joyce Epstein at the Johns Hopkins University Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships makes the point very well when she says:

“The way schools care about children is reflected in the way schools care about the children’s families.

If educators view children simply as students, they are likely to see the family as separate from the school. That is, the family is expected to do its job and leave the education of children to the schools.

If educators view students as children, they are likely to see both the family and the community as partners with the school in children’s education and development.”


Our schools alone cannot provide the complete education children must have.

Parent involvement is all about the children and making sure they receive the kind of education they deserve and must have to be successful in this ever-changing world  as we prepare for the future.


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Multisensory Techniques Help Teachers Accommodate Learning Styles:

Multisensory TechniquesSome researchers theorize that many students have an area of sensory learning strength, sometimes called a learning style. This research suggests that when students are taught using techniques consistent with their learning styles, they learn more easily, faster, and can retain and apply concepts more readily to future learning. Most students, with a disability or not, enjoy the engaging variety that multisensory techniques can offer.



Stimulating Visual Reasoning and Learning:


Multisensory techniques often include visual teaching methods and strategies such as using:

Text and/or pictures on paper, posters, models, projection screens, or computers;

Film, video, multi-image media, augmentative picture communication cards or devices, finger spelling and sign language;

Adaptive Reading Materials;

Use of color for highlighting, organizing information, or imagery;

Graphic organizers, and outlining passages; and

Student-created art, images, text, pictures, and video.



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