While it’s easy to think of home and school as two distinct entities, research has shown that they are more tied together than one may think. Family involvement in their child’s education not only impacts students’ academic and behavioral performance, but also the work life and well-being of teachers. One study of approximately 1,000 high school students found that parental involvement improved achievement and academic engagement among adolescents (Wang & Sheikh-Khalil, 2014). When parents are involved with their child’s school, they are more likely to be aware of homework and assignments, and help promote students’ positive social behavior (Hill & Taylor, 2004). Students with involved parents have fewer behavioral problems and better social skills (El Nokali, Bachman, & Votruba-Drzal, 2010), making teachers’ jobs just a little bit easier. According to one study, greater levels of parent engagement were associated with higher teacher job satisfaction, increased optimism about student achievement, and more positive relations among teachers and parents (Markow & Pieters, 2012).
So how can schools engage parents?
Some strategies to involve parents in their children’s education depend on the age of the students, but many tools, guidelines, and approaches can be used to engage families with children of all ages (Epstein et al, 2008). For example, home visits have been shown to encourage parental involvement in both primary and secondary education. In one pilot program, teachers were trained by representatives of the Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project (PTHVP) and conducted home visits to the families of their students over the course of a few months. Parents said that the home visits positively impacted the strained relationships between home and school, and teachers stated how the home visits positively impacted their perceptions of their students’ parents (SEDL, 2013). Another way schools can engage parents is by offering workshops and video recordings on child rearing and parenting with information specific to the ages and stages of their child’s development (Epstein, 2011). Allowing parents to participate in decision-making and leadership activities can also balance the power structure and solicit the voices and perspectives of families from diverse socioeconomic, cultural and racial backgrounds. Schools can solicit parents to share ideas and help make decisions on such issues as teacher and principal hiring, school policies related to the budget, school-wide plans, and parent involvement activities (Fiore & Joseph, 2005; Funkhouser & Gonzalez, 1997; National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education, n.d.).
There are lots of ways schools can engage parents and families. Even though the methods involving parents in their children’s education may differ over the course of a child’s life, one thing remains constant – both students and teachers stand to benefit from it.