There is reasonable proof that students whose parents get involved with schools tend to be more successful at attaining the essential learning objectives. This is because many of the obstacles to learning are removed or minimized. Consider these major factors that have been reported
Communication: getting involved allows a measure of direct communication that minimizes the incidence of ambiguity and misunderstanding. Cross- cultural appreciation: Both parents and teacher develop a greater appreciation for each other’s situation when they are collaborating. Parents understand the reasoning behind programs and procedures while teachers grasp the individual social, cultural backgrounds of their families.
Discipline : The presence of the parent is felt in the classroom as an invisible deterrent to indiscipline when students are aware that the teacher and parent agree and communicate regularly. Attitudes to learning: If schools and communities provide educational reinforcements for parents in terms of parenting practices at home and forward planning, these attitudes are likely to be passed on to the students.
Generally , community groups and parents will become more empowered and are more likely to buy in to the schools programs if they are part of the decision making process and feel supported, welcomed and appreciated by the school. Ultimately this benefits students. Parents who want to get more involved or encourage their school districts to implement a formal parent involvement program can follow this simplified six framework model outlined by Dr Joyce Epstein of John Hopkins University. This two part article is committed to discussing the possibilities for schools and parents.
Number one on the list is parenting or support for parents at home: The schools can help parents establish home environments that support students. Parents may not express the need however there is much to be gained from workshops on school programs, insights on conditions that support learning at home, parent education and upgrading courses for GED, etc.
Family support programs in the areas of health, nutrition college readiness and other transitional information help parents to be at one with the school norms and expectations and vice versa. Although it may prove challenging to respond to diverse populations in clear language that is usable and culturally responsive, the level of improved confidence about parenting and building of quality habits and values will be well worth the effort.
The second type of collaborating is communicating. By far this is the most troubling of all the needs. Students are experts at manipulating the situation to their suit when they realize that there is a gap between school and home. Making grades available online, parent/student conferences, memo and timely automated phone notifications have now become a appreciated useful tool in most school systems. What is usually missing is the frequent summaries of student progress sent home for comments, teacher direct contact and translations that close the language barriers. The use of such parent network communications help teachers , administrators and parents to make more informed choices especially on problem solving.
Type three, volunteering, is more challenging for parents who are economically distressed, because more than likely they are investing their extra time in making ends meet. Regardless, schools may have success in recruiting volunteers of varying backgrounds if they begin with background research on the families and talents that are available in the community.
Among the possibilities for volunteering are classroom and after school help, security patrol and support for school production and programs. Additionally a parent room family center for planning meetings and general resources help with formally organizing these efforts. Such activities give the school a chance to meet with parents on terms without tension or stress that might be in, say, a school conference. Parents feel that there is more transparency and ownership. They begin to build leadership skills which are passed on to students.
The outline of Epstein’s framework presented here is based on the wording of a document presented by Epstein entitled “Epstein’s Framework of Six Types of involvement.” Here she clearly identifies the type of involvement, expectations and challenges as well as benefits. It is based on these findings that many school districts have begun parent involvement programs in one form or another. This summary of Epstein’s six types of involvement is a starting place for those who wish to be more proactive in fostering partnerships for student achievement. We will continue this discussion next week.