Teachers + Families = Success for All Students

Article excerpt

Family involvement in education has a long history in the United States; the forerunner of today's Parent Teacher Association (PTA) was founded over 100 years ago (see http://www.pta.org). In recent years, family participation in schools has evolved beyond baking cookies for parties, volunteering in classrooms, conducting fundraising events, and serving on advisory boards. Today's schools realize that some families, such as those whose children are in high-need schools or have disabilities, may need to be more extensively involved in many aspects of their children's program to achieve desired educational outcomes.

The federal government has recognized the importance of families and schools working together by mandating family involvement in educational programs in both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA; now commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind) and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). For general education in Title I schools, ESEA requires a written parent involvement policy developed in collaboration with families to support school improvement efforts. ESEA funding supports Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs) to provide information, training, and supports to families and educators. For special education, IDEA spells out a series of rights, responsibilities, processes, and deadlines that schools must address to ensure family participation in educational planning and programming for students with disabilities. IDEA funding also supports Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) to provide information, training, and advocacy to families and special education and related services professionals. The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (see http://www.ncpie.org) is an advocacy organization that represents the interests of these centers as well as other family advocacy groups.

Educators sometimes feel that such programs create additional work for schools but have little or no impact on educational outcomes for students, yet research suggests that meaningful family involvement does make a difference. The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (Henderson & Mapp, 2002) released a literature review documenting that students with involved families are more likely to attend regularly, earn high grades, exhibit appropriate behavior, stay in school, and graduate to enter higher education. The Harvard Family Research Project's meta-analysis of research (Jeynes, 2005) showed that family involvement is associated with better academic achievement, including higher standardized test scores, grades, and teacher ratings across all multiple grade levels. Just this year, several family advocacy groups joined together to implement the IDEA National Survey Project (see http: //www. …