Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Oct. 30 that 70 Chicago public schools have teamed up with Walgreens to give cards worth $25 of store credit to parents who pick up their children’s report card and participate in parent-teacher conferences.
The participating schools have had problems maintaining parental involvement, according to an Oct. 30 press release from the mayor’s office.
Some headlines are calling the program bribery, and perhaps it is ridiculous to reward parents for what they should already be doing. But parents aren’t monitoring their children’s progress at some schools, and students’ futures are on the line. Any program that can potentially change that should be considered money well spent.
CPS will track the program’s success and potentially use it as a model for additional incentive programs to get parents involved in their children’s education.
“The success of a student is supported by three pillars: a principal who is held accountable for that success, a teacher who is committed to that success, and, most importantly, a parent who is involved at home,” Emanuel said in the press statement.
For some parents, finding time to go to parent-teacher conferences can be a challenge. Giving parents an incentive could persuade them to take time off work or other obligations to focus on their child’s education.
Several school systems have already implemented incentive programs. Brenda Scott Academy for Theatre Arts, a public school in Detroit, allows students to attend a Halloween event only if their parents have had a conference with teachers, said Jennifer Mrozowski, executive director of communications at Detroit Public Schools, in a blog post on the DPS website. The incentive resulted in a parent attendance rate of 75 percent, according to the website.
Walgreens plans to invest as much as $850,000 in the trial run of the incentive, according to a Nov. 5 Chicago Tribune article. In return, it will get an opportunity to promote its new Balance Rewards program.
The company has almost 150 stores in Chicago, according to the mayor’s office, and was a major donor to the Chicago NATO Host Committee that planned the international summit earlier this year, according to an information packet from the committee’s website. While Walgreens will benefit from this program, its interest in Chicago’s success is more than just business.
If parents won’t be more proactive about investing time in their children’s education, then CPS should continue to develop new programs to get them involved. Bribery is never ideal, but sitting around and hoping that parents will find the time or motivation
to be more engaged in their children’s education isn’t going to solve the problem.
This incentive will hopefully be a successful trial in expanding CPS’s parent engagement program to ensure that students receive support beyond the classroom.