Ask Dr. Blank: What can be done to increase parent involvement in the classroom?

Research, across many nations, has shown that parental involvement in children’s learning is positively related to achievement. The more intensely parents are involved in their children’s learning, the more beneficial are the effects on pupil achievement. Further, this holds true for all types of parental involvement in children’s learning and for all types and ages of pupils—although parental engagement is more common in the early stages of primary school than in secondary schools.

In considering ways to increase parent involvement one is basically dealing with the barriers that can cause families to be uncomfortable in interacting with the school.  The following are among the central issues:

  • Attitudes
    Often families and staff do not feel comfortable talking with each other about
    issues that can be central to students’ performance (e.g., patterns of
    discipline, financial pressures, classroom behavior, etc.) The can be greatly
    eased through sessions with trained professionals who can help parents and
    staff establish the basis of trust is essential for them to develop solid
    working relationships.
  • Logistics – The physical demands parents face in attending regular meetings are considerable. This includes childcare, transportation and meetings that are held during working hours – or at times that are inconvenient for parents. Further there are no systems in place for paying parents for meetings that occur during regular working hours. If communities are serious about the value of parental involvement, they need to develop the resources (through support from foundations or other means) that will enable them to overcome this set of barriers.
  • Instruction – Many families have never participated in (school-type) meetings/committees and they are unaware of applicable procedures and policies. Similarly, staff have often not been trained for working in this realm. Both sides of the partnership need to be provided with the information and instruction
  • Setting Out a Model– Schools and parents need to create a model of what their partnership is aiming for.  Among the many themes a school can consider are: promoting parenting skills, developing volunteer programs, reducing bullying, decreasing the dropout rate, teaching ways to encourage learning at home and developing advocacy programs that teach parents how to participate in decisions that affect their child’s education. The National Center for School Engagement (www. schoolengagement.org) can be a helpful resource for expanding parent and family engagement.

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