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Parent involvement is a valuable component of any students education. It is a well-established fact that parental involvement is linked to childrens success at school. When parents are involved in their children’s education at home, they do better in school. (Henderson and Berla, 1994) The level of parent-school involvement is a better predictor of grades than are standardized test scores. (Desimone, 1999) The 12 years of 180 six-hour days spent in school add up to only 13% of a student’s waking, learning time during the first 18 years of life. The rest, 87% is spent out of school, primarily at home. (Walberg) What is important is not the type of school, or who goes there, but the quality of its relationship with the families. (Henderson and Map, 2002)
Research indicates that there are positive academic outcomes stemming from parental involvement with benefits beginning in early childhood, throughout adolescence and beyond. (Henderson and Mapp, 2002; Patrikakou, Weisberg, Redding, and Walberg, 2005)
Henderson and Berla (1994) in an article A New generation of Evidence, state that the family is critical to student achievement. When parents are involved in school, children go farther in school and the schools they go to are better. There is a strong correlation between parental involvement and increased academic achievement.
2.2 Conceptual Underpinnings of the study
Parental involvement was defined as including several different forms of parent participation in education and with the schools. Parents can support their children’s schooling by attending school functions, responding to school obligations (parent-teacher conferences, for example), and becoming involved in their children’s schoolwork. They provide encouragement, arrange for appropriate study time and space, model desired behavior (such as reading for pleasure), monitor homework, and actively tutor their children. (Henderson and Berla, 1994)
Parent is used in this study to include guardians, grand-parents, foster parents and anybody who takes care of the children. (Kathleen & Karen, 1989)
In the 1980s, the United States became particularly concerned with the quality of its educational system. Parental involvement in schools became a major issue.
Communities also become more watchful of the expense of public education, while local schools became concerned with continuous provision of high-quality teaching and other services. All of this occurred in a time of dwindling resources. Additionally, parents wanted assurance that their children were receiving preparation adequate to lead rewarding adult lives (Kathleen & Karen, 1989).
Riley (as cited in Moles, 2000) explained that “parents are the essential link in improving American education, and schools simply have to do a better job of reaching out to them” (p. vii). Parental expectations regarding their children appear to be a constant in children’s academic achievement and social adjustment. Although many parents may not be certain how to help their children with assignments, with guidance and support they can become actively involved in home learning activities, have an opportunity to teach, be models, and guide their children (Michigan Department of Education, 2001).
He became interested in how schools in the U.S. involve parents in the education of their children because of the situation in my home country, Cameroon. During his education in Africa, I observed that students whose parents were not involved in their education did not perform well. Many dropped out of school or failed to further their education. In the United States, parental involvement is discussed as a major focus. That is not the case in Cameroon. There, parents have little voice in pedagogy and content.
According to Keane (2007), parental involvement improves the chances of children’s success at school, yet research suggests that parent participation may be on the decline. Keane further asserted that student achievement represents more than just grades.
Attendance, students’ attitudes toward school, student behavior, and the drop-out rate all connect with student achievement. A report conducted by Desforges and Abouchaar (2003), showed that enhanced parental involvement leads to better academic performance, better attendance, and improved behavior at home and school (p. 44).
2.3 Context of Parental Involvement
In the post-World War II Era (1945-1950s), parental involvement included participation in parent conferences, monitoring of homework, signing of report cards, attending PTA meetings, and fundraising events. In the 1960s educators and policy makers focused on parental involvement as a way to improve educational success for the poor and underachieving students. This led to the development of a variety of models and strategies to promote such parental involvement (Milbrey & Shields, 1987).
In 1965, Haiman began experimenting with parent involvement program strategies. He designed and wrote the Parental Involvement Performance Standards for the National Head Start and this was used as a consultant to Head Start throughout the nation (Haiman, 1965). In 1968 he spoke on the relevance of curriculum, administration and community involvement (Chicago Tribune, 1968). By 1979, many schools had started incorporating parental involvement into their school programs. Parental involvement in special education programs also increased (Los Angeles Times, 1979).
By 1989, the National Education Organization had started incorporating parental involvement programs in their agendas. They provided training to school staff and parents on parental involvement. The School Board Association produced sample school policies on parental involvement which they believed would make schools more secure and more likely, academic development would take place. Best practices and models to support parental involvement were developed. Many reports were written to recommend the necessity of parental involvement in school improvement (USA Today, 1989). In the 1990s, studies demonstrated that parental involvement could predict academic achievement. Parental involvement was considered an integral part of the school curriculum. The level of parental involvement was increased in most of the school districts across the nation (USA Today, 1990).
Today, laws have been created to enforce parental involvement in schools including provisions of NCLB and School Accountability Teams. Movements for community control of education such as the education of low-income children, special education students, and English Language Learners have been developed to meet the needs of students. Districts focus on implementing strategies to promote parent, family, and community involvement (National Center for School Engagement, 2004). The Family Strengthening Policy Center (2004) established that states can develop a state-wide network to support teachers’ preparation for parental involvement, and also provide technical assistance to local districts and schools on how to get parents involved. School districts must have a written policy for administrative support and training for staff, parents and community members on parent involvement programs. The community should be able to advocate with state education agencies and school districts to promote widespread and effective parental involvement policies and practices.
According to the U.S. Department of Education (1997) a sustained mutual collaboration, support, and participation of school staff and families are required for a successful school-family partnerships and children’s learning. Although the success of school family partnerships is difficult to reach, it is important to note that the benefits to children and their educational success depends on hard work required to sustain the school-family partnerships (Epstein, Coates, Salinas, Sanders, & Simon, 1997).
In line with the mandates of NCLB, the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) has developed statewide standards which establish expectations for all New Mexico public school students. These standards require every district in New Mexico to develop an Education Plan for Student Success (EPSS) — a long-range strategic plan to promote students’ success and continuous school improvement (Parents Searching Out, 2009).
Parent involvement in learning activity is a strategy that was found by Epstein (1995) to increase the educational effectiveness of the time that parents and children spend together at home. Teachers and parents agree on the involvement of parents, seventy one percent of principals and fifty nine percent of teachers called it a priority based on research conducted by. Those schools whose parental involvement is strong provide a lot of benefit to the students. ” How Strong Communication Contributes to Student and School Success: Parent and Family Involvement” shows that improved parental involvement not only leads to academic achievement, but to better attendance and improved behavior at home and school as well. When school and home work together collaboratively, and using a competent approach to education, it can make a huge difference in student achievement. (Padgett 2006) The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) suggests that a formal policy be created. Lack of planning was seen as one of the most challenging aspects to more involvement.
Walberg on “Families in Educational Productivity” states that there is no question that parent involvement represents an exceptionally powerful way of making schools more effective, and of dramatically enriching children’s experiences. Some research indicates that achievement among students in primary schools have identified theories and policies which play significant roles in parent involvement in education (Fan and Chen, 2001; Hill and Tyson, 2009). These theories and policies not only closed the education gap in terms of demographics they also maximize student potential. Parent involvement is so important that The No Child Left Behind Act (National PTA, 2006) is a Federal Policy that puts a mandate on parental involvement in education and family-school relations across primary school levels. However, despite the consensus about how important it is for family and school to work together across developmental stages, theories of parent involvement in education have been based on the primary school students in their context and do not focus on the changes that occur with middle school and early adolescent development (Hill and Taylor, 2004; Hill and Tyson, 2009). The Title 1 program is also a government mandated program developed to increase parent involvement and educational services for disadvantaged children. This program placed the emphasis on parental involvement as the primary means of improving the quality of education of low income children (Kim O. Yap and Enoki, 1995).
One may ask the question why parents should become involved in their children’s literacy activities. The evidence about the benefits of parents being involved in their children’s education in general and literacy activities in particular is overwhelming. (Fan and Chen 2001) in their meta-analysis found that parental involvement positively affects academic performance. Feinstein & Symons, 1999 point out in their research that parental involvement leads to academic achievement.
Epstein’s framework of six types of involvement are as follows: parenting which help all families establish home environments to support children as students; Communicating from home to school and school to home about school programs and student progress; Volunteering by organizing parent help and support. Learning at home by providing information and ideas from families about how to help students at home with homework and other curriculum-related activities; decisions and planning; Parents should be included in decision making; involve parent leaders and representatives; Collaborating with the community by identifying and integrating resources and services from the community to strengthen school programs, family practices, and student learning and development.
Students value their education when they see the interest shown by their parents. Barge, & Loges (2003), highlight the fact that government supports parental involvement.
According to Moosa, Karabenick, & Adam (2001), “â€¦the alliance between home and school has dramatically changed throughout the history of formal education, as have the roles and functions that parents and teachers are expected to fulfill” (p. 477). Throughout time, parents have been “portrayed as both friend and foe in the course of educational reform” (Callahan, Rademacher, & Hildreth, 1998). Historically, parental involvement wasn’t always a welcomed addition to the school community, and even today some view parent-school relations as a power struggle. Shaver and Walls, (1998) reported that some research found little to no effect of parental involvement on school achievement for middle age students. For the most part however, teachers and administrators welcome a helping hand in the overcrowded classrooms of the public schools and agree that parental involvement is one way to bridge reading comprehension gaps. Today, it is widely recognized that parents play an essential role in their children’s school life. Numerous types of parental involvement have been shown to develop cognitive growth and success in school (Shaver and Walls, 1998). Schools are working hand in hand with parents, Edwards, and Alldred (2000); describe parents and schools as policy makers with similar functions when it comes to children.
Research indicates that there are positive academic outcomes stemming from parental involvement with benefits beginning in early childhood, throughout adolescence and beyond (Henderson and Mapp, 2002; Patrikakou, Weisberg, Redding, and Walberg, 2005). Shaver and Walls, (1998), are also in support, they point out that the connection between parents and school achievement is real.
The Epstein case studies are another research that supports parent involvement. Epstein (2002), used the Comprehensive School Reform Model (CSR) demonstrates how collaborative work produces positive outcomes. These studies were conducted in certain states, in selected school within the school districts. Educators, parents and community partners worked collaboratively on action teams to plan the curriculum. The programs are evaluated before being implemented in order to assess how well the plans connected family and school-community involvement.
Henderson and Berla (1994) in an article “A New generation of Evidence”, state that the family is critical to student achievement. When parents are involved in school, children go farther in school and the schools they go to are better. “Regardless of socioeconomic status or race, studies show a direct correlation between parental involvement and a child’s academic achievement (Williams 1992).
2.4 Parental Involvement and Achievement
It is well established that parental involvement is correlated with school achievement of both children and adolescents (Long, 2007). Primary school children gain greater academic, language, and social skills (Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994), primary school students have greater achievement and future aspirations (Eccles & Harold, 1993) and spend more time doing and completing homework (Epstein & Sanders, 2002). Research shows that parental involvement is more important to children’s academic success than their family’s socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or educational background (Amatea & West, 2007).
Parental involvement can encourage children’s and adolescents’ achievement in many ways. One way that parents can contribute positively to their children’s education is to assist them with their academic work at home. Parents who read to their children, assist them with their homework, and provide tutoring using resources provided by teachers tend to do better in school than children whose parents do not assist their children (Izzo et al., 1999). Additionally, in a study conducted by Callahan, Rademacher and Hildreth (1998) on twenty-six lower to middle-class “at risk” sixth and seventh grade white students, students’ mathematics scores increased when parents became involved with assisting them at home. In the Callahan et al. study, parents were trained for duration of ten weeks on how to implement home-based self management and reinforcement strategies. Shaver and Walls (1998) conducted a similar parent training with seventy-four Title I students in second to eighth grade. Their study showed that regardless of gender or socioeconomic status of the child, parent involvement increased the scores of both mathematics and reading. Other parental involvement strategies that are said to assist children academically are for parents to have books, newspapers, and computers in their homes (Suizzo, 2007).
This is not to say that just because there are books and newspapers in the home that children will read them; children do, however, fare better with their reading when there are books and computers in the home.
Research shows that the level of parental involvement is associated with academic success. Children whose parents are actively involved in their schooling benefit better than children whose parents are passively involved. Specifically, if parents attend teacher conferences, accept phone calls from the school, and read and sign communications from the school, their children will benefit academically more than children whose parents do none of the above. Furthermore, children excel even more when their parents assist them at home with their homework, attend school sponsored events, and volunteer at their children’s schools (Suizzo, 2007).
Children’s academic success also may be related to school-level parental involvement. Parental involvement can be defined as participation by a child’s mother and/or father, or legal guardian in a child’s education. Children who attend schools where there is a high level of parental involvement evidence greater achievement. School-level parental involvement seems to benefit children and adolescents academically and behaviorally by promoting information sharing and control over children’s behavior. Coleman (1990) asserted that children whose parents know each other promote school identification and success for their children. Broh (2000) also mentioned that students at school-level parental involvement schools were more likely to do their homework because completing their homework was considered the norm at these schools.
2.5 What is Parental Involvement?
Parental involvement means different things to different people. A recent newsletter published by The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement (2006) explained that some people equate involvement to chaperoning field trips or volunteering for PTA committees while others define it as attending an open house or signing off on homework folders. National PTA (2006) described parental involvement as regular participation of parents, a two-way process, and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities. National PTA pays particular attentions to parents, who are economically disadvantaged, disabled, have limited English proficiency, have limited literacy, or are of any racial or ethnic minority background. Under National PTA, schools are required to do evaluation and design strategies for more effective parental involvement, and also to revise, if necessary, the parental involvement policies. It also places the responsibility for schools to be certain that parent involvement initiatives are properly developed and evaluated.
National PTA reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, 1965) with four principles to frame ways in which families, educators, and communities can work together to improve teaching and learning. These principles include: accountability for results, local control and flexibility, expanded parental choice, and effective and successful programs that reflect scientifically based research. Enhancing connections within families, between families, and with their communities and the institutions that affect them should result in better outcomes for children and their families. These principles stress that parents and schools should be accountable for students’ achievement. In addition, plans for parental involvement should be flexible to address the local needs and build parents’ capacity to improve on their children’s achievement (U.S Department of Education, 2004; Family Strengthening Policy Center, FSPC, 2004). The Family Strengthening Policy Center, FSPC (2004), observed that there is no universal definition of what parental involvement in education entails. Some definitions include greater participation in the life of a school, while others are focused on the increased contributions to an individual child’s learning process. Still others incorporate the family into the learning process through adult education, parenting, and after school activities. Reenay et al., (2007) defined parental involvement as encompassing three areas: a) direct contact with teachers, b) parental actions at school, and c) parental actions at home. In many schools, parents are engaged in the governance and planning processes in building students’ achievement goals (FSPC, 2004). Nonetheless, parental involvement takes place when parents actively, resourcefully and responsibly contribute to promote and develop the well being of their communities (Northwest Regional Education, 2001; Jesse, 2009)
Davies (1991) defined parental involvement from a shifting perspective. Restructuring the society, communities, and schools leads to the transformation of parental involvement. The following evolving definition illustrates this paradigm shift.
2.5.1 Evolving Definition
Parental involvement shifts from “parent focus to family focus, family to community agencies, school to home/neighborhood setting, eager parents to hard-to reach families, teachers/administrators agendas to family priorities, and deficit view of urban families to emphasis on inherent strengths of families” (Davies, 1991). He further explained that even though non-traditional families are much more common nowadays than they were in the 1950s, alternative family structures are effective and should be recognized by the school.
Liontos (1992) mentioned recent beliefs about parents and families that schools should consider when involving them in their children’s’ education: “1) All families have strengths, 2) parents can learn new techniques, 3) parents have important perspectives about their children, 4) most parents really care about their children, 5) cultural differences are both valid and valuable, and 6) many family forms exist and are legitimate” (pp. 30-31).
Jesse (2009) noted that parental involvement has two independent components: parents as supporters and parents as active partners. This approach of parental involvement would be insufficient if schools make use of only one of these components. Parents can be active, yet not supportive of the education process and vice versa. He further indicated that parental involvement should take many forms. For example, parental involvement can be reading to children, volunteering at the school, collaborating on decision making committees, and advocating for children. Hewison and Tizard (1980) explained that parental involvement can be focused if the school addresses the following issues: a) define what is meant by parent involvement, b) define what the school means by parental involvement, c) provide examples of parents’ decision making roles, d) remove structural barriers, and e) identify who else has an interest in increasing the parents’ role in the school.
2.6 Why parents help?
Parents, teachers, and administrators should be equally responsible for the education of children. If schools want to truly ensure academic success of children, schools need to make sure that all educational planning passes through parents first (Patrikakou et al., Weissberg, 2005). According to the National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA), although parents often state that they would like to be more involved in their children’s education, they complain that they feel left out of decision-making at their children’s school. Frankly, some school personnel are not comfortable with the idea of having parents involved in more than the traditional fundraisers. These personnel feel that as long as parents stick to traditional fundraiser events, everything else will be okay. Shatkin & Gershberg (2007) and Seeley (1992) found that parental involvement at some schools is seen as a power struggle. When teachers believe that they are the primary person to handle a child’s education, then they create an unbalanced and unequal partnership. Nevertheless, at least theoretically, most teachers welcome the idea of parent involvement. According to a teachers’ perceptions study published by the National Parent Involvement Network, 83% of teachers wanted an increase in parental involvement at their schools, and 95% of inner city teachers felt that parental involvement was lacking (Funkhouser, Gonzales, & Moles, 1997).
Many parental involvement strategies have been used in the past, but schools are still baffled by the lack of parental involvement at the secondary level (Christenson & Sheridan, 2001; Drake, 2000). Antiquated parental and family involvement strategies are often cited as a major problem in research. Schools that update their strategies to accommodate the characteristics of their community benefit more than those schools that only use a standard program (Drake, 2000). Other problems may be that most parental involvement strategies are aimed at helping middle class families (Crozier, 2001), focus mostly on primary schools, and do not place much emphasis on minority families. The increased diversity of students and their families presents an even greater challenge to schools and teachers (Lewis, 1992; Wanders et al., 2007).
Teachers recognize the benefits of including parents, but consistently complain that parents do not assist in their children’s education (Lewis, 1992). Administrators and educators should not assume that parents automatically know how to involve themselves at school or home. Parents need to be taught how to effectively involve themselves in their children’s schooling. The assumption that every parent knows how to teach their children should be admonished. Parents are not teachers and need to be instructed on how to teach, assist, and encourage their children at home (Quigley, 2000). Ineffective instruction at home by a parent could hinder the academic progress of their children.
The National PTA (2006) gave the following suggestions on how to involve parents: a) schools should host orientation sessions for parents on how to be involved, b) have an onsite family resource center, which will give parents access to materials on parenting, c) give parents handouts on curriculum information and teaching methods, d) encourage parents to volunteer in school and at school events, and e) invite parents to sit on committees to participate in school-decision making.
Likewise, it should not be assumed that teachers automatically know how to effectively involve parents in the classroom and at home. Epstein (1985) pointed out that the majority of teachers have little to no training on how to involve parents in the classroom. Therefore, most teachers lack necessary skills and knowledge on how to effectively work with parents. Kesslar-Sklar and Baker (2000) found that teachers need guidance from school administrators and consultants such as school psychologists to communicate with parents. In-services and workshops could provide guidance on how to effectively engage parents. Parent engagement is important on all levels of school involvement; however, sometimes schools are confused on what is considered parent engagement or involvement. School administrators and teachers feel that parental involvement is important for the academic success of children, but sometimes the definition of what constitutes parent involvement is often misconstrued between parents and teachers. According to Epstein and Sanders (2002), there are six types of involvement: a) parenting- assist families with parenting and child-rearing skills, understanding child and adolescent development, and setting home conditions that support children as students at each age and grade level; b) communicating- communicate with families about school programs and student progress through effective school-to-home and home-to-school communications; c) volunteering improve recruitment, training, work, and schedules to involve families as volunteers and audiences at the school or in other locations to support students and school programs; d) learning at home- involve families with their children in learning activities at home, including homework and other curriculum-linked activities and decisions; e) decision making-include families as participants in school decisions, governance, and advocacy through PTA/PTO, school councils, committees, and other parent organizations; and f) collaborating with the community- coordinate resources and services for families, students, and the school with businesses, agencies, and other groups, and provide services to the community. Schools play an important role in assisting parents with the aforementioned strategies. When these strategies along with parents feeling welcome are in effect, children thrive academically and socially. If parents do not feel welcome at their child’s school, they are less likely to be involved (Constantino, 2003).
2.7 How do Schools Engage Parents?
Hanke (2006) pointed out that lack of parental involvement is due to lack of helpful information to parents. Emails, phone, letters, newsletters and personal contacts can be made by schools to reach out to parents. If schools communicate with parents regularly and consistently using the various means, the gap between school and parental involvement will be reduced. Students’ expectations and achievement will increase if families show high levels of interest (National PTA, 1998). Six different areas of parental involvement are identified by Epstein et al., (1997): parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community. Two types of communication exist (The Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, 2006). These two types include one-way (transmittal) and two-way communication. In one-way communication, the school disseminates information to parents on how they can help their children at home. Examples of this type of communication are newsletters and informational fliers. The two-way communication is considered much more interactive and perceived as a partnership between the school and families. Examples include surveys and questionnaires structured to collect informational data pertaining to students (The Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, 2006).
Reenay and Vivian (2007) explained that even though the invention of new technologies has made it easier for schools to reach out to parents (through emails, cell phones and internet websites), the use of traditional methods in communication has been found to be an effective way for schools to communicate with parents, but this has been limited in use by schools because of time constraints. In addition, it has been assessed that the frequent use of mass communications (newsletters, calendars, letters and handbooks) by school educators has not been effective in changing student behaviors.
However, as Jonson (1999) reported, many parents do not communicate with their children’s schools due to a vast number of reasons. For example, their concerns might not be heard or responded to promptly, or they are busy at work. Despite t
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