On July 25, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was quoted as saying, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” One of the reasons as to why children are considered an important part of the future is due to their education. In order for children to be successful in their education, they need to be supported by their teachers, community, and most important, their parents. While parents wish to see their children be academically successful but do not know how to participate, many parents are not involved in their children’s education as they should be.
According to Anderson and Minke (2007), evidence has shown that educators and parents define involvement in different ways. Some parents consider their involvement are not as more of a community-centric view, while teachers consider involvement mainly as a parental presence at the school. Because the definition of parental involvement is not recognized, it can lead to miscommunication where teachers blame parents for the child’s difficulties, which leads to some parents feeling unappreciated.
When people try to understand the reasons behind a parent’s involvement choices, it should be taken into consideration that lower resource families may react differently from families that have greater resources (Anderson, Minke. 2007). The majority of parents that are involved in children’s education are mothers. Parent involvement decreases as their children grow older. Children who come from lower income families have parents who are less likely to be involved than those who have families who may be wealthier and more educated parents. Other variables of less parent involvement include single parenthood (Mattingly, Prislin, McKenzie, 2002). Middle-class parents are considered to have more flexible schedules over working-class parents, allowing the middle-class parents to participate more at their child’s school (Anderson, Minke, 2007).
A number of studies show parent involvement is connected to higher academic success and better attendance. In addition, it also provides more positive student and parent attitudes directed toward education (Mattingly, et.al. 2002). According to Epstein (2008), there have been confirmed studies that when the parents are more involved, students show an increase in grades in English and math, in addition to an improvement in their reading and writing skills. According to a survey done with secondary school teachers, ninety-seven percent said the biggest challenge they face is working with parents. Schools are developing decision-making activities to encourage parents to voice in their opinions and help develop mission statements. The parents can also help to develop policies of the schools that can have an effect on students and families in a positive way.
School principals can improve their schools by sharing the leadership and develop teamwork to help improve programs of their schools, families, and community partnerships. Schools are working with different parts of their communities such as senior citizen groups, churches and other religious organizations, government agencies and other associations to help improve school programs and student development. This helps the students and parents to become more involved in community service or in other projects to help give back to their communities. Examples of this include cultural events, health services, after-school activities, and part-time jobs (Epstein, 2008).
In order to support life-long learning, families are strongly encouraged to develop their own knowledge and skills. According to the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE) (n.d.), life-long learning can include opportunities to work with schools and help students to learn about job training, continuing their education after high school, child development and parenting education. Schools can also help by providing cultural education for both staff and parents. This helps to give both teachers and parents a better understanding of cultural and community values and practices that are common to students and families.
In a study done by Halsey (2005), eight teachers, 20 parents, and 19 students at Redwood Junior High School were asked to participate and monitor parent involvement in their school. The school developed a program called Volunteer Initiative Program (VIP), which helps to promote community and parent involvement. One of the main issues that were dealt with was defining the parents’ roles in the classroom and extracurricular activities. The study found that parents focused mainly on the extracurricular activities, while participants of this study reported how they did not witness any parent involvement in the classroom. Most parents had reported limited involvement in their child’s academic issues, such as checking their homework or signing report cards.
One suggestion to help promote better communication between teachers and parents is to invite parents to more traditional events at the schools, such as PTA meetings and Open House. These meetings help to provide a time for the teachers to share important information with the parents and students at the start of the school year. This is also when teachers can share their expectations of the parents regarding how they should participate in the classrooms (Halsey, 2005).
Parent involvement has recently become a targeted issue in the No Child Left Behind Act from 2001 (Mattingly, et.al. 2002). The No Child Left Behind Act provides tools and information for parents to help their children become successful not only in the classroom, but in their lives as well. The Department of Education website (2009) states that booklets are made available for parents and children that feature lessons and activities to help children achieve the standards in reading, science, and math. Children can also learn and understand the importance of homework and develop skills and values that help them achieve their goals and become successful.
The NCLB Act gives parents the ability to choose public schools if they believe their children are in a school that may be considered unsafe. Also, parents can advantage of free tutoring for their children if they attend a school that is in need of improvement. The NCLB act also requires states and school districts provide information to parents so they are able to make informed educational decisions about their child’s education (U.S. Department of Education, 2009).
Some schools have developed mandatory programs to help increase parent involvement in the classroom. In Saratoga, California, Christa McAuliffe Elementary School developed a program that requires and encourages parents to become active members in the education of their children. Parents spend two ninety-minutes sessions every week in the child’s classroom. In addition to spending time in the classroom, the parents are required to attend a seven session STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) class, where the parents learn how to become useful while in the classroom. This class helps the parents to realize they are their child’s first teacher and how pass this along in the classroom. While attending the classroom, parents can share their personal expertise and interests with the classroom (Seville, 2005).
Teachers can help to increase a parent’s involvement in the schools. One way to help increase involvement is to invite the parents to come to the school for a meeting. This can be to discuss the child’s needs upon returning to school at the beginning of the school year. By reminding the parents of the meeting through email communication or calling them the day before can help to ensure the parent will attend. Parents can be motivated to attend a meeting when the teacher raffles off a gift certificate or if they are asked to bring in a snack. The fact that others are relying on the parent to show up will help to motivate them to attend (Wagaman, 2009). Parents can help to support their child’s school and their learning in ways other than just having conferences with the teachers. Parents can volunteer as classroom aides, assist with field trips and the lunchroom. They can also plan school events and attend student performance, sports events and other school-related activities (NCPIE, n.d.).
In order for schools to maintain strong relationships with parents and their students, they need to know the keys to success. It is important for schools and families to keep in mind certain points. One point would be to involve families in evaluating the effectiveness of family involvement programs on a daily basis. Another point is to be sure families and students have all the information they need about the standards that students are expected to meet. Third, it is important that parents and their children have access to information regarding nutrition and health care, after-school programs and community service agencies (NCPIE, n.d.).
There are many ways for parents to be involved in their children’s education. Parents have the ability to communicate with teachers to discover what they can do to help and participate, whether it is by phone, email or letter. If some parents are unable to be at particular activities, they should consider reaching out to other family members to help such as grandparents, aunts and uncles. This will be a good way for children to know they will still have a strong support system behind them. Parents need to believe that their children are their motivation to help and make a positive influence in their child’s life.
Anderson, K.J., & Minke, K.M. (2007). Parent involvement in education: toward an understanding of parents’ decision making. The Journal of Educational Research, 100(13), 311. Doi: A165429598
Epstein, J. (2008). Improving Family and Community Involvement in Secondary Schools. The Education Digest, 73(6), 9-12. Doi: 1417848271
Halsey, P. A. (2005). Parent Involvement in Junior High Schools: A Failure to Communicate. American Secondary Education, 34(1), 57-69. Doe: 939430591
Mattingly, D. J., Prislin, R., & McKenzie, T. L. (2002). Evaluating evaluations: The case of parent involvement programs. Review of Educational Research, 72(4), 549-576. Doi: 276294161
National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education. (n.d.). Developing Partnership. Retrieved from www.ncpie.org.
Seville, Michael. (2005). Getting Parents Involved is the Foundation of Student Success. Retrieved from www.edutopia.org .
U.S. Department of Education. (2009). Choice of Parents. Retrieved from www.ed.gov/nclb.choice/index.html.
Wagaman, Jennifer. (2009). How to Get Parents Involved at School. Retrieved from www.newteachersupport.suite101.com.