Parents' Engagement in Their Children's Education
Ferlazzo at Educational Leadership zeroes in on this distinction:
A school striving for family involvement often leads with its mouth—identifying projects, needs, and goals and then telling parents how they can contribute. A school striving for parent engagement, on the other hand, tends to lead with its ears—listening to what parents think, dream, and worry about. The goal of family engagement is not to serve clients but to gain partners.
|One example I shared in the meeting was how the elementary school my children attend decided what to do with homework. There were meetings held between parents and school staff to arrive at the decision of removing homework, and instead, simply focusing on daily leisure reading, and spending time with family. This is clearly an example where parents are given the opportunity to be heard on a matter that is clearly academic in nature.
Aside from having so many opportunities for parents to be involved and not so much for parents to be engaged, there is the nagging problem of parents simply not engaging in their children's education. This, of course, is not attributed to parents simply not caring about their children's learning, but more on obstacles or circumstances. The graph shown above says a lot about which parents are engaging and which ones are not. Clearly, parental educational attainment correlates with a parent's participation in a child's education. And as mentioned at the beginning of this post, parents tend to attend events that are not necessarily linked to the academic mission of the school. What is much more alarming is that a parent's participation dramatically drops in both middle and high schools:
Percentage of Students in Grades K-12 Whose Parents
Reported Involvement in Their Child's School, by Type of Involvement and Selected Characteristics: 2016¹
|Attended general meeting||Attended scheduled parent-teacher conference||Attended school or class event||Volunteered or served on a committee|
|K - 2nd grade||91||92||85||56|
|3rd - 5th grade||92||90||84||51|
|6th - 8th grade||90||73||76||35|
|9th - 12th grade||82||58||73||32|
|Household poverty status|
|At or above FPL||90||78||83||47|
|Both/only parent(s) speak(s) English||90||79||82||46|
|One of two parents speaks English||86||74||71||38|
|No parent speaks English||81||68||62||25|
|1Estimates are from questions asked to parents about the 2015-16 school year.|
|Note: Since the focus of this report is on how students’ parents interact with schools, homeschoolers are excluded from all of the analyses.|
|Source: McQuiggan, M. & Megra, M. (2017). Parent and family involvement in education: Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016 (NCES 2017-102) [Table 2], Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017102.pdf.|
The decrease in parent's engagement in middle school and high school is only expected as teachers are now handling specific subjects unlike in elementary where there is one teacher assigned to one classroom for most subjects. It is indeed more difficult to establish a working relationship when there are more than a handful of teachers working with one's child. Nonetheless, research still shows that a parent's engagement still influences student learning outcomes beyond grade school. Hill and Tyson have done a meta-analytical assessment on studies done on this topic. And they find that, as expected, it still depends on what the parent does. Helping with homework apparently hurts and what matters apparently is what Hill and Tyson call "academic socialization". The following is their definition of "academic socialization":
For early adolescence, parental involvement may entail communicating parental expectations for education and its value or utility, linking schoolwork to current events, fostering educational and occupational aspirations, discussing learning strategies with children, and making preparations and plans for the future—that is, academic socialization.
For any parent who wants to contribute positively to his or her child's education, it is important to be equipped with both tools and opportunities. A parent who is not aware of what his or her child is currently studying cannot possibly link schoolwork to current events, its value or utility. Obviously, not all parents are likewise competent enough to provide "academic socialization". These by the way point not just to challenges but also opportunities for teachers and school administrators. It cannot be overemphasized that education must be lifelong. Adults need education and training. In addition, teachers can likewise work toward giving their students occasions to explore how their education relates to real life. I remember one day I spent in my child's elementary school during which I share with fifth grade children what I do as a chemist. With me on that day were representatives from other professions. It was a "career day" and it opens the eyes of students to what their future may hold. Here in fact is an illustration that parent's engagement does not really need to be required of every parent. One parent's engagement can lift more than one child.
Parent's engagement in a child's education does require a lot of listening. Needs can not be met without knowing what these are first. Like any relationship, it cannot be dictated but only planted and cultivated.