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:
- 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;
- Communicating, or working to educate families about their child’s progress and school services and providing opportunities for parents to communicate with the school;
- 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;
- 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.
- Decision-making, in which schools include families as partners in school organizations, advisory panels, and similar committees.
- 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.