ERIC Identifier: ED269137
Publication Date: 1986-00-00
Author: Becher, Rhoda
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Parents and Schools.
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 of reinforcement.
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 1983).
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
--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 programs.
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
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 activities
--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
--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 education.
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 Press,
Meighan, R. "A New Teaching Force? Some Issues Raised by Seeing Parents as
Educators and the Implications for Teacher Education." EDUCATIONAL REVIEW 33
Seginer, R. "Parents' Educational Expectation and Children's Academic
Achievements: A Literature Review." MERRILL-PALMER QUARTERLY 29 (1983):1-23.
Wagenaar, T. C. SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT LEVEL VIS-A-VIS COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND
SUPPORT: AN EMPIRICAL ASSESSMENT. 1977. ED 146 111.