While requiring parents to become involved in schools sounds like a win-win situation, the Prince William County schools described in the Sept. 22 Metro article "Parents' Mandatory Volunteering" actually are setting up an exclusionary system. If volunteering is mandatory, that is a bar to enrollment for any child who has parents who cannot volunteer.
I teach at an inner-city school in Memphis. Most of our parents are working, single parents, many of whom hold down two jobs to pay their bills.
While our school has strived to increase parental involvement, we have come to realize that for some parents just getting their children dressed and to school on time is a sign that they are involved. Such things as having voice mail for teachers to leave assignments and messages and get messages from parents after hours helps these parents a lot. E-mail also is useful for those parents who have computer access. At our school, we stagger events so that parents who can't attend one may be able to make another. We send ideas and activities home, and parents tell us that they appreciate this.
I would guess that less than 10 percent of the children in our school have parents who could commit to the contract for Prince William parents. I'd also guess that most low-income parents, and many middle-income ones, do not have the flexibility in their work schedules that's required to make such a commitment.