The Crucial Role of Parental Involvement

By Matthew Lynch

It is beyond any doubt that low-performing schools would benefit from developing strong parent-school partnerships. However, it is not always easy to promote such a culture of shared responsibility. Schools may face difficulty in attaining an efficient collaborative framework among stakeholders, which include teachers, parents, students, the community, and the administration.

Generally, education and school leaders try to generate a social framework that will help teachers, administrators, and parents resolve differences in a peaceful and supportive manner. Overall improvement of student performance can be the outcome of improved relationships between teachers and parents.

Education leaders can encourage parental involvement by improving the structural environment of schools that directly affects teachers, administrators, students, and parents. Historically, American culture has tried to promote a locally inspired, community-based school structure; however, most of the calls for decentralization of schools and school district systems have failed to remove the bureaucratic nature of schools. This includes a structural division of responsibilities, a strict set of laws and regulations, and hierarchical control over the functionality and operation of schools.

Bureaucratic systems often create barriers that prevent teachers from developing effective student-teacher relationships and discourage parents from taking part in helping students develop their learning skills. Centralized schooling systems under the burden of stern bureaucracies can also cause alienation of teachers and obstruct student development. On the other hand, bureaucratic systems help teachers control and use their expertise to guide students effectively. A reduction in bureaucracy would increase administrative tasks among teachers, which would then have a negative impact on their performance.

The bureaucratic system should be based on flexible formulae that will guide the teachers, administrators, and parents in promoting the learning skills of students and help them achieve better results. The centralized or hierarchical authority of schools can be used to implement these supportive regulations and policies to enhance parental involvement. On the other hand, the wrong set of policies or the lack of flexibility may harm the process of teaching and learning.

Schools must be prepared for the fact that one outcome of effective parental involvement programs will be the desire of parents to become partners in the decision-making process existing in schools. Thus, school personnel must possess a genuine belief that shared responsibility for multiple aspects of the educational enterprise will result in improved learning environments for children and youth.

Understanding the deep-rooted importance of family and parental involvement in education and its effect on the academic performance of a child, requires recognizing the fact that parents are children’s first teachers. Home is the first school, and as such, it is the place where children learn an abundance of skills, knowledge, and attitudes, some of which supports what is taught in schools.

When parents get involved with their children’s education, they tend to succeed academically and perform better on exams. They miss fewer school days and tend to be more conscientious about completing school-related work outside of school. Conversely, children, whose families are not as involved in their school experiences, are often unable to compete academically with peers, have irregular attendances, and are less likely to graduate from high school.

Because of the positive impact that parent and family involvement in education has on the performance of children, schools often try to encourage parents and family members to increase their participation in the educational process. In order to increase partnership of parents with schools, schools must create an environment that offers enough incentives and support for parents.

Schools cannot expect that all parents and family members will increase their level of parental involvement on their own. School staff, including teachers, other school personnel, maintenance staff, and administrators, must work together to develop an environment that encourages parents to ask questions and share their feedback with school personnel. Some parents will need to be invited to schools, and learn to view schools as places where they may seek advice, receive suggestions on any number of school/student related issues, and understand it is a place where their inputs and thoughts are welcomed.

Some parents may be dissuaded from getting involved with what they perceive as a group of close-knit educational professionals who engage in language and practices meant to exclude parents from the work of educational systems. School districts must make sure parents understand state standards and assessments so that parents can be more involved in monitoring the progress of their children. Schools are required to make sure that communications with parents are in a language and format that are understandable to parents. In order for America’s children to succeed academically, the crucial role of parental involvement must be embraced wholeheartedly.

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