Pres. & founder
Dear Parents, Families and Educators,
All my children attended public schools - just like their parents and grandparents. I do believe there is no social affiliation in contemporary America that offers more, and means more, than being a public school parent. Project Appleseed celebrates being public school parents because it is like joining a large club. All members are equal. What we want for our children and grandchildren is the same, regardless of what jobs we hold, where we stand on the social ladder, or how well or poorly we performed in our own school days.
As with joining a club, we are introduced to others in a similar situation, parents and family members who are experiencing emotionally charged ups and downs that overlap with our own. Some will be your friends, others will not. But with all of them you will have something in common.
Being an engaged parent is an opportunity to share information and anecdotes with people who previously had been strangers but now appear more like colleagues. You will pitch in and help out alongside neighbors as well as new faces from the far side of town. You will find yourself delighted by amusing gossip and embroiled in heated discussions — discussions with some very important ramifications for our national well-being. If you want to stay on the sideline, you are free to make that choice. If you want to plunge in headfirst, you'll be in good company.
We preach family engagement because it is guaranteed — as few things are — to produce positive results. The research evidence is beyond dispute. When schools work together with families to support learning, very good things happen: student attitudes, attendance, homework and report cards improve. Family engagement upgrades the essential bottom line — our child's learning. It's that simple.
To be involved, you have to want to be involved. And the only way that will occur is if you have compelling, meaningful, personal incentives for doing so. There are plenty of them out there. I start with the most basic incentive of all: show your child with action, not just words, that you really care about education. We cannot overstate the value to our children of seeing that our involvement with school extends beyond simply getting them to school on time.
Family participation at some level, at any level, at many levels, cannot be an afterthought. Schools must take a proactive approach. Schools can start by observing National Parental Involvement Day and Public School Volunteer Week — to explicitly ask teachers and staff to work with parents and families. We must use these days to celebrate innovative ways to reach out and include all parents and families in the mix.
There is a preventative reason to be involved. The more familiar parents are with the workings of the school and the more the school knows about them, the better off our children will be. As one mother puts it, "Sooner or later you're going to need to deal with the school on your child's behalf. You're in a much better position if that's not the first time they've seen you." Schools depend on our support. There are numerous important tasks where parent volunteers are critical. In this case, the old adage applies: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
Kevin S. Walker
President & Founder
Adapted from The New Public School Parent by Bob Chase.
Kevin Walker is Project Appleseed's founder and president. Selected key accomplishments:
Advised the White House on the parental involvement provisions of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act.
Top Ten People In American Education, Teacher magazine.
Recipient of Parenting magazine's Parenting Leader Award.
Named one of "10 Unsung Nonprofits That Should Be Household Words".
Recipient of the Focus St. Louis "What's Right With The Region" Award.