Parental Participation in Education

The significance of parental involvement in education has been documented over the years by psychologists and educational theorists and debated by many parents and legislators in the United States. Academic Joyce L. Epstein wrote: "The evidence is clear that parental encouragement, activities and interest at home, and parental participation in schools and classrooms positively influence achievement, even after the students' ability and family socio-economic status are taken into account."

Researchers have consistently found that an active partnership between a child's parents and school can boost the performance of students and improve their life but when it comes to family circumstances, data from the National Center for Education Statistics (1998) found that 72% of schools with low levels of poverty report that the majority of parents attend school open days. This compares to a figure of 28% of parents attending when there are high levels of poverty. Susan Jarmuz-Smith, writing in the National Association of School Psychologists' magazine (2011) cited the work of Christenson, Rounds, and Gorney (1992) who discovered that any amount of parental engagement positively affects children. Jarmuz-Smith believes "that overall, the key to parent involvement is providing meaningful engagement opportunities that offer concrete ways for parents to build knowledge of and the capacity to involve themselves in the educational system. If we ask parents to help, research shows they will." In The Journal of Educational Research (2000) Reuven Feuerstein reported that increased communication from a school naturally increases parent involvement. He explains: "Just the small act of communicating with parents about the needs of the school motivated parents to become involved. " The goal, then, Feuerstein argues, is to provide concrete ways for parents to engage and in return to keep the lines of communication open.

In terms of the legal argument for participation, the main laws here are the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The ESEA, previously the No Child Left Behind Act (2001) mandates involving parents as partners in education. Professional organizations such as The National Association of School Psychologists' Principles for Professional Ethics also play a key role by stating that school psychologists must aim to "encourage and promote parental participation and respect the wishes of parents," while The National Association for the Education of Young Children stresses the importance of parent involvement and parent-staff communication in its guidelines.

Joyce Epstein, director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships at John Hopkins University, reported in 1997 that there are six different types of parental involvement. These areas include: providing information about student progress and opening up a pathway for parents to communicate with schools; providing information to parents about child development and age-appropriate expectations; encouraging volunteering to fit in with parents' schedules; ideas and strategies on how parents can assist with homework; a two-way connection between community, business and schools, and helping parents to become involved in organizations, committees and school boards.

In School, Family, and Community Interaction: A View from the Firing Lines (1994), Cheryl L. Fagnano and Beverly Z. Weber referred to the research of Ann Henderson. Writing in 1987, Henderson conducted an extensive review of parental involvement and found that involving parents in their children's formal education improves achievement and that parental involvement is most effective when it is comprehensive, long lasting and well planned. She also reported that there are "strong effects" from involving parents continuously throughout the school lives of their children In Early Childhood Research & Practice (2008) Hamida Amirali Jinnah and Lynda Henley Walters question the inclusion of parents as they are expected to offer subjective impressions rather than professional opinions or objective observations. Some critics argue that much of the research into parental participation is focused within elementary education and have called for more research in other areas, including middle and high schools. Others in the field believe that as a child grows up parental involvement is less common and therefore becomes difficult to quantify.

Since the educational reforms of the late 1980s American parents have played a more active role in governing schools, in receiving information and in gaining the right to state a preference for a specific school. The Goals 2000 Educate America Act vowed to provide resources to states and communities to ensure that all students reach their full potential. The Act stated "every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children."

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Rethinking Family-School Relations: A Critique of Parental Involvement in Schooling
Maria Eulina P. De Carvalho.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
Messages from Home: The Parent-Child Home Program for Overcoming Educational Disadvantage
Phyllis Levenstein; Susan Levenstein.
Temple University Press, 2008 (Revised edition)
Ethical Practices and Parental Participation in Rural Special Education
Trussell, Robert P.; Hammond, Helen; Ingalls, Lawrence.
Rural Special Education Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1/2, Winter/Spring 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Bringing Parents Back In: African American Parental Involvement, Extracurricular Participation, and Educational Policy
O'Bryan, Simone Travis; Braddock, Jomills Henry, II; Dawkins, Marvin P.
The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 75, No. 3, Summer 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Parental Involvement, Parenting Behaviors, and Children's Cognitive Development in Low-Income and Minority Families
Chang, Mido; Park, Boyoung; Singh, Kusum; Sung, Youngji Y.
Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Vol. 23, No. 3, Spring 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Defining Parental Involvement: Perception of School Administrators
Young, Clara Y.; Austin, Sheila M.; Growe, Roslin.
Education, Vol. 133, No. 3, Spring 2013
How Do You Spell Parental Involvement? S-I-S: Student Information Systems Are Engaging Parents, Benefiting Kids, And-Finally-Winning over Teachers, Too
Bird, Ken.
T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), Vol. 33, No. 7, February 2006
Engaging Parents of Eighth Grade Students in Parent-Teacher Bidirectional Communication
Bennett-Conroy, Waveline.
School Community Journal, Vol. 22, No. 2, Fall 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
School, Family, and Community Interaction: A View from the Firing Lines
Cheryl L. Fagnano; Beverly Z. Werber.
Westview Press, 1994
Family-School Links: How Do They Affect Educational Outcomes?
Alan Booth; Judith F. Dunn.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996
Parents, Their Children, and Schools
Barbara Schneider; James S. Coleman.
Westview Press, 1993
Success in Early Intervention: The Chicago Child-Parent Centers
Arthur J. Reynolds.
University of Nebraska Press, 2000
High Schools in Crisis: What Every Parent Should Know
Ellen Hall; Richard Handley.
Praeger, 2004
Raising Lifelong Learners: A Parent's Guide
Lucy Calkins; Lydia Bellino.
Perseus Publishing, 1998
Sound Choices: Guiding Your Child's Musical Experiences
Wilma Machover; Marienne Uszler.
Oxford University Press, 1996
Looking for a topic idea? Use Questia's Topic Generator