Parent Centers done right can be a benefit to students

From the Center for Public Education >>

On Wednesday, the Kellogg Foundation announced the 30 organizations it was giving more than $13 million in grants to continue their work in engaging families and empowering parents in advancing student learning, particularly early childhood learning. One of the largest philanthropic foundations in the country, Kellogg has a long history of supporting programs that help individuals and communities become self-sustaining, productive members of society. This latest grant program is the first time the foundation has funneled funds into the issue of family engagement, for which it received the most applications—1,130— in its 83-year history. Such overwhelming interest in family engagement is indeed a welcome sign, which our research and school stories have shown can impact student achievement.

The six types of parent involvement

Joyce Epstein of the Johns Hopkins University, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, one of the nation’s leading experts on parent involvement, divided school parent involvement programs into six broad categories:

  1. Parenting, in which schools help families with their parenting skills by providing information on children’s developmental stages and offering advice on learning-friendly home environments;
  2. Communicating, or working to educate families about their child’s progress and school services and providing opportunities for parents to communicate with the school;
  3. Volunteering, which ranges from offering opportunities for parents to visit their child’s school to finding ways to recruit and train them to work in the school or classroom;
  4. Learning at home, in which schools and educators share ideas to promote at-home learning through high expectations and strategies so parents can monitor and help with homework.
  5. Decision-making, in which schools include families as partners in school organizations, advisory panels, and similar committees.
  6. Community collaboration, a two-way outreach strategy in which community or business groups are involved in education and schools encourage family participation in the community.

Actions school boards can take:

  • As SEDL concluded: “Recognize that all parents, regardless of income, education or cultural background, are involved in their children’s learning and want their children to do well.”
  • Survey parents and teachers to understand their perspective on parent involvement. Investigate how parents want to be involved, and how teachers want parents to be involved.
  • Work to create a common understanding of how parents could best support their child’s education and how teachers could communicate with parents. This might be accomplished through discussions, flyers, meetings or other strategies.
  • Identify barriers to achievement within schools. Can parents help address these challenges? If so, how?
  • Give teachers training on how to develop homework assignments that involve parents.
  • Regularly involve parents in their child’s homework, and report on the results of doing so.
  • In middle school and high school, talk clearly to parents about the courses and grades their students will need to succeed.
  • Continue to survey or otherwise track the effects of involvement, in order to use schools’ time and resources wisely. In these tight economic times, focus on putting schools’ money and energy into what works best, rather than continuing ineffective programs.

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3 Responses to Parent Centers done right can be a benefit to students

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  3. Kim says:

    For me, the debate about “Parent engagement” has always been somewhat of a quagmire. Many debates on the topic devolve into arguments about race, poverty, immigration, and civic and moral duties. In fact, I do not know anyone who debates the value of (positive) parental involvement in the education process. So the problem is less controversial to me than the offered solutions.

    I’m afraid I see it much more simply than many engaged in the dialog. Teachers ….

    Connecting teachers to parents and supporting healthy communication flow between the two is really the only valuable investment we should be making with public dollars. All the rest seems to be fabricating and expanding the educational industry’s overhead (programs and managers to lead them).

    How could this possibly work? For starters, more teachers…

    More teachers means more time per student not just in the classroom. It means more time for the teacher to manage the teacher/parent/student relationship. Teachers (good ones) have been doing this since the very beginning because they know that engaged parenting is a key part of the success for most students. We simply need to resource teachers’ efforts so they are practical to manage.

    How often does a teacher meet with a parent by phone or in person? Not often enough because they have too many students and too many obligations to the various programs foisted on them by the same administration that wants them to engage in even more programs. In response, administrations create EVEN MORE programs to address a problem they, in fact, have exacerbated in the first place.

    We want an “app for that” and there isn’t one. Our educational leaders (management) are happy to build app after app to address the problem. Meanwhile, we simply need more and better teachers who manage the “Holy Trinity” of StudentTeacherParent.

    Happy Easter!

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