Parental Involvement in Schools

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The Importance of Parental Involvement

This is a neat article on the Importance of Parental Involvement which I found in the web and thought of sharing

Environmental, social, and economic factors have a powerful effect on student performance. Any one of the following factors place a child at greater risk of underachieving in school
Growing up in poverty
Run down schools
Inadequate learning opportunities
Neighborhood distress
Exposure to drugs and/or violence at home or school
Few role models
Lack of after-school care
Poor nutrition
Dysfunctional families Teen pregnancy
Inadequate Health Care

Children who don't feel safe walking to and from school have added stress in the classroom. This stress can impede academic progress as well.

Studies show that low-achieving students are more likely to be disruptive in the classroom and are more likely to threaten other students and teachers.

While parents cannot always change these factors, they can have a great influence over many of these challenges. Parents, working with schools and the community, are a vital resource in improving schools and neighborhoods. Further, mothers and fathers contribute significantly in creating a nurturing environment in which children can grow and learn.

Barriers to Parental Involvement
Many parents encounter obstacles to participating in their children's education.
Barriers to involvement reported by parents and teachers include differing ideas among parents and teachers on what constitutes involvement, a less than welcoming atmosphere toward visitors in schools and classrooms, negative or neutral communication from schools, insufficient training for teachers on how to reach out to both mothers and fathers, lack of parental education and parenting skills, time pressures, job pressures, and language barriers.

Parents tend to be less involved in the educational process as their children get older. A study of the U.S. Department of Education found that nationwide, as children grow older, contacts between families and schools decline both in number and in the positive nature of such contacts. Although 52 percent of interactions are positive and only 20 percent are negative in the first grade, by seventh grade, positive contacts drop to 36 percent and negative contacts increase to 33 percent. Volunteerism drops during these years, as well, from 33 percent of involved parents in first grade to 8 percent of involved parents in seventh grade. This decline in involvement is the result, in part, of a variety of challenges that families face that make their participation difficult.

Examining each barrier to involvement makes possible the creation of new approaches that foster optimal participation on the part of mothers and fathers. For instance, negative contact with schools can contribute to an unfriendly climate that reduces the likelihood of parental involvement. If parents themselves had negative experiences in their own schooling, they may already have formed a negative view of schools. These parents can view their children's school as hostile territory. Parents who are not comfortable speaking English may have experienced discrimination and humiliation because of the language difference when they were students. The lack of bilingual staff in schools contributes to feelings of powerlessness on the part of non-English speaking parents when attempting to advocate for or resolve problems for their children. Finding ways to make mothers and fathers feel more comfortable and welcomed in the school would improve the communication between school and parents.

Parents in economically disadvantaged families can face particular difficulties when attempting to participate in their children's education. As an example, some parents, especially those with low-wage jobs, face losing their jobs if they take time off work to attend meetings and functions. In addition, parents who are not well-educated themselves may find it difficult to help their children with homework. Helping low-literate adults improve their basic skills has a direct and measurable impact on children's education and on the quality of their lives. Furthermore, children of parents who need and participate in literacy programs improve their grades, test scores, and reading skills. They are also less likely to drop out of school.

While research has pointed to the benefits of parental involvement, less is understood about the areas of involvement that are most effective in improving achievement. Differences sometimes exist between parents and teachers regarding how parents should be involved in education. Some educators prefer traditional types of parent involvement such as volunteering to help with activities planned by the school and helping children with their homework. Although, educators may be very supportive of parents who volunteer to chaperone the school dance, for instance, they may oppose parent involvement in academic planning or school policy, fearing parents will be too interfering or critical of their children's teachers. The challenge is to find ways for parents and schools to work together in a way that is not only mutually beneficial but also improves the lives of children.

What Parents Can Do
Parents are their children's best advocates. Parents' willingness to contact teachers on a regular basis about their children's progress is perhaps the first step to becoming involved in their children's education. Armed with good information about a child's performance, parents can proceed in both direct and indirect ways to influence the child's progress. Mothers and fathers can become directly involved in children's education by:

overseeing the child's homework time;
setting a time each day for homework to be done, and checking the child's work for completeness and understanding;
limiting time spent with friends and watching television;
providing support for educators, essential leadership for programs, and ideas for improvements in the education system.
taking advantage of opportunities to become involved with school administration and policy development-for example, attend school board meetings and join the PTA.

Children's education may be indirectly influenced as parents become a familiar presence in the school by volunteering to help in the library, the school cafeteria, monitoring the halls, selling tickets, and chaperoning parties and field trips. As parents' faces become familiar in the school environment, natural opportunities may arise for communicating with their children's teachers. Furthermore, as educators witness parents' concerned involvement, they may become more receptive to parents' communication regarding their children's needs.

According to U.S. Department of Education research findings, children's success in reading comprehension is directly related to the availability of reading materials in the home. It has also been found that children respond positively when parents set high but realistic standards for achievement. Parents' expectations should be set high enough to give the child something to reach for, but not so high the child will become discouraged. Finally, children need positive encouragement in the form of praise, expressed interest, and rewarded effort.

Television can be an educational tool, but without supervision children tend to spend too much time watching lower quality programming and not engaging their own minds in active learning. U.S. Department of Education research found that while 73 percent of parents desire to limit their children's television viewing, many find it difficult to monitor these limits due to their own busy schedules. The U.S. Department of Education reports, however, that a significant loss in academic achievement results when children spend more than 10 hours a week watching television. Therefore, it is advantageous for parents to control the amount of television their children are watching.

Monitoring children's homework has also been shown to increase academic achievement. It is not necessary for parents to know all the answers. It is more important to demonstrate their interest by providing a quiet, well-lit place for doing homework, encouraging children's efforts, being available for questions, and being willing to discuss material the child is learning.

A well-established institution in most schools is the Parent Teacher Association. The PTA currently has over 800,000 members and has a long history of child advocacy and parent training. PTA works "to support and speak on behalf of children and youth in the schools, in the community, and before governmental bodies, and other organizations that make decisions affecting children; to assist parents in developing the skills they need to raise and protect their children; and to encourage parent and public involvement in the public schools of this nation."

One avenue overlooked by many parents is contacting other parents with similar concerns to form their own social action group. House meetings can be set up to discuss problems the children are having in school and how the group believes these problems can best be addressed. Priorities can be established, a strategy developed for approaching school staff, petitioning the school board, and speaking out at school board meetings. The Alliance Schools Initiative (see model program) distinguishes between parental involvement, which is passive and tends to maintain the existing school culture, and parental engagement. "Parental engagement views parents as citizens in the fullest sense-change agents who can transform inner city schools and neighborhoods." Finding ways to expand parental involvement will require creativity and open mindedness from both parents and schools.

What Schools Can Do
While research has documented the positive effects of parental involvement for children, less is known about how to elicit productive participation and which practices schools should use to maximize their investment in family and school connections. One study by the U.S. Department of Education found that how schools encourage parental participation is more influential than family attributes like marital status, family size, level of parents' education, student grade level, or even socioeconomic status in predicting whether parents get involved.

Parent involvement increases when the administration and staff of a school communicate a genuine desire to involve parents by considering their needs. For instance, when schools accommodate parents' work schedules by arranging meetings at times when parents can be available, the cooperation is more successful. Finding ways to include both mother and father in the education of children is important.

All parties concerned benefit when parents engage in joint learning activities with their children. Some activities increase communication between the generations, build mutual respect, and train students to compare points of view and think abstractly. One such activity is having parents view a selected television program with their children and then discuss its merits or weaknesses. Another might be to have children write books containing stories told them by parents and grandparents during interviews. These activities also provide parents and grandparents with opportunities to communicate moral and ethical values to their children as they tell their stories. When this is done as a school assignment, teachers benefit by gaining a greater understanding of their students' cultural environment and parents' concerns. In addition, barriers of fear are reduced as parents realize they do not have to be knowledgeable in all subject areas in order to participate in their children's education.

Following are several interventions both schools and parents can implement to increase communication and involvement.

Train teachers to work with parents and to view them as partners in the education of their children.
Arrange contacts in neutral settings; offer informal classes in parenting, ESL, GED, or other topics of interest
Arrange transportation for parents who do not own a vehicle.
Consider establishing a home/school coordinator to develop programs and act as a liaison between teachers and families.
Encourage mothers and fathers to attend and speak out in steering committees and task forces.
Encourage an active Parent Teacher Association.

Family involvement in the education of children is essential to academic success. While research has shown parental involvement with schools has a significant impact on the achievement of children, several barriers stand in the way of full involvement from parents. Negative communication to families from the school diminishes trust on the part of parents who may feel humiliated for their own and their children's lack of educational progress. Parents for whom English is a second language, may have difficulty understanding and may feel discriminated against for their inability to converse in English. Workers in low-paying jobs often must work long hours to earn enough to support their families and may not be able to attend school meetings. Addressing these barriers to parental involvement is necessary to enhance the learning capabilities of all children. This is especially true for children whose learning is hindered by disadvantages or stress in their home or environment.

It is also vital to address the misunderstandings and fears of both parents and teachers in communicating with one another. Parents are often reluctant to be involved in schools, because they fear judgment and criticism from the school staff and administration. Teachers, on the other hand, sometimes oppose parent involvement in the areas in which educators have traditionally held power. Training teachers in the most effective ways to involve parents may open lines of communication and minimize distrust on the part of parents. Another useful intervention is educating parents and other community members on how to best work with teachers and school administration to improve schools and neighborhoods.
Finally, more research is needed to understand what types of parental involvement are most beneficial. It is not clear, for instance, what the optimal level of participation is, what the saturation point is at which involvement becomes less helpful, and how the impact of involvement can affect parents' feelings about their children, parents' literacy, and self-esteem.

Even without the answers to all these questions, it is clear that students achieve more when parents provide good reading materials in the home, monitor the television, supervise homework, and hold reasonably high expectations of their children's performance. Parents can also work together with school officials to improve school policy. Model programs like the one presented in the next section have blazed the path for other schools to increase student performance by involving parents in their children's education.

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Comment by Melissa Grogan-Honkomp on July 19, 2009 at 5:18pm
This article was a great article to read. I think that the number one component to a students' success is having the support of the parents. The support shows that school is important and it becomes more valuable to the student and others involved. My experiences with parents have been very positive. They want their students to succeed and not be limited because of coming from another country. I also notice that most parents expect their child to do their best. They do not use the fact that they are learning English as a crutch to get away from learning and doing what is right. Without the parental support,it can make it very difficult for the teacher. Teachers need to have the support of the parents and they need to want to build a relationship with them. I know when I go to my daughter's jr high, her teachers are comfortable enough to tell me how she is doing. This make me a better parent, teacher and life-long learner. I need to be able to communicate with my parents and let the student see that their a bridge between teacher and parent. I think that it can also motivate the parents into wanting to be more involved and even take English classes themselves.
Comment by Craig Mackoy on July 17, 2009 at 5:01pm
I am concerned about parents considering me a 'bossy, nosey teacher' trying to tell them what to do. I know that parental involvement and engagement are essential....especially if a child is having problems. Even if the child is doing well, getting to know each other is very good for both parent and teachers. It gets the teacher familiar with the community the school serves, and gets the parents to understand that teachers aren't the ogres we often are portrayed as. There is too much of an adversarial atmosphere. It should be a conspiracy to commit success on the student and all concerned. Craig
Comment by Shandi Kobbe on July 17, 2009 at 9:29am
Although the population of non-English speaking parents is small in my district, there are those who feel powerless when trying to communicate with the teacher. I now serve as a translator for my spanish speaking parents during meetings they have with their child's teacher. Also, I started a parent English class after school. It grew much bigger than just a forum for learning English; the parents developed bonds with each other and myself. Because I worked with each of the parent's children, I was also able to serve as a liason and help convey conerns and questions the classroom teachers wanted to communicate with the parents. It was very rewarding and I plan to continue the class each year.
Comment by Kathy Wendt on July 15, 2009 at 3:43pm
What a great article with a lot of information on how teachers can build a relationship with the parents of their students. I agree that parental involvement and engagement is real important to students' success. My parents were involved in my life all the time I was growing up. They checked my homework and were at all events I was in as well as all conferences. They let me know just by their involvement just how important education was to them.
Comment by GRDWitte on July 14, 2009 at 6:10pm
Sometimes teachers see parents as threats - coming into the classroom to check on teachers, what they are doing, what is going on, etc. The more open teachers are to parents coming to the classroom, meeting with parents, doing home visits (not always possible), not being afraid to communicate with parents over issues (positive or concerns)... the more parents will feel like an important part of the education process. If teachers can include parents more, parents my be more open and trusting of schools and teachers. Like Poornima said in her comment - the more trusting and open schools/teacher can be, parents will feel more engaged. Great article@
Comment by Poornima on July 14, 2009 at 5:21pm
Communication is the key for parent involvement. We need to keep the parents informed about student's progress in the classroom, behaviors both good and bad. Building relationship and trust will go a long way in improving parental involvement and engagement.
Comment by Sara Baldwin on July 14, 2009 at 7:53am
I think this article provides a lot of good ideas for encouraging parental involvement in schools and their children's educations. I think positive parental communication is something that is all too often overlooked.
Comment by Cheryl Larson on July 8, 2009 at 7:41am
Thank you for creating a learning base for us related to Parent Engagement. The ideas we germinate with families will help parents activate some easy strategies to increase student well-being and success. The hidden value is that we will be giving parents ideas that will empower them to generate more time and ways of expressing "love" in relationship bonding experiences with each other. This in turn strengthens our means of reaching the "whole child."
Comment by Poornima on June 17, 2009 at 2:17pm
I will be adding links and articles in this page. You could also post a discussion in the discussion forum and there will be a lot of ideas and input from others.
Comment by Debra Erlenbusch on June 17, 2009 at 11:16am
I fianlly got on Poornima. I think there is great things in theis article. I need 10 articles for my masters that I can tie in with the communication binders and homework. My goal..good relationships with my parents and homework returned each day!! :)

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