education edge | dr. susan tave zelman

education edge | dr. susan tave zelman

Kick up your child's educational ROI:

Parental involvement enriches everyone

You pay taxes. You support your school at levy time. You help with homework and send your child to school ready to learn. As far as you know, you're doing all you can to ensure your child gets a top-quality education.

But if you had the opportunity to earn an even higher 'return on investment' in your child's education, would you do it? Of course you would! You can kick up the value of your child's education by learning about issues that affect your child's school. You also can help local and state educators understand your expectations for your child's success.

As today's students graduate and move into the global business arena, they will be vying for jobs and financial gains in a workforce of people whose foreign-based public educations focus mindfully on mathematics, science, engineering, technology and foreign languages. These areas are driving the world economy.

Two years ago, Ohio became the first state to compare its public education system to those of other countries. Even though Ohio now ranks seventh in the nation in public education, the state has more to do to bring its children's skills and learning up to world-class standards. Here's how you can help make sure your child's school is on the team.

Know the issues that affect public education and stay informed about developments.

There is a statewide volunteer group of 35 parents who meet regularly with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to stay informed about state and national laws that affect public schools. This Parent Advisory Council (PAC) also helps the state superintendent of public instruction and ODE tap into the advice, expertise and volunteer spirit of parents and families to improve children's learning. You can offer input about things you would like to see the PAC address by e-mailing

You also can team up with other parents in your school or community to schedule a Parent Academy, a local workshop offered by ODE and Ohio parents who are trained in education topics. Right now, ODE is scheduling sessions for a Parent Academy titled Conditions for Learning, which will give parents a better grasp on how to support a child's education at home. Parents also will learn how to work with their districts to ensure a safe, caring school environment that promotes learning. The Academy continues to develop other topics. For details, visit and search for keywords Parent Academy.

Know where your child's school and district stand.

As a child, did knowing that a report card loomed at the end of the term help keep you on track? Today, your local school and school district get report cards, too. You can see their grades by visiting the ODE website and searching for keywords Local Report Card. A series of clicks will lead you to your local schools' scores.

Partner with your district to help improve school and student performance on the state's academic content standards.

These standards tell parents what their children need to know and be able to do in different subjects at specific grade levels. To familiarize yourself with content standards for your child's grade, visit the ODE website and search for keywords Standards Guides for Families. This is part of a special section for families where you'll find more resources and information to help you help your child. Studies show that student performance improves with more parental involvement.

What better investment can we make in our children's futures than to equip them with the knowledge and skills to thrive in a world community and economy? Just as you know about the performance of your checking account, savings account, home equity value or other assets, make sure you know what local public education is earning for your child's future.

PAC raises hopes, builds cooperation

Six members of the state superintendent's Parent Advisory Council (PAC) hail from central Ohio. In the past, some of these parents have helped the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) improve the usefulness and friendliness of its Just for Families website by providing local feedback and ideas. This year, the group is helping ODE create ways to get parents more involved in their children's schools. Soon, members will be meeting one-on-one with district superintendents to discuss their ideas.

PAC members feel they are making a difference in what's happening in Ohio education. Kendra Conrad of Columbus, the mother of four children who range from gifted to learning-challenged to hearing impaired, said, "I believe parents need to have a voice as high as they can--either legislatively or at the state department. My first PAC meeting brought me hope that inroads [in parental involvement] are being made by the Department of Education."

"PAC members want the educational experience to be better for all children in their communities, not just their own children," added Michelle Sutton of Columbus, the mother of two daughters, 7 and 10 years old.

PAC member Kurt Younger of Gahanna gave an example of why parents should know what's expected of their children at school. "Parents should not take the word of their children that homework is done. They should know what homework is expected and if it has been done." He also encourages parents to visit their children's schools and talk with educators. Younger often takes vacation or personal time from his work to attend PAC meetings and he echoed the spirit of many PAC members. "We make sacrifices to participate because we care about Ohio families."

Other PAC members from central Ohio are Denise Harris and Lynn Stevens of Columbus, and Tracey Davis of Westerville. For more information on the Parent Advisory Council, go to, keyword search: Parent Advisory Council.