The evidence about parental and family engagement with school is clear. When parents are active partners with their child’s school there is a positive impact on things educators care about, things like achievement, attendance and aspirations for the future (Epstein, et.al, 2002; Henderson & Mapp, 2002). Virtually all educators recognize the importance of parents being involved in their child’s school but still struggle to develop viable plans for promoting such engagement particularly among families of limited means or who may be recent immigrants. This brief will discuss parent and family engagement but the primary focus will be on how teachers and principals can develop and implement plans that increase parent and family engagement among all parent groups but especially among these underserved populations.
Joyce Epstein from the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships at John Hopkins University (http://www.csos.jhu.edu/p2000/center.htm) synthesized the research on parent engagement and found that:
- Just about all families care about their children and want them to succeed. They also want better information from their child’s school so that they can be good partners with the school.
- Almost all teachers and administrators want to involve families but many do not know how to go about building positive and productive partnerships with parents and families.
- Virtually all students at all levels, elementary, middle and high school, want their families to be more engaged with their school and knowledgeable about the schools programs. Students say they are willing to be active partners in supporting communication between home and school. (Epstein, et.al., 2002)
The research also shows that affluent communities have more robust family engagement than economically distressed communities. It also shows that schools in more economically distressed communities more frequently contact parent about problems and difficulties than positive accomplishments. Further, single parents, parents employed outside the home, parents living far from school, and fathers are generally less involved.
The Good News - However, when schools develop and implement appropriate grade and school level practices each of these barriers can be reversed. Parent and family engagement is strong in economically distressed communities when teachers and administrators build positive relationships with students’ families, develop balanced partnership programs including contacts about positive student accomplishments, and scheduling school activities and opportunities for involvement at times and places that fit the needs of diverse parent communities.
Here are two resources that provides tools and strategies for increasing parent and family engagement.
- I recently prepared a research brief for the Oregon GEAR UP Program on parent engagement.
- A recent edition of ASCD Express focused on Family-School Relationships. It provides useful information about home visits and how to guide parents in helping with homework.