Balancing Act: Back-to-school tips offered for working parents

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This school year, some working parents are changing their game plan.

Felicia Alvaro, vice president of finance at Ultimate Software, is one of them. Last year, her teenage daughter was secretive about grades and attendance.

But Ms. Alvaro was called in to meet with her daughter's guidance counselor and a concerned teacher, and she learned her daughter's grades had slipped and she had skipped classes.

In the new school year, Ms. Alvaro plans to meet with teachers proactively, and she will drive her daughter to school every morning "just to open the door to communication."

But at a time when the literacy rate has plummeted and the SAT reading scores were the lowest on record, are working parents too busy to take an active role in their children's learning?

With that in mind, I turned to teachers for advice on how working parents with heavy job demands can best stay involved in their children's education.

The consensus among teachers is that parents don't need to spend hours volunteering in the classroom or sitting on the PTA board. Involvement, they say, starts with a simple gesture: finding out a teacher's email address and using it to communicate.

In elementary school, meeting that person should be considered a parent's priority.

Kim Milov, a fourth-grade teacher in Southwest Ranches, Fla., believes parents should try extra hard to attend open house/meet-the-teacher night. "That way, even if you're at work, you have a visual connection with your child at school."

Unlike grade school, teachers expect more independence from middle school students. But that doesn't mean parents should back off, teachers say.

Lori Goldwyn, a math teacher in Weston, Fla., suggests regularly looking over your tween's agenda and making a routine of checking teachers' websites. "Bookmark them, and communicate with the teacher."

By high school, some parents back off completely. That's a mistake, teachers say.

Daniel Muchnick, a U.S. history teacher, says parents should be aware that many school districts use online grade books, he said. "Grades, attendance, assignments -- everything is available online."

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Cindy Krischer Goodman can be reached at balancegal@gmail.com.


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