Dear Fellow Nebraskans:
This month is Parental Involvement in Education Month in Nebraska. The First Lady and I recently held an event at the Capitol to make the proclamation and encourage parents to be involved in their children's education. When parents are involved, decades of studies have shown over and over again that children achieve higher grades, test scores, graduation rates increase, there's better school attendance, increased motivation and self-esteem and even decreased use of drugs, alcohol and destructive behavior.
My wife Sally is a former elementary school teacher and principal. She and I are strong believers in parental engagement. We believe that good teachers combined with strong parental involvement leads to good learning because we have seen firsthand the difference it can make. Sally and I were fortunate to be raised by parents who believed strongly in the value of education. It helped us to set priorities as we were growing up and later on as parents raising our own son.
The belief that parents play a key role in student learning is something Sally brought to the schools and classrooms where she taught for more than 30 years. By developing innovative ways to reach out to parents, stronger relationships are developed by parents, teachers and administrators that can help students accomplish their goals. These relationships also encourage better communication with school district leaders.
Involvement doesn't mean parents must become experts in math and science. It is the everyday interaction that is key. Reading to your child is the best way to increase vocabulary and language skills. Everyday enrichment activities will supplement what your child is learning in the classroom. Taking your child to the grocery store and asking them to calculate the cost and change due is another.
Nebraska is a state where people have a strong work ethic, feel connected to their local communities, and have access to excellent schools. Because of this, we believe that our state can be a national leader in promoting parent involvement. By bringing together schools, community organizations, and parents, we can help parents support their child's learning as part of their everyday lives.
Nebraska Children and Families Foundation bring partners together on a statewide level to encourage more parent involvement through its Community Learning Center Network.
In just a few weeks, at the Nebraska State Fair, parents, teachers and students will have the opportunity to learn about the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that makes great events like the state fair possible. STEM education opportunities will be everywhere -- near the food, rides, exhibits, agriculture, performance areas -- and even in the parking lot. STEM will also be featured at Nebraska's Largest Classroom, held at the Fair on Monday, August 26 and Tuesday, August 27.
This initiative is a result of schools, colleges, parents, businesses, nonprofits, and afterschool professionals all working together to make STEM education accessible to families in a place where they'll already be visiting.
Additionally, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (NET) will be airing the August episode of NET's series "The State of Education in Nebraska" which looks at community efforts designed to build parental engagement. "The Challenge of Parent Engagement" airs Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. CT on NET2 World. The program will feature an interview with Sally and me.
The "State of Education in Nebraska" is a two-year initiative led by NET Learning Services and the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. As a statewide effort, "State of Education in Nebraska" examines issues and connects Nebraskans to the important role that innovative school-community partnerships can have on improving student achievement.
- Dave Heineman