The Utah School Board is beginning a push to encourage parents to make a renewed commitment to the education of their children. Homes are the first classrooms for children, and parents are the first teachers. But in today's society, many of them have abdicated the responsibility, and the results are becoming evident in schools, Utah School Board members were told Thursday.

Communities and educational institutions have picked up much of the load for helping children become responsible citizens, said Associate State Superintendent Steve Mecham.In a cooperative venture with the state PTA, the board is undertaking several initiatives to help parents.

The PTA has long been an advocate for children and a resource to parents, said State President Pat Hales. She said the organization will help the effort by making its communications network available, along with materials and programs that already are aimed at strengthening homes.

The State Office of Education has created the Utah Center for Families in Education as a focal point for its effort. For several months, Utah education leaders have been searching for exemplary programs in other states. Three Utah districts will be selected to develop pilot programs to involve parents.

To test the effect of parental involvement on student performance, pre- and post-tests will be given students in the pilot districts.

In October, a statewide conference on the topic will hopefully involve up to 5,000 people, Mecham said.