Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Parents May Be Silver Lining for Schools as Recession Persists

New Poll Finds 20% Spike in Parents’ Plans to Volunteer in Classrooms This Year Amid Concerns Over Economy and Education

National Back-to-School Report Finds Parents Plan to Volunteer in Schools, Reconsider Public vs. Private School, and Shop Smarter for Supplies

As families prepare to go back to school amid economic woes, a groundbreaking new study finds that parents, worried about the economy and education cutbacks, are planning to pitch in with greater volunteerism and shop smarter for school supplies. Many are also reconsidering what type of school their kids should attend.

Issued by GreatSchools, a national independent education nonprofit, and Harris Interactive, “The Economy’s Impact on Back to School” report finds that nearly two in three parents (64%) believe that, because of the recession, it more important for them to volunteer in the classroom than before. Many parents are taking the need to volunteer to heart. A majority of parents (53%) plan to volunteer at their child’s school this year versus 44% last year – an increase of 20%. This trend is most pronounced among African American parents, 60% of whom plan to volunteer (up from 23% who say they volunteered last year).

Despite their strong interest in volunteering, however, parents may still remain an untapped resource. According to the report, nearly half of parents (49%) list the lack of opportunities offered by teacher or schools among the main challenges they face to being more involved in ensuring their child receive a quality education.

“As American families prepare for back-to-school season in this economic climate -- when family, school and state budgets are tighter than ever -- there is a silver lining: parents,” said Bill Jackson, founder and president of GreatSchools. “With their profound ability to influence their children's academic success and contribute to their children's schools, this report shows that parents hold the potential to be the new economic stimulus package for education in America. This report is a wake-up call to parents and teachers alike to clearly communicate on ways they can work together.”

The study also highlights several key findings about the level of parent confidence in education and how parents are navigating back to school in a struggling economy. The findings include:

Parents are concerned about school cutbacks and some are rethinking school choices -- More than three in five parents (61%) believe the quality of education will suffer because of school cutbacks. Regardless of whether their children now attend public or private school, nearly one in four parents (24%) are rethinking the type of school their children should attend going forward. This trend is most prominent among lower-income urban and suburban parents.

Parents may not be fully prepared for the start of school – While most parents (93%) plan to buy school supplies ahead of time, fewer than half focus on the content of their children’s education and reducing distractions prior to the start of school. Only 47% of parents find out which subjects their child will be learning, 39% have their kids start reading more often, and 33% cut down on TV and video games.

Parents are addressing economic difficulties by shopping smarter for school supplies – With 74% of families expecting their economic situation to worsen or stay the same, a majority of parents (nearly 90%) plan to take cost-saving steps when shopping for school supplies. These steps include reusing old supplies (57%) and delaying purchases until after school starts so as to only buy what’s truly needed (26%).

Inspiring Action: The Great Parents Pledge

Today’s report follows the launch of The Great Parents Pledge, GreatSchools’ social media initiative that enlists parents to commit to greater levels of involvement in the coming school year. The GreatSchools website also features rich content on preparing for the back-to-school season, including tips on avoiding the summer ‘brain drain’, a shopping guide for affordable school supplies, and a back-to-school quiz to help families get off to a smart start.

About GreatSchools

GreatSchools is an independent nonprofit organization that improves education by inspiring parents to be involved.

Parents choose GreatSchools to connect with each other – to find the right schools, share stories and advice, and get their parenting questions answered. Over the past 10 years, GreatSchools has empowered and inspired millions of parents to support their children’s education. In the past year alone, more than 35 million people – approximately one in three K-12 households in the U.S. - visited GreatSchools (www.greatschools.org). With hundreds of thousands of ratings and parent reviews of schools nationwide, GreatSchools is the paramount parent-to-parent education community.

A Webby Award-winning site, GreatSchools is now expanding its reach and impact with its College Bound initiative, a new program that will provide structured online and offline training, mentoring and community resources to unlock the power of parents in guiding their children’s success in school and beyond. GreatSchools is supported by numerous foundations and corporations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Robertson Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. For more information, please visit http://www.greatschools.org.

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