Some schools in the San Francisco area are creating mandatory volunteer hours that parents must fulfill in their schools. In some cases the parents receive a grade based on how involved they are and in another school, they literally have a set numbers of hours they must meet.
“Inspired by Adelante, now San Jose’s Alum Rock Union Elementary School District is at work on a proposal to require the families of all its 13,000 students to do 30 hours of volunteering per school year. Many of the schools in the district, where 88 percent of the students are poor, do not even have a Parent-Teachers Association.
“We are trying to create a culture of strong parent-guardian-family participation,” trustee Gustavo Gonzalez, whose children attend Adelante, told The San Jose Mercury News….”
“ ‘It’s really simplifying what we know about what really helps children learn,’ said Ingrid Seyer-Ochi, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, in a telephone interview. ‘That’s having parents who see themselves as learners and as having something to contribute to their children as learners.’ ”
Dr. Seyer-Ochi thinks that teaching parents core reading and math strategies would better support learning than requiring the parents to show up at school.
Now I know many private schools have “service hours” that the students and parents must fulfill. And many sports groups have mandated volunteerism at snack bars and to help raise money for the teams.
It’s also completely understandable that as public school funding is cut they need parents to fill in the gaps. (For example we lost several reading specialists last year and I wondered (but didn’t follow up on it – bad Theresa!) if they needed parents to sit and read and with students who needed more help with phonics.
So why is it so offensive for public schools to say to parents “we need you here!”?
The simple answer, especially in this economy, is that most parents are working full-time jobs and many don’t have flexibility to take off whenever their child’s class needs them.
I think there are ways for every parent to contribute something. If you can’t come in, then send stuff or help with events that aren’t during the school days, like dances or the like.
I do think the sign of a good school is a lot of parent participation. Our school’s parking lot is always full because parents are always in helping. In fact, several of our library volunteers were kind enough to go and help take inventory at another school’s library which had no parent volunteers. The other school’s librarian was so appreciative. She said the inventory that normally took her weeks, they did in one day.
So, in this economy, should schools start mandating parents to volunteer? How would that go over at your school? What method of enforcement could you see being successful, if any?