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Follow-Up: Parent Engagement vs. Parent Involvement

Larry Ferlazzo

In my previous post, I highlighted what I characterized as the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement. Involvement, I suggested, was more of a "doing to" while engagement leaned towards a "doing with."

What would the roles of key players look like from these two different perspectives?

In involvement, the parent might be seen as a volunteer who is generally directed by school staff toward completing tasks or as a client who receives services and information. In engagement, the parent would be considered as a leader (or a potential leader) who is integral to identifying a vision and goals for the school and community. He or she would encourage others to contribute their own visions to that big picture and perform the tasks necessary to reach those goals.

In involvement, the teacher might be akin to a social worker, doing things for parents or tending to tell them what they should be doing with their children. In engagement, the teacher is more of an organizer who helps parents do things for themselves. He or she would elicit ideas from parents about what everyone (parents and school staff) could do differently to support students and their community.

In involvement, the administrator might develop a vision for the school and community and assign tasks to parents to help accomplish these goals. In engagement, he or she would encourage parents and staff to help develop a joint vision and exercise their own leadership abilities. He or she would recognize that volunteer tasks are important—but that it is important to involve parents in the end (not just the means to that end).

What is happening in your school—parent involvement or parent engagement? How important is that distinction? If you think it's significant, what do you do (or what could you imagine doing) to encourage engagement?

An award-winning English and social studies teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., Larry Ferlazzo is the author of Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Challenges.

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