Key to Success: Encouraging Parent Involvement in Youth Academics

Marion County Commission on Youth

This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.

Written by Jacie Farris

“Education begins at home.”

That’s how David Patterson, marketing and communications director for Stand for Children Indiana, described the reason parent involvement is so vital to student success.

“When parents are involved in their child’s education, it makes everyone more accountable to perform well to ensure success for that student,” said Patterson. “It allows administrators to develop better policies, helps teachers provide more effective lesson plans and stresses higher expectations from students academically.”

Stand for Children Indiana strives to empower parents, teachers and community members to demand excellence in schools. One of their initiatives, Stand University for Parents (Stand UP), teaches parents and guardians ways to better support the academic success of youth and helps them build effective partnerships with schools. Since 2014, more than 350 Indianapolis parents have graduated from this program.

Crystal Feliciano is the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president for Lawrence Township Public Schools. She says that parents can begin getting engaged in their children’s schools by attending back-to-school nights and parent/teacher conferences, joining the PTO or helping at school events. She also encourages parents to monitor their children’s grades, join community organizations and participate in “tutoring programs, college tours [and] specialty workshops that will help expose the children to different and exciting opportunities, as well as help them academically.”

“The reason why parental involvement in their child’s school is important is because the children, as well as the educators, can use the support,” said Feliciano. “When parents are not involved with their child’s educational journey, they run the risk of the child not getting his or her maximum benefit from the school system. The guidance counselors and teachers cannot do it alone, nor should they have to.”

Feliciano added, “Without parent volunteers, students would be missing that sense of ‘home’ that many actually are in need of. There’s nothing like seeing a mom or dad helping with a bake sale or book fair, just letting the children know that people care and that, more importantly, giving back to others is good.”

According to Patterson, the importance of parent involvement is supported by research. Citing “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community” by Anne Henderson Karen Mapp, Patterson said that “research shows that parent involvement is an important factor in improving academic performance of schools. In educational decisions, parents have a vital role to play because they know the needs of their children best. Studies also show that children whose families are involved in their education are much more likely to succeed in school and in life than those with less engaged families. Specifically, children from more involved families are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores; enroll in higher-level programs; graduate high school and go on to college; and have better social skills. They also are less likely to have behavioral problems and have easier transitions from home to kindergarten.”

Communities can encourage parents to engage more with their children and schools in a few ways.

“[Help] advertise the various events taking place to help spread the word to parents who either don’t check email or may not have one set up,” said Feliciano. She mentioned that schools and teachers should remember to ask for help when it is needed, saying they can more easily receive assistance when PTO members and parents know about the issues.

“Communication is the key!” said Feliciano

“Community organizations can encourage parents to get involved by inviting them to talk about their hopes, concerns and expectations about their child’s educational opportunities,” said Patterson. “Being heard and taking part in finding solutions that benefit their kids empowers parents in a community. When parents realize that their actions can truly affect positive change, they step up to the challenge.”

For parents interested in the Stand University for Parents program, contact or call 317-759-2640. For parents interested in joining the PTO, contact a local PTO committee directly, or call the local school secretary for more information.

As a final note, Feliciano said, “Parental involvement is key to every child’s success. [Taking] the time to show up and give support goes a long way in helping our youth. I hold a saying very close to my heart and it’s one that I strive to live by: ‘Good, better, best; never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best!’ By giving our best to our youth, we are in turn encouraging them to be better also.”

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