Studies have shown that family participating in education is twice as predicative of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status. One 2008 study found that schools would need to increase per-pupil spending by more than $1,000 in order to achieve the same results that are gained with parental involvement.

In Portland, during the 2008-2009 school year, only 48 percent of eighth-graders met or exceeded the math standards. In high school, the proficiency rate was only 38 percent. In light of the difference families make, the School Board and administrators must treat families as vital partners in the selection of curriculum. Parents already volunteer in classrooms and raise funds. Now, it is time to include them in curriculum-level decisions because the low math rates require deeper parental involvement.

When the middle school math curriculum was selected without parental involvement and implemented without a School Board vote, families were not treated as vital partners. Now, elementary school curriculum is being selected, again without parental input. The School Board must find ways to involve families.

One way to include families is to improve the public comment process at School Board meetings. The School Board allows public comment, but it takes places at an unspecified time, which means that parents must wait for significant periods – sometimes hours – to speak. Providing a time-specific public comment at the beginning of meetings would increase participation. The curriculum selection process must also be made transparent to parents, so that they can be part of the process before implementation.

Anna T. Collins