The most significant factor in predicting a child's success at school is not I.Q. or class size or exposure to the latest computer software. What matters most, say teachers like Marilyn Armstrong, is parent involvement.
"Some parents have the attitude: `Let the school take care of it.' But parents are the front line," says Armstrong, a Chapter I specialist in the Granite School District.Armstrong is one of several educators and parents who will present an all-day workshop Nov. 16 that will focus on "School Success: The Missing Ingredient."
Sponsored by the State Office of Education and the Deseret News, the workshop is geared to parents, volunteers, teachers and school board members - and will explore ways that they can work together. The workshop runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Salt Lake Hilton.
According to Nancy Livingston, elementary reading specialist with the State Office of Education, "studies show that the most powerful variable in a child's education is home support."
Teacher Barbara Andrade has seen first hand what a difference parent involvement can make. Andrade is currently a first-grade teacher at Nibley Park Elementary School where, "even by their sheer presence," she says, parents let their children know that they think school is important. The parents volunteer in the classroom, come in after school to talk to the teachers, and know what their children's homework assignments are. At home their children see them read. Together they talk about the world.
Before coming to Nibley Park, however, Andrade taught at an inner-city Salt Lake school, where often "The only education that happened was during school hours - and that's not enough." Student performance suffered because of it, she says.
Workshops at the Nov. 16 conference will include learning activities parents can use at home, as well as topics such as voluntarism and "How Your School Board Works."
Keynote speaker will be Salt Lake psychologist T. Lee Burnham. Deseret News education editor Twila Van Leer will be the luncheon speaker.
The conference will also be the Utah kick-off for "Family Focus: Read to Succeed," a program aimed at helping parents foster their children's reading skills by using the newspaper. Family Focus is sponsored nationally by the American Newspaper Publishers Association, the International Reading Association, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Congress of Parents and Teachers.
Members of the Deseret News Newspaper in Education department will train Family Focus workshop teams that can then work with parents of children in grades kindergarten through 3.
Teacher Gayle Cloke of Adams Elementary in Layton will show parents how she has used the Deseret News with second and third graders.
Although their reading skills may not be ready for an analysis of the national debt, the children can use the newspaper to look for verbs, to concoct story problems and to talk about what might be happening in a photograph.
One of Cloke's most successful exercises is "obituary math." Using the paper's daily obituaries, she has students figure out ages from birth dates or compute which person had been married the longest.
These math lessons have had their poignant moments, too, she says. "The children have discussed their feelings about dying. They've shared feelings that wouldn't have come up if we had been on page 34 of our math book."
To register for the workshop, contact Peggy Frisby at the State Office of Education, 538-7806. Registration is $17, which includes workshop materials, a continental breakfast and a luncheon. Schools that bring five-member teams save $2 per participant.