Meaningful engagement for parents begins at home.
During the recent school board election campaign I heard a number of candidates share their belief that parents need to be more involved and sit on more committees and play a bigger part in the running of the school district. The election is over and I now hear some trustees advocating this involvement at the district level.
Then last Saturday [Dec 3] I attended a professional growth opportunity called ‘edcampfv’ in Maple Ridge and heard parent advocates [former BCCPAC executives] say parents need to be engaged at the school level and most importantly at the home level. They made no reference to the district level. Interesting, eh?
For 18 years I have been sharing my thoughts on community involvement in public education and I now believe even more strongly than ever that I am on the correct path – the path to meaningful engagement rather than legislated involvement [the School Act] or involvement just for the appearance of being involved [local policy].
Quality of contribution trumps quantity of contribution every day.
The roles, responsibilities and obligations of trustees and parents are vastly different. Trustees are removed from the classroom and more closely aligned with the district perspective [as they should be]. On the other hand parents are very closely aligned with the classroom; especially their child’s classroom.
In reality less than .001% of the parents show an active interest in district policies, district finances and district curriculum and instruction. I believe the vast majority of parents who appear satisfied being engaged at home and at the school level have been sending the educational community a message for years. Sadly, we have not been listening. Instead, we have listened to the .001% with the loudest voices and refer to them as “the community.”
Perhaps school districts, including Boards of Education, need to engage parents other than just the vocal ones or the ones with school act designations to determine if the system is already meeting their expectations and, if not, how we can work together to develop a synergy that will benefit student achievement.
Parents care about their children. Parents want the very best for their children. I agree with the BCCPAC statements below. I believe parents need to be engaged in a meaningful way at the most appropriate level – their home and their child’s school.
YOUR CHILDREN … OUR STUDENTS … EVERYONE’S FUTURE.
BCCPAC excerpts follow
The following excerpt is taken from the BCCPAC web site.
Supporting Student Success– Working Together in BC Public Schools
Parents are their children’s first teachers and have the
primary responsibility for their care and well-being.
They love their children and want to do what is best for them.
Educators share parents’ desire to support students in their learning
and help them succeed.
Parents and educators in BC are working together to support children’s
learning in a variety of ways. They have experienced what more than
30 years1of research has shown—that when parents are involved in their
children’s learning, their children are more likely to:
• perform better academically at school
• attend school regularly
• show improved behaviour and have better social skills
• adapt well to school
• graduate and go on to post-secondary education.
Where the term “parent”
is used, “family” can also
be used, because many
children are raised not just
by a parent or parents, but
also by aunts and uncles,
What is Parent Involvement?
Researcher Joyce Epstein, Director of the Center on School, Family
and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University, has identified
six areas2of parent involvement in education:
Parenting:Helping families gain parenting skills and an understanding
of their children’s development; helping families create home settings
that support learning; helping schools understand families
Communicating:Providing families with information about school
programs and student progress through effective school-to-home and
home-to-school communications, (this includes newsletters, report
cards, phone calls, conferences, emails, websites, etc.)
Volunteering:Involving families in school-based activities such as
attending and helping at school events or helping in school and
Learning at home: Involving families in learning activities with their
children at home, including supervising and helping with homework
Decision-making:Involving families in school decision-making and
governance, including school committees; helping individual parents
advocate for their children
Collaborating with the community:Coordinating with other
community agencies to support families, connecting families
with support services outside the school.
What is Meaningful Parent Involvement?
Renihan and Renihan (1994)3say that meaningful parent involvement:
• is driven by educational motives and directed at the needs of the child
• assumes that home and school are interdependent
• assumes that parents need to be educated about the school and that
teachers need to be educated about the home
• is viewed as an important vehicle for school improvement
• is based on sustained and free communication between school