ED269137 86 Parents and Schools.
Author: Becher, Rhoda
ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Urbana, Ill.
THIS DIGEST WAS CREATED BY ERIC, THE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION CENTER. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ERIC, CONTACT ACCESS ERIC 1-800-LET-ERIC
Parent involvement is critical in facilitating children's development
and achievement and in preventing and remedying educational and
developmental problems. Declining achievement scores, rising
educational costs, and distrust of bureaucratic institutions are among
the factors which have refocused attention on the rights,
responsibilities, and impact of parents.
BENEFITS TO CHILDREN
Substantial evidence exists to show that children whose parents are
involved in their schooling have significantly increased their
academic achievement and cognitive development (Andrews and others
1982; Henderson 1981; and Herman and Yeh 1980). The parent-child
relationship is improved and parents more frequently participate in
the child's activities.
Parents also increase the number of contacts made with the school and
their understanding of child development and the educational process.
Another effect of parent-school cooperation is that parents become
better teachers of their children at home and use more positive forms
EFFECTS OF PARENT INVOLVEMENT
Research reports indicate that parents involved in child care and
educational programs develop positive attitudes about themselves,
increase self-confidence, and often enroll in programs to enhance
their personal development. They also are more positive about school
and school personnel than uninvolved parents (Herman and Yeh 1980),
help to gather community support for educational programs, and become
more active in other community activities.
EFFECTIVE APPROACHES TO PARENT INVOLVEMENT
Parent visits to the center, school, or classroom, parent meetings and
workshops, and parent-teacher conferences are effective in encouraging
parents' participation in their children's education. Written and
verbal information from teachers on the program and the children's
progress is also helpful (Herman and Yeh 1980; Meighan 198l; Seginer
Parents most enjoy participating in classroom activities, parent
meetings, and policy planning sessions (McKinney 1980). They are most
interested in meetings dealing with educational concerns or personal
growth and development. Of less interest are meetings dealing with
careers, job training, and social services. Somewhat surprisingly,
social and fundraising activities were listed by parents as the least
popular form of parent involvement.
PROBLEMS IN INVOLVING PARENTS
Researchers found that teachers are sometimes reluctant to encourage
parent involvement because they
--Are uncertain about how to involve parents and still maintain their
role as specialized "experts"
--Are uncertain about how to balance their concern for the group of
children against a more personalized concern for each individual
child, which they believe would be expected if parents were more
involved (McPherson 1972)
--Believe parent involvement activities take too much planning time,
turn responsibility for teaching over to parents, and are disruptive
because parents do not know how to work with children
--Are concerned that parents may use non-standard English or
demonstrate other undesirable characteristics
--Question whether parents will keep commitments, refrain from sharing
confidential information, and avoid being overly critical
On the other hand, parents complain that the bureaucracy of the
schools discourages their involvement and their expression of
concerns, complaints, and demands (Wagenaar 1976).
CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL PARENT INVOLVEMENT PROGRAMS
Despite difficulties, the proven benefits of parent participation
result in continued interest in developing these programs. The
following characteristics are a basis for developing, implementing,
and evaluating successful parent involvement efforts. Included are
assumptions about parents held by teachers and principals who operate
successful programs as well as principles for implementing such
Assumptions Made about Parents
Successful programs emphasize the contributions parents already make
to their children's development and education. As a result, parents
feel good about themselves and the program and are more willing to
become actively involved. In the belief that parents can make
additional contributions, successful programs help parents identify
other skills they can share.
Parents have important perspectives on their children and can provide
the teacher with information about their child's relationships,
interests, and experiences outside of the school or center. This
information enhances the teacher's understanding of the child and
contributes to more effective teaching.
Whereas parent-child relationships are personal, subjective, and
long-term, teacher-child relationships are objective, impersonal, and
short term. Successful programs recognize these differences when
suggesting home activities and view processes and activities from the
perspective of the parents rather than from that of the staff.
Successful programs recognize that most parents really care about
their children but may feel it is more important to spend an evening
at home than to attend a meeting only distantly concerned with their
child. Staff also believe parents are interested in learning
parenting, developmental, and educational techniques.
Effective programs understand that parents have many reasons for their
involvement, that they may have good intentions but may not understand
how to help. The staff takes care to clearly state objectives and ways
for parents to work well with their child.
Principles for Implementing Successful Programs
--Match goals, purposes, and activities
--Realistically consider staff skills and available resources
--Recognize variations in parents' skills
--Respond to parent needs with flexible and creative program
--Communicate expectations, roles, and responsibilities
--Involve parents in decision making and explain administrative
decisions to encourage parents to respond to decisions rationally
--Expect problems but emphasize solutions. Because problems are
anticipated, policies and procedures for resolving them are developed
and communicated to parents. "Failure" is not blamed on the parents
--Seek optimum versus maximum involvement. Parent involvement takes
time, effort, and energy. If staff or parents become overextended,
they may feel drained and resentful
CAUTIONS AND CONCERNS
Responsiveness to the following concerns may help to justify
increasing optimism that parent involvement can improve education and
educational opportunities for children.
--Continuous and increased emphasis on the crucial role of parents in
facilitating intelligence, achievement, and educability can place
excessive pressure and responsibility on parents
--Little attention is given to the role of the father
--The focus of educational responsibility should not shift toward the
parent so much that schools, programs, and teachers fail to examine
the ways in which they might change to more fully enhance children's
development, education, and achievement
--Parent involvement programs may antagonize teachers who already feel
overwhelmed by responsibilities beyond the direct instructional role
Successful parent involvement programs benefit parents, children, and
teachers and, therefore, have significant impact on children's
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Andrews, S. R., and others. "The Skills of Mothering: A Study of
Parent-Child Development Centers." MONOGRAPHS OF THE SOCIETY FOR
RESEARCH IN CHILD DEVELOPMENT, 47 (Serial No. 198). 1982.
Henderson, H., editor. PARENT PARTICIPATION-STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT: THE
EVIDENCE GROWS. OCCASIONAL PAPER. Columbia, MD: National Committee for
Citizens in Education, 1981. ED 209 754.
Herman, J. L., and J. P. Yeh. SOME EFFECTS OF PARENT INVOLVEMENT IN
SCHOOLS. 1980. ED 206 963.
McKinney, J. EVALUATION OF PARENT INVOLVEMENT IN EARLY CHILDHOOD
PROGRAMS 1979-1980. (Technical Summary, Report No. 8130).
Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia School District, Office of Research and
Evaluation, 1980. ED 204 388.
McPherson, G. H. SMALL TOWN TEACHER. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Meighan, R. "A New Teaching Force? Some Issues Raised by Seeing
Parents as Educators and the Implications for Teacher Education."
EDUCATIONAL REVIEW 33 (1981):133-142.
Seginer, R. "Parents' Educational Expectation and Children's Academic
Achievements: A Literature Review." MERRILL-PALMER QUARTERLY 29
Wagenaar, T. C. SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT LEVEL VIS-A-VIS COMMUNITY
INVOLVEMENT AND SUPPORT: AN EMPIRICAL ASSESSMENT. 1977. ED 146 111.
This Digest was prepared for the ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and
Early Childhood Education, 1986.
This publication was prepared with funding from the Office of
Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education,
under OERI contract. The opinions expressed in this report do not
necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the
Department of Education.