If educational reform is to result in significant improvement in science learning, then parents and the community will play a significant role. It is a well-established fact that when parent expectations and involvement are high, students generally have better attitudes and performance in school. Experience also has established the beneficial effects of creating classroom extensions in the community. It is important that school leaders include parents and the larger community in school reform efforts.
Research has clearly demonstrated the close relationship between adolescents' reading habits and their success in school as well as their future success as adults. When students read extensively, they have larger vocabularies, better writing skills, and generally acquire more useful information that serves as the basis for additional learning. Research also shows that children who read extensively improve their skills in critical thinking and problem solving. Parents can act as role models for their children, showing by their actions that reading is both enjoyable and important. They also can make certain that plenty of good quality reading material is available in the home; set aside time for reading (no other activity competing); create a comfortable, quiet space for reading; and engage in conversations about reading.
Schools should build close connections with parents by establishing learning partnerships, promoted by two-way communication between school and home. Teachers and administrators must seek information from parents. Parents should be encouraged to talk freely and openly about their children's home life, culture, and traditions, as well as aspirations that they (and their children) hold for the future, areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and their expectations for schools.
Schools need to become active partners in their community. Again, this goal requires a two-way link that will ultimately benefit all students. Sharing resources, facilities, and human talent are three effective ways to collaborate. If both the schools and local government understand their common role in serving children and families, there is no limit to the number of opportunities that become available. Schools can provide before- and after-school programs that make it easier for parents to meet their work responsibilities. Community agencies and governmental offices can sponsor nighttime and week-end learning opportunities using school facilities. Schools should always be inviting places for community visitors, providing many opportunities for involvement in social activities and other school events.
In recent years, many successful programs have fostered inter-generational involvement between senior citizens and school children. Volunteer tutors for students in need of extra support can be found. Young people also can learn to value volunteerism and achieve personal satisfaction by engaging in activities with older adult community members, with hospital patients, or through participation with local service groups.
Government and business facilities in the community offer many possibilities for engaging students in meaningful, real-life experiences. From field trips to observation days and extended work/study programs, the community contains many unique and enriching opportunities. Through local business groups, schools can arrange for students to meet and be mentored by successful members of the community.