By Jarmuz-Smith, Susan
National Association of School Psychologists. Communique , Vol. 39, No. 8
arent involvement is important-period. As school psychology graduate students, we intuitively understand this and hear it often in our training; yet, what does parent involvement truly mean? What does it look like and how do we make it happen? As a parent of a child with special needs, I also ponder the perspective of parents as they navigate the educational juggernaut. How do they feel about their own abilities and capacity to engage in the educational process?
To be effective school psychologists, it is essential that we form a personal understanding of the importance and significance of parental involvement, including the legal and ethical obligations that further home-school connections. This foundation then sheds light on the mechanics behind a parent-teacher shared educational responsibility and how, as future school psychologists, we can encourage and increase parental involvement in education.
WHY SUPORT PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT
It is an easy task to find research bolstering the intuitive idea that supporting parent involvement ultimately benefits students academically, socially, and occupationally. For example, Christenson, Rounds, and Gorney (1992) found that any amount of parental engagement positively affects student outcomes. This is a great finding for parents with little time to spare.
In Best Practices in School Psychology V , Esler, Godber, and Christenson (2008) note that parental involvement is critical because learning occurs across multiple settings and that collaborative and problem-solving partnerships with parents ensure the greatest chance of student success. This underscores the importance of consistency across the contexts of school, home, and community. In fact, NASP's (2005) position statement on home-school collaboration proposes that a student's education is a shared responsibility among educators in the school, parents at home, and members of the community.
LEGAL AND ETHICAL OBLIGATIONS
A great way to build knowledge about parental involvement in education is to understand the legal and ethical obligations of school psychologists. The main legal frameworks are the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). These are important laws for graduate school psychologists to recognize, know, and understand.
ESEA, previously titled the No Child Left Behind Act, mandates (through Title I) parental communication and significant parental involvement in developing school improvement plans. IDEA encompasses provisions that ensure parents are a significant part of the special education process. These provisions, known as procedural safeguards, include giving parents appropriate notice of meetings and upcoming decisions, explaining parental rights as a member of the decision team, and providing information about the dispute resolution process. FERPA is about parental rights to access and review student educational records. There are varying options to this access, such as encouraging parents to review the access logs and informing them of opt-out procedures. In essence, these three federal laws provide the legal mandates that ensure increased opportunities for parental involvement in education and provide the information needed by parents to make informed decisions regarding their children's education.
In addition to legal mandates, there are ethical guidelines that address parental involvement. NASP's Principles for Professional Ethics (2010) state that school psychologists must aim to "encourage and promote parental participation in school decisions" (pg. 4) and "respect the wishes of parents" (pg. 5). Clearly, it is an ethical obligation of school psychologists to honor and respect a parent's choice while providing accurate information to aid them in becoming fully informed participants.
BUILDING PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT
Many parents ask, "How can I get involved? …