Parental involvement in public schools improves schools, strengthens communities, empowers families and comes in a surprising variety of forms.
Studies show that parental involvement markedly improves student achievement. According to the U.S. Department of Education, parental involvement plays a fundamental role in a child’s academic success. Students with involved parents are more likely to earn higher grades, achieve higher test scores, enroll in higher-level programs, maintain better attendance, have better social skills, graduate, and go on to college no matter what their income level or socioeconomic background.
Who can become involved?
The idea of becoming involved can seem daunting to some parents, however, who worry they may not have the free time or necessary skills to help. This month, Raise Your Hand Texas shines a spotlight on parental involvement and volunteerism in public schools, in an effort to dispel some misconceptions, encourage our members to get active in local schools, educate parents and grandparents on the various forms involvement can take, and help develop deeper and more meaningful relationships between public schools and local communities.
Our schools, our communities, our responsibility
President Woodrow Wilson said that as Americans we are the owners of the public school system, which means it is our responsibility to participate in and it is we who are ultimately accountable for its success. But parental involvement in schools does not have to mean a long-term or standing commitment, nor does it need to interfere with work or other duties. The key to parental involvement is learning to see it as a way to strengthen bonds with your child and community; not as a chore but as a way of building a better future.
The Six Types of Involvement
Involvement can take many forms, and includes many different types of practices, partnerships and implementation. Dr. Joyce Epstein, the Director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and the National Network of Partnership Schools, and a Principal Research Scientist and Research Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University, has established a research-based framework of six types of involvement— parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision-making and collaborating with the community— each of which falls into one of three categories: family, school and community.
Dr. Epstein’s framework helps educators to develop school and family partnership programs, and encourages partnership activities designed to engage, guide, energize, and motivate students and assumes that if children feel cared for and encouraged to work hard they will be more likely to do their best in school. A well-designed and well-implemented program will include all six types of involvement. Below is a quick adapted summary of her sample best practices which you can review in more depth here.
Parents may help other parents create student-friendly home environments via parent education, help with literacy, health and nutrition, or help with transition points to pre-school, elementary, middle, and high school.
Parents may help with the design effective forms of school-to-home and home-to-school communications about school programs and children’s progress, such as once-a-year conferences, language translation services, creating a regular schedule of notices, memos, phone calls and newsletters.
Parents can get involved by recruiting and organizing parent help and support; or creating school and classroom volunteer programs to help teachers, administrators, students, and other parents.
4. Learning at home
Help other families with ideas and information on how to help children at home with homework and school planning. Help keep other families informed on what skills are required for students in all subjects at each grade level. Share information on homework policies. Help with setting student goals and planning for the future.
Help to include parents in school decisions and developing parent leaders by helping other parents become involved in PTA/PTO or other parent organizations, advisory councils, or committees for parent leadership and participation. Creating independent advocacy groups to lobby and work for school reform and improvements.
6. Collaborating with the community
Help to locate and use resources from the community to strengthen school programs, family practices, and student learning and development. Help gather information for students and families on community health, culture, recreation and social support.
Other ideas for volunteering
A classroom volunteer might become directly involved in a classroom by tutoring or mentoring a child; reading to students or listening o them read; translating for students; helping prepare for dramatic performances, or with art projects or science experiments; appearing as a guest speaker; or attending field trips.
School volunteers outside the classroom might provide assistant or support in non-academic ways such as organize school security; help with building maintenance; assist with carpentry or gardening; work in the school library; photograph or videotape school activities; work as crossing guards; provide transportation to parents; write newsletters or make posters. The
Parents who are unable to volunteer on school grounds can help by recruiting parents and local businesses to participate in special programs; calling parents and organizing phone trees; entering data and gathering materials, making snacks, stuffing envelopes, writing grants or working with other parents on projects and issues concerning the school or even organizing a PTA.
Parents or other community members may work within the public school system to help determine student and school needs and begin to establish more relationships with local businesses, social service agencies, health care providers, and parent and volunteer organizations to bring needed resources and services to schools and students.
Some organizations recruit recent graduates or college students for a year of full-time service mentoring students in high-need public schools. Some schools offer mentoring opportunities, and some even partner with businesses to recruit regular mentors.
Community members and parents may also donate, or help connect schools to organizations that handle donations.
Parents and community members wishing to get involved on a legislative level may become a supporter of Raise Your Hand Texas, or just subscribe to stay in the loop with news, stories, and ways to help.