Is Parent Involvement the Missing Link in School Reform?

Is Parent Involvement the Missing Link in School Reform?

According to a recent survey published by Scholastic and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, teachers rank increasing family involvement in education as the school-improvement effort with the greatest potential to boost student achievement. Meanwhile, this year's MetLife Survey of the American Teacher found a strong correlation between parent involvement levels in a school and teachers' job satisfaction.

Do these findings surprise you? Why do teachers place such a high value on family involvement? What can schools and teachers do to increase family and parent engagement in sustainable ways? What's worked for you? What does the engaged school community of the future look like to you?

Roundup Post: Parental Involvement Is a Key to Success

By guest blogger Eva Hardy, online content/data coordinator at the Center for Teaching Quality In April, roundtable participants discussed the many ways in which parental engagement can elevate students' classroom performance. Participants agreed that parental involvement was a collaborative effort, requiring teacher, parents, and administration to get involved in the process. Below is a recap of some experiences and insights from this month's contributors: Activate Parents: Jose Vilson argues that parental involvement is the "missing link" in school reform and challenges fellow teachers to work to "activate parents into a collaborative role." Create Resources: Parents can bring a diverse ...

Follow-Up: The Way I Keep Up With Parents

A commenter in my last blog felt that some of the work I did to be proactive might have felt like a little much. Conversely, sometimes I feel like I'm not doing enough. I have systems that work for me, but they're not as thorough as others I've seen. The key for a good system to work for me is efficiency. In other words, it's got to be in the flow of things I already do throughout the day. 1. Electronic grade books work. For example, when I take attendance, I tend to use my electronic grade book (Engrade is ...

Follow-Up: No More Finger-Pointing at Parents, Teachers

Cheryl Suliteanu I believe it really does take a village to raise a child. If we break down our priorities into basic needs for every child, we can easily come to common ground with parents: We want children to grow up to be successful, happy, and healthy adults. Pointing the finger at teachers and saying we aren't doing our jobs when a child doesn't score well on a once-a-year exam isn't working. Pointing fingers at parents and telling them they aren't doing enough to prepare their child for school isn't working. What is working? Knowing your students and their families, ...

Follow-Up: Making the Most of Parent Feedback

Bill Ivey This discussion happens to parallel two intense weeks at my school: preparing for Spring Family Weekend. The schedule for the weekend, as is typical at schools with boarding programs, is packed. Families will attend classes on Friday morning. We will have an all-school house-meeting (a weekly time for announcements and presentations) before lunch. After lunch, we will have a performing arts show and then a number of parent meetings, open sports activities, and conferences. Conferences continue after dinner and into the next morning. Our Head of School will give a talk and facilitate discussion. Saturday afternoon, there will ...

Follow-Up: Engaged Parents Enable Teachers to Help Students

Ilana Garon In my previous post, I ruffled some feathers through my discussion of parents in the high-needs school at which I work who are unreachable or seemingly unconcerned about their children's educational progress. Several readers responded that perhaps these families are experiencing crises (homelessness, drug abuse) that prevent engagement. It's not my intention to belittle these families' struggles; my point is that lack of parental engagement is a trend we cannot ignore. Students even say, "Miss, please. You think my mom's gonna bother showing up to conferences?" or "Come on, after middle school, parents give up!" Of course, it ...

Follow-Up: Why Parents of High School Students Should Be Less Involved

David Ruenzel The assumption running through the accumulated blogs and postings is that parent involvement is always a good thing. But I find this assumption extremely questionable at the high school level. Indeed, I'm convinced that parents of adolescents should slowly fade out of the school picture altogether. The parents of the more savvy kids do exactly this: They provide their children with whatever resources they can and then stay out of the way. They know that the best schooling, like the best parenting, has as its primary goal the self-sufficiency and intellectual independence of the young person. Readers might ...

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 ...

Building Proactive Parent-Teacher Relationships

José Vilson It's a well-known stereotype that parents in urban communities don't participate as frequently in their child's education. They "leave it to the school" to take care of all the students' academic needs and only care if the students are passing or not. Yet, for some reason, every year, there are always one or two parents in my school who become notorious for the way they interrogate and disrupt the normal machinations of the schooling process. They come in demanding answers for questions teachers might not have answers for, or flipping the comments we make about the students' behavior ...

Finding Common Ground With Parents

Cheryl Suliteanu I've been hearing a lot of buzz about this year's MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, which include findings on parent engagement. I found much of the information to be predictable, if unsettling. In particular, I anticipated the results would show, despite general growth in levels of parent engagement, a discrepancy between parents' and teachers' views on particular school-related priorities—and they did. Does this accurate prediction make me a pessimist or a realist? Either way, it is imperative to recognize that our perceptions differ, based on our roles in educating children (and our own experiences in the ...

How Schools Can Foster Family Engagement

Lori Nazareno Parents are their children's first teachers and they play a vital role in creating a climate of success for students. While it is possible to support students when there is little family support, the simple truth is, the road to success is much smoother when families and teachers work together to ensure student success. When families and teachers connect on behalf of students, and collaborate to provide consistent expectations, students benefit in significant ways that allow them to achieve at the highest levels. My school, the Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy, was built on the idea that families ...

Listening to Parents' Priorities

Bill Ivey When my school added middle grades eight years ago, we adopted the principles of This We Believe, now published by the Association for Middle Level Education. One of these principles is, "The school actively involves families in the education of their children." As a private school, we are acutely aware of the importance of family involvement. At a parent meeting early in the year, the school counselor talks about young adolescent development and I explain how our faculty bases decisions on this research about what kids need and why. Parents are appreciative, and in many cases relieved, to ...

Just What Do We Mean By 'Parent Involvement'?

David Ruenzel Parent involvement can make for better schools and improved student achievement, but only if teachers and parents have a shared sense of what that involvement means. This happens all too infrequently. For teachers, parent involvement often means unwavering support for their efforts—they want parents to goad their students into doing homework and behaving in class. For parents, on the other hand, it frequently means narrow-minded advocacy—they want what they perceive as best for their child and will do whatever it takes to get it. These competing visions of involvement can lead to painful conflicts, as I know...

'Back To The Future' For Parent Engagement

Larry Ferlazzo I'm not at all surprised by results from either survey. Plenty of research has documented what teachers—and probably most families—already know about the importance of parent involvement and engagement. (As I've written before, I think there's a continuum that extends from parent involvement to parent engagement—involvement being more like "doing to" and engagement more of a "doing with.") Our school is very committed to making home visits to families before or near the start of the school year. Through these conversations, which are focused on building relationships instead of talking about problems, we're able to...

Parental Involvement: Not Optional

Ilana Garon Two weeks ago, the school I teach at held its bi-annual parent-teacher conferences, which were attended by the parents or guardians of approximately 40% of our student body. Of this group, the majority were parents of 9th graders—conference attendance always drops out after 9th grade, as though at age 15 kids stop needing their parents to supervise their education. As a 10th grade English teacher, I saw about 30% of my students' parents in total, and as usual, the parents who showed up were the ones I least "needed" to see: Their children, on the whole, are ...

The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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About the Contributors

  • Jessica Shyu

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  • Michael Moran

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    Michael Moran is a former sixth grade teacher currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Washington's Evans S...

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