Staff writer Valerie Strauss asked people of various backgrounds: What's the most important thing a parent can do to help a child in school?

Eileen Feldman

Mother of three children who went to Montgomery County public schools

To be successful, students must be totally invested in their educations. It's their friends who influence them to do well far more than their parents. Parents should do their best to encourage friendships with self-motivated, involved kids who want to succeed. (But don't ask me how that's done if your child chooses unwisely!)

Kimberly Perry

Director of D.C. Hunger Solutions

The single most important thing parents can do to ensure their child's academic success is to make arrangements for their children and teenagers to get to school on time to eat a nutritious school breakfast each morning. A school breakfast is offered for free or very low cost in most D.C. public, charter and independent schools. . . . Students who eat breakfast at school -- closer to class and test-taking time -- perform better on standardized tests than those who skip breakfast or eat breakfast at home.

Margaret Spellings

U.S. secretary of education

I would say the most important thing is to get involved in your child's education, even if that's hard to do with so many other things going on. . . . Encourage your son or daughter to take rigorous courses and to ask for help if they're falling behind. Let them know it's better to struggle a little in the tough classes than to coast in the easy ones. . . . President Bush says, 'Make sure your children read as much as they watch TV,' and I agree. Toss out the Game Boy, go see the teacher and take a look at your kids' after-school schedule this week -- the swimming, soccer and football. The numbers on your child's report card should be as important as the numbers on the scoreboard.

Army Lt. Wes Moore

Former Rhodes scholar, now in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division

The most important thing parents can do to help their child in school is be consistently involved and active and establish a bar of high expectations. A parent must not simply query about grades during report-card time but must be holistically involved in all aspects of their child's development (academics, sports, other extracurriculars, etc.) throughout the year.

Marian Wright Edelman

Founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund

Read to them and do homework with them. Convey to [the] child/children how important education is, having high expectations for the child and affirming [the] child's ability to learn by reading and doing homework with [the] child.

Jack D. Dale

Superintendent of Fairfax County public schools

Be an active participant in your child's learning. Ask about what they are learning. Ask what excites them in school. Create circumstances that allow them to explore ideas and have experiences that enrich their experience base. And above all, demonstrate high belief in their ability to learn anything and learn anything well.

Ryan Holeywell

George Washington University junior

Parents need to understand how incredibly busy a student can be. . . . In addition to taking full course loads, many students work at jobs, have internships, are conducting research or are leaders in campus organizations. All of that, on top of homework, can often leave students with little or no free time during the workweek. . . . If a parent truly wants the child to succeed, it's important to realize that for some students, time is a precious commodity.

Marilyn B. Benoit

Former president, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Parents can assist children with their social-emotional development by helping them to cope with failure and success (not brag to others), be thoughtful and kind to others, deal with anger, conflict, envy and jealousy, deal with mean kids and bullies and be respectful of authority.