Learn What Experts Think
As the end of the semester approaches, mid-year parent-teacher conferences are in full swing! This is a perfect time for parents and guardians to get involved at school. Parent engagement in a child’s education is multi-faceted and means different things to different people. In general, it can be categorized into four main areas (Van Voorhis, Maier, Epstein, & Lloyd, 2013):
- Promoting learning at home;
- Being involved at the school building through activities like committee participation, volunteering, or fundraising;
- The school’s attempts to reach out to parents; and
- Supportive parent-child interactions outside of school.
There are good reasons to get involved, too. Research has consistently shown that parent or guardian engagement in a child’s education through the categories listed above not only improves academic achievement, but also social and emotional skills (Adelman & Taylor, 2007; Hoover-Dempsey, Walker, Sandler, Whetsel, Wilkins, & Closson, 2005; Murray, 2009).
When people think of parent engagement in schools, they usually think of the parent-teacher associations or organizations (PTA/PTO), volunteering at fundraising events, and school newsletters. These examples of engagement are widespread. Noel, Stark, & Redford (2015) reported that majority of parents in the 2012 Parent and Family Involvement in Education survey received some sort of communication from their schools. Similarly, many parents reported participating in PTA/PTO meetings. However, the parents who are not engaged often have students who are most at-risk (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d.). Hoover-Dempsey et al. (2005) report that many parents choose to stay disengaged from their child’s school because of what they think their role should be based on experiences with their own schooling. Other factors include how much they think they can help their child succeed in school and how invited and welcome they feel at the school from teachers and their children.
Parent engagement is much more than participating in a fundraiser. The highest impacts come through things like schools encouraging parent voice in decision-making committees and parents supporting learning at home. Studies have shown that encouraging parents to set goals for their children increases parent involvement (Bettler & Burns, 2003). Some schools are already doing this by rethinking what parent-teacher conferences look like. These conferences have typically been one-sided, with the teacher leading and the parent listening. Educators are now trying to engage parents by asking them to set academic goals for their children, and by providing them with skills and resources to help their children reach these goals (Sparks, 2015). Then, teachers and families meet to review progress each quarter and adjust as needed. Participants say this model increases the likelihood that parents and students follow-through with their goals. It also builds a collaborative relationship between parents and teachers, which may help parents feel more comfortable asking for assistance when they do not know how to help their children (Sparks, 2015).
No matter how it is done, one thing is for certain: parent engagement is impactful! Thoughtful efforts to increase parent involvement can help improve schools and academic achievement.
We encourage you to explore this topic further. Here is a selection of resources about parent engagement.
- U.S. Department of Education’s I Have A Question…What Parents and Caregivers Can Ask and Do To Help Children Thrive At School (http://www.ed.gov/family-and-community-engagement)
- U.S. Department of Education and SEDL’s Dual-Capacity Building Framework (http://www.sedl.org/pubs/catalog/items/family132.html)
- Harvard Graduate School’s Harvard Family Research Project (http://www.hfrp.org/family-involvement)
Adelman, H., & Taylor, L. (2007, September) Effective strategies for creating safer schools and communities: Fostering school, family, and community involvement. Retrieved from http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/publications/44%20guide%207%20fostering%20sch...
Bettler, R. F., & Burns, B. (2003). Enhancing parental involvement through goal-based interventions. Harvard Family Research Project. Retrieved from http://www.hfrp.org/publications-resources/publications-series/family-in...
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Engaged parents have healthier adolescents. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/features/parentengagement/
Hoover-Dempsey, K., Walker, J. M. T., Sandler, H. M., Whetsel, D., Green, C. L., Wilkins, A. S., & Closson, K. (2005). Why do parents become involved? Research findings and implications. The Elementary School Journal, 106(2), 105-130.
Murray, C. (2009). Parent and teacher relationships as predictors of school engagement and functioning among low-income urban youth. Journal of Early Adolescence, 29(3), 376-404. doi:10.1177/0272431608322940
Noel, A., Stark, P., & Redford, J. (2015). Parent and Family Involvement in Education, From the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012 (NCES 2013-028.REV). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.
Sparks, S. (2015, September 29). Parent-teacher conferences get a makeover. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/30/parent-teacher-conferences-...Van Voohis, F. L., Maier, M., Epstein, J. L., & Lloyd, C. M. (2013). The impact of family involvement on the education of children ages 3 to 8: A focus on literacy and math achievement outcomes and social-emotional skills. Retrieved from http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/The_Impact_of_Family_Involvement...