Family Engagement and the Success of Today’s Students
Consider these findings:
- According to A New Wave of Evidence, a report from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, “when schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.”1
- The 2006 National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education study found that, “No matter their income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to have higher grades and test scores, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school.2
- Students with parents who are involved in their school tend to have fewer behavioral problems.3
Students aren’t the only ones that benefit from a strong home-school connection — parents and schools benefit as well. Parents benefit because they build better relationships and trust with the school’s teachers and administrators. And since communication is a priority, they’re not hearing from teachers only when little Johnny gets in trouble. This results in parents being more receptive to feedback and input from teachers. They also build relationships with other parents. In addition, they feel connected to their children and what they are learning. School districts also benefit because a strong home-school connection welcomes opportunities for shared decision-making, shared efforts to reform school systems, and increased public support.4 In addition, teachers who are connected to parents can support the whole student and foster a more personalized educational experience.
The move from “involvement” to “engagement”
Research shows that any form of family involvement is better than none. However, to get to the next level of reaping the benefits for students and schools, schools should strive to engage rather than just involve families. Schools that involve parents, explain their goals and what families can do to support them. For example, a packet goes home asking parents to sell wrapping paper to help make money for our music program. According to ASDC, “A school striving for parent engagement, on the other hand, tends to lead with its ears — listening to what parents think, dream, and worry about. The goal of family engagement is not to serve clients but to gain partners.”5 In the raising money example, engagement would be to ask parents what activities are priorities for their families and their children and how they could all work together to choose the best fundraising methodologies and commitment.
Barriers to Family Engagement
Although the home-school connection seems like a simple, obvious, concept, many school districts across the US struggle with motivating parents and families to be more involved and engaged in their children’s school and education.
According to a report titled, Making Family and School Connections: A Look at Best Practices, there are several barriers that stand in the way for parental involvement.6 Some examples are:
- Cultural and language differences
- Scheduling conflicts, especially for parents that care for small children and/or working parents
- Parents or guardians that do not have formal education themselves
- An overall distrust of the school by parents due to past negative experiences
- Schools that have low expectations of a parent’s ability to offer expertise and/or support
Another report mentions family income as a potential barrier: Parents of students living in a household with income above the poverty level are more likely to be involved in school activities than parents of children living in a household at or below the poverty line.7
How do school administrators and teachers accomplish a culture of family engagement?
In Part 2 of our Home School Connection series, we’ll answer this question by uncovering best practices to help increase family engagement in your school district.
1. Research Spotlight on Parental Involvement in Education. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/tools/17360.htm↩
2. What Research Says About Parent Involvement. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-research-says-about-parent-involvement/↩
3. Henderson, A. T., and Berla, N. (1994). A new generation of evidence: The family is critical to student achievement. Washington, DC: National Committee for Citizens in Education.
4. Hong, S., & Longo, F. (n.d.). Making Family and School Connections: A Look at Best Practices
5. ASDC. (2011, May). Involvement or Engagement? Retrieved May 21, 2018, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may11/vol68/num08/Involvement-or-Engagement¢.aspx↩
6. Hong, S., & Longo, F. (n.d.). Making Family and School Connections: A Look at Best Practices
7. Child Data Bank. (2013, September). Parental Involvement in Schools. Retrieved May 21, 2018, from https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/39_Parent_Involvement_In_Schools-1.pdf↩