Volunteering in schools: Should it be mandatory?
More schools requiring parents to volunteer their time
A growing number of U.S. public and private schools are mandating that all parents provide some set number of volunteer hours per school year. The amount of mandatory volunteer time required of parents can range from as little as five hours per year to more than 75 hours. While the trend toward requiring parents to volunteer their time in their children’s schools is growing nationwide, it is not without controversy. Some parents feel such volunteer-hour requirements are an unnecessary intrusion into their private time and lives, while others may have difficulty meeting the requirements due to work and personal demands. However, many educators believe in-class volunteerism is beneficial to both students and parents.
Cheryl J. Hearn, EdS, Campus College Chair at University of Phoenix North Florida Campus, incorporated mandatory parent volunteer hours into the public charter schools she administered and saw the benefits of doing so firsthand.
“When I served as the director of instruction for The Arts & Technology Academy, a charter school in Washington, D.C., parental involvement was mandatory as part of the educational program,” she says. “The success of our educational program was due in part to the high expectations of our administrative staff and the increased parental involvement in their children’s education.” The Academy was recognized for excellence by the U.S. Department of Education and named one of the top charter schools in the United States by its administrator, Mosaica Education Inc.
Jaime Januse, MEd, Area Chair for the College of Education at University of Phoenix Central Valley Campus in Fresno, Calif., shares Hearn’s enthusiasm for mandatory parent volunteer hours. “I think requiring parents to volunteer their time in their children’s school is a great idea,” she says. “It helps get buy-in from the parents. It gets parents into the classroom and involved in their children’s education.”
Prior to her work at University of Phoenix, Januse taught at a public school that served at-risk students who had behavioral problems and language-learning challenges. “Parental involvement is very important,” says Januse. “When there’s no responsibility placed on the parents in terms of their children’s education, it’s an injustice to the child. But when you connect the child, the parents and the community, it provides such a strong foundation.”
At Januse’s school, administrators offered parents many different options for fulfilling their five-hour volunteer requirement, ranging from being a “room parent,” to helping grade papers at home on their own time, to serving as a chaperone on field trips, and many other options.
The schools Hearn administered had much higher volunteer-hour requirements for parents. “We required anywhere from 24–70 volunteer hours a year from parents, depending on the school and the program,” says Hearn. “Mandatory volunteer hours benefit the growth and achievement of a school. Involved parents are more accountable for their children’s learning."