Why Family Involvement is Vital to Successful Educational Reform

Family involvement is tied not only to student success, but also to the success of schools as a whole. Greater appreciation for the importance of the role of family in teaching a community’s youth is an absolute must for any modern educational reform.

Understanding the deep-rooted importance of family and parental involvement in education and its effect on the performance of a child requires recognizing the fact that parents are children’s first teachers. Studies have revealed that students with involved parents tend to miss fewer days of school and tend to be more conscientious about completing homework and other school-related work assigned to be completed outside of school. On the other hand, children whose families are not as attentive to their school experiences are often unable to compete academically with their peers. Their attendance is less regular, and often they are less likely to graduate from high school.

Because of the positive impact 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. Many researchers, education reformers, and politicians have tried to increase parental and family involvement in the education system. However there are a number of obstacles that interfere with parents taking on a pivotal role in school-related issues and activities.

In order to increase partnership of parents with schools, schools must create an environment that offers enough incentives and support for parents to take an active part in the education process. Schools cannot expect that all parents and family members will increase their involvement with the education system on their own. The total school staff, to include 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 as well places where their input and thoughts are welcomed.

Some parents may be dissuaded to get involved with what they perceive as a group of close-knit education professionals who engage in language and practices meant to exclude parents from the work of education systems. Schools often create an environment where it becomes difficult for teachers and parents to stand together for children, with both helping children and youth carve out a better future. However, various governmental policies try to reduce the gap between teachers and parents so that they may come together to help students. The No Child Left Behind Act, for example, requires districts and schools to operate in a transparent manner, communicate with parents and other outside stakeholders, and share information and ideas that will lead to increased involvement of parents in the learning process.

NCLB explicitly requires that state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) receiving federal funds have written parental involvement policies. These policies describe how parents can be involved in the planning and review of education programs. To fulfill local needs, the act suggests integrating parental involvement plans with schools on local levels. Another important principle is to empower parents by providing them with training in valuable practices that may help their children achieve better academic results. States and local school districts must also ensure that parents understand state standards and assessments, so that parents can be more involved in monitoring the progress of their children. In this way, schools are required to ensure that communications with parents proceed in language and formats that parents understand. NCLB also expands parental rights by allowing for more parental choice in the education of their children by increasing their public school options and by allowing for additional educational opportunities for eligible children who are forced to remain in low-performing schools.

While it may be up to the state and federal governments to increase family involvement on a national scale, you as a teacher can still effect change at the level of your own classroom. Think about how you might better incorporate family involvement and the challenges doing so will incur when planning your curriculum. Educational reform may be slow in the making, but you, at least, have the power to affect your own pupils here and now.

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