Guidelines for Successful Parent Involvement

By Staples, Kelli E.; Diliberto, Jennifer A. | Teaching Exceptional Children, July/August 2010 | Go to article overview

Guidelines for Successful Parent Involvement


Staples, Kelli E., Diliberto, Jennifer A., Teaching Exceptional Children


According to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004; P.L. No. 108-446), school systems must ensure that the individualized education program (IEP) team includes the parent of the child with a disability. In fact, shared decision making and parent membership on the IEP team are two of the original guiding principles of IDEA, enacted in 1975 and referred to as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. No. 94-142). Teachers often report the challenges of getting parents to attend IEP meetings often assuming parents' lack of interest with involvement in their child's education and school activities. However, in looking at the structure of an IEP meeting, many parents might feel uneasy, intimidated, and frustrated with multiple school personnel sharing more needs than strengths about their child during the meeting. Therefore, parents need to be involved more frequently and included within school activities. Involving parents in a variety of activities throughout the school year will send the message that school personnel and the parents are members of a real team working together to create a nurturing learning environment. As a result, parents might feel more able to participate equally during IEP meetings and provide school personnel with insight on the child and family culture not observed at school. This article discusses research in the area of parent involvement and provides recommendations for involving parents of children with disabilities in classroom activities.

Wong (2008) defines parent involvement as "the extent to which parents are interested in, knowledgeable about, and willing to take an active role in the day-to-day activities of the children" (p. 497). Parent involvement consists of two subtypes: home based and school based (Green, Walker, Hoover-Dempsey, & Sandler. 2007). Home-based parent involvement includes helping with homework, reading with children, signing agendas, and other educational enriching activities. On the other hand, school-based parent involvement refers to parent activities at the school (e.g., conferences, classroom helper, parent-teacher association events, etc.) or through school-related events (e.g., field trips, community functions, etc.). Epstein (2001) discusses the six frameworks of parent involvement. They provide an important link to the school for developing a foundation surrounding positive outcomes. The six frameworks of parent involvement include (a) parenting, (b) communicating, (c) volunteering, (d) learning at home, (e) decision making, and (f) collaborating with the community.

Parent involvement, including parent-teacher communication, participation in school events and activities, parental assistance at home, and participation in learning activities and school-level governing correlate with positive student outcomes (Desimone, 1999). Sheldon (2003) found family and community involvement increased students' achievement on test performance, yielding at or above satisfactory scores. In addition, parent involvement is a better predictor of higher grades than is state testing performance (Desimone, 1999). The U.S. Department of Education (1994) states that family involvement is more important to student success than parent education and income. Spann, Kohler, and Soenksen (2003) note that parent involvement leads to greater generalization and maintenance of skill gains in children with disabilities.

Research shows that school, teacher, and student initiation creates more parent involvement (e.g., Ferrara & Ferrara. 2005; Gonzalez-DeHass & Willems, 2003; Green et al., 2007; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997). School Initiation of parent involvement is more important than family characteristics such as parental education, family size, marital status, socioeconomic level, or student grade level in determining parent participation (U.S. Department of Education, 1994).

Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1997) describe the Models of the Parental Involvement Process. …

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