Parental Involvement in Schools
The importance of parental involvement in schools is well documented. Over 30 years of research shows that one of the most effective ways to increase student achievement is for parents to be actively involved in the education of their children. A 2002 National Education Service study indicates that when parents are involved, students tend to achieve more, regardless of socio-economic status, ethnic/racial background or parents’ educational level.
Given the research, it is advisable for education systems to promote and support parental and family involvement and invest in activities and strategies that foster parent and school collaboration. There is, however, some hesitation associated with allocating resources to promote parental involvement in schools. Both school personnel and parents struggle with the “how tos” of getting more parents involved.
Barriers to Parental Involvement in Schools
According to Family Support America there are common barriers associated with increasing parental involvement in schools and community programs. The four common barriers are:
- Attitudes – Staff do not feel comfortable talking about issues in front of families. Families don’t trust staff. Staff think families are too overwhelmed to participate. Staff aren’t willing to accept families as equal partners. Families think they have nothing to contribute. Staff think that families will violate client confidentiality.
- Logistics – Schools and programs can’t pay for childcare. Transportation is unavailable for families to get to meetings. Meetings are held only during working hours – or at times inconvenient for parents. Families aren’t reimbursed for the time they take off of work to attend meetings.
- System barriers – No systems are in place for paying parent leaders for their time and contributions. Staff time can only be paid during regular working hours. Resources supporting parent and family involvement are lacking.
- Lack of skills – Families have never participated in (school-type) meetings/committees. Families are unaware of applicable procedures and policies. Staff aren’t ready to work with families in new ways. Information about the roles of families and staff is lacking.
There is growing recognition that support is needed to address challenges and barriers associated with increasing parental involvement in schools. The National Center for School Engagement offers local schools and districts information and materials to expand parent and family engagement. School districts are encouraged to think of parental involvement in broader terms. There are models that can help schools reshape how they look at parent and family involvement such as Epstein’s Framework of Parent Involvement. It is based on six types of parent involvement identified by Joyce Epstein from the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships.
Epstein’s Framework of How Parents Can Become More Involved in Schools includes:
- Parenting – parenting skills are promoted and supported.
- Communication – communication between home and school is regular, two-way, and meaningful.
- Volunteering – parents are welcome in the school, and their support and assistance are sought.
- Learning at Home – help parents understand the educational process and their role in supporting student achievement. Parents play an integral role in assisting student learning.
- School Decision-Making and Advocacy – parents are full partners in the decisions that affect children and families. The intent is to give parents voice in decisions that affect their children’s education.
- Collaboration with the Community – community resources are used to strengthen schools, families, and student learning.
NCSE can provide technical assistance and program evaluation to increase parent engagement in school. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance!