School as a Family Matter


Teachers at inner-city schools say it can be difficult to get parents fully involved in the academic life of their children. Both parents usually work, they might not have a car, they might not be skilled in the English language.

Try telling that to the parents at Washington Elementary School in Santa Ana.

About 300 parents come to the school each morning, sit with their children and read. Seven hundred more parents take part in other aspects of the school’s crusade for literacy, be it family efforts to improve language skills, parents learning English or adults attending an art or poetry class.

School officials say the reading-with-children program began four years ago, at the instigation of a parent. But clearly the program would not have grown as rapidly without the support of the school’s teachers and administrators. They deserve credit as surely as the participating parents.


Last weekend the California School Boards Assn. awarded Washington its prestigious Golden Bell award. First- and second-graders at the school have shown good improvement in Stanford 9 test scores, although the school’s results on that statewide test still remain low.

Officials from other school districts, including some from other states, have come to Washington Elementary to see whether they might be able to get similar results. Most parents clearly want to help their children; the question is how they can best do it. Schools that welcome parents and encourage their involvement help improve students’ education. The school can become a central part of the community, a force for unity.

The school’s principal says that even parents who are not literate can motivate their children and encourage them to study every night. And reaching those parents, spurring them to become literate, increases the commitment to reading, the cornerstone of education.