Reese: First steps toward high school diploma start in the home - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Reese: First steps toward high school diploma start in the home

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Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at Contact her at

Michelle Reese covered education for the Tribune, also blogging about motherhood and family issues at

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013 5:45 pm | Updated: 3:34 pm, Tue Aug 20, 2013.

The influence of Arizona moms and dads on the state’s graduation rate starts at home, one education leader believes.

As a report this month shows Arizona lagging again behind other states, Expect More Arizona’s Erin Hart points to the need for parents to take a deeper role in understanding what’s happening in schools and demand higher expectations in the classroom for all.

“I think it’s helpful for parents to be aware of this and strive for change for not only their child, but all students in Arizona,” she said. “The parent, besides the teacher, is the No. 1 influence for students in education. I think a parent can support a world class education for not only their own child, but others as well.”

As reported earlier this week in the Tribune, nearly 75 percent of the Class of 2010 received a diploma nationwide. That's the latest data collected for "Diplomas Count 2013," a report released by Education Week in early June. That was a jump to graduation levels not seen since the 1970s.

But Arizona’s graduation rate dropped five points to 67 percent. The lowest graduation rates are New Mexico and the District of Columbia, which both fall below 60 percent. Vermont and North Dakota lead the nation with graduation rates of 85 percent and 84 percent, respectively.

Arizona sits in the bottom fifth of all reporting states.

“Something that is encouraging is that the national average is improving. It’s at highest point since the 1970s. Something that is discouraging is that Arizona is falling behind,” Hart, the COO for Expect More Arizona, said.

Hart’s background is in parent engagement and policy programs. She previously worked at the national Parent Teacher Association.

The state can improve its graduation rate and demand more of children's education, Hart believes. But much work starts in the home with simple steps like assuring a student attends class and does homework.

“Make sure their child goes to school every day. I know this sounds like an easy thing, but if a child is not in school, he doesn’t have an opportunity to learn,” she said. “If you look at dropouts, a trend is students who end up dropping out aren’t in school enough. They don’t go to class.”

Parents also need to set education as the priority in the home and make sure that message is conveyed to students, Hart said.

Hart pointed to a different study done that asked high school dropouts about the parental influence in their lives.

“Students were asked, ‘How do you wish your parents were involved?' They resoundingly said they wished their parents were more involved and set high expectations so they could rise to the challenge,” Hart said. “I know students may put on airs they don’t want that, but they do.”

Finally, Hart said parents should get to know their child’s teacher and what’s happening in the classroom.

“By doing that parents can help keep their child on track and they can help reinforce what the child is learning in the classroom at home. It’s important for parents to be proactive … so they can be partners of their child’s learning alongside their teacher.”

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