Many studies over the years have shown that when parents are involved in their children's schools, their students tend to be more successful in the classroom. Additionally, schools that enjoy a lot of parental involvement usually boast better test scores and show higher academic achievement. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why parents don't participate in their schools. Recognizing these reasons and then addressing them are important steps a school needs to take in order to better itself.
For a variety of reasons, working can be an impediment to a parent's involvement with their child's school. For instance, activities that are held during actual class time can often conflict with a parent's work schedule. While some people have jobs that will allow them to leave work for an activity, other less fortunate people may have a boss that won't allow them to attend. Additionally, some parents work two jobs and so are unable to attend any school activities. Still others work at night and so are unable to attend evening activities. To foster more parental involvement, a school needs to plan activities for different times of the day and evening so that as many people as possible will have a chance to attend at least one function.
English as a Second Language
Parents with limited English skills are sometimes reluctant to attend or participate in activities or meetings where they may not understand what is being said. Other times, these parents may miss activities because the information was sent or phoned home in English and they did not understand the communication. In addition, a parent who is new to the United States may not understand the importance of certain meetings, such as teacher-parent conferences. If a school has a high ESL population, arranging for interpreters for events and conferences and making information available in multiple languages will often increase parental involvement at a school.
When a school does not communicate information about events and functions with its parents well, there is a good chance that they will not show up to participate. This is especially true at the high school and middle school levels where parents are often dependent on students to bring information to their attention and which the children often forget to do. Keeping websites up-to-date, making phone calls through school communication tools such as Blackboard's Connect-ED, or using an email system are just some of the means that schools can use to let parents know about different activities they may want to attend.
Parents are sometimes unsure whether they are wanted on school grounds, especially at the high school and middle school levels. Some parents fret that their teenagers may not want to see them on campus. Other parents are unsure where they can help out in a school, especially if a child has multiple classes. Fathers, in particular, are often unsure how to get involved in a school's activities. Schools should strive to enlist programs such as the Watch D.O.G. Dads program (see Resources) that encourage involvement.
Too Time Consuming
Today's busy parents are sometimes afraid to commit to school activities or meetings, especially if they fear they will take up a lot of their precious time. Long PTA meetings or Back to School Nights, especially during the week, can bore a parent and make them want to skip future school activities. To prevent meetings from dragging on too long, those in charge should keep everyone on task, steer conversation that has turned away from the main subject back on topic and also request that people who have very specific questions ask them after the meeting is done.
- Meridian: Parental Involvement in Children's Education: Connecting Family and School by Using Telecommunication Technologies
- University of North Carolina: The Future of High School Success: The Importance of Parent Involvement Programs
- College of Saint Mary: Parent Involvement in Education
- Walden University: Parent Involvement in Students' Academic Performance
- Vanderbilt University: The Family-School Partnership Lab
- "back to school" background image by Stasys Eidiejus from Fotolia.com