Benefits & Barriers to Family Involvement in Education

Benefits of Family Involvement

Meaningful family involvement is a powerful predictor of high student achievement. Students attain more educational success when schools and families work together to motivate, socialize, and educate students (Caplan, 2000). Students whose families are involved in their education typically receive higher grades and test scores, complete more homework, have better attendance, and exhibit more positive attitudes and behaviors

 

Children of involved families also graduate at higher rates and are more likely to enroll in postsecondary education programs (Riggins-Newby, 2004; Norton, 2003; Caplan, 2000; Binkley et al., 1998; Funkhouse and Gonzalez, 1997). Henderson (1987) found that the academic benefits gained from family involvement with elementary school students continued through the middle and senior high school levels. Furthermore, studies have observed these positive outcomes regardless of students’ ethnic or racial background or socioeconomic status, noting that students at risk of failure have the most to gain when schools involve families (Caplan, 2000; Funkhouse and Gonzalez, 1997; Henderson, 1987).

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When families become involved in their children’s education, they have a better understanding of what is being taught in school and of teaching and learning in general. They gain more information about children’s knowledge and abilities, as well as the programs and services offered by the school (Moorman, 2002; Caplan, 2000; Drake, 2000). Research has found that when parents are involved, their confidence in their ability to help their children with classroom assignments increases (Nistler and Maiers, 2000) and they rate teachers higher in overall teaching ability (Caplan, 2000).

 

Educators benefit when family involvement is strong, as school staff gain an awareness of the ways they can build on family strengths to support students’ success (Caplan, 2000). As teachers understand more about students’ lives, they are able to connect learning outside of the school to classroom learning in real and meaningful ways (Ferguson, 2004).

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The most common barriers to family involvement include:

  • Lack of teacher time. Teachers often see working on family involvement as a task added to an already long list of responsibilities (Caplan, 2000).

 

  • Lack of understanding of parents’ communication styles. Some efforts at increasing involvement fail because there is a mismatch in the communication styles of families and teachers, often due to cultural and language differences (Caplan, 2000; Liontos, 1992).

Barriers to involvement exist for both schools and families. Some barriers are created by limited resources, while others originate from the beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes of families and school staff. (Liontos, 1992)

  • Teachers’ misperceptions of parents’ abilities. Some teachers believe parents can’t help their children because they have limited educational backgrounds themselves; however, many poorly educated families support learning by talking with their children about school, monitoring homework, and making it clear that education is important and that they expect their children to do well in school (Caplan, 2000)

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  • Limited family resources. Lack of time is the major reason given by family members for why they don’t get more involved. Lack of transportation and child care also keep families from participating (Caplan, 2000).

 

  • Parents’ lack of comfort. Some parents feel intimidated and unwelcome at school. Many parents had negative school experiences themselves or are so unfamiliar with the American culture that they do not want to get involved or feel unsure about the value of their contributions. Barriers are also created by parents who have feelings of inadequacy or are suspicious of or angry at the school (Jones, 2001; Caplan, 2000; Liontos, 1992).

 

  • Tension in relationships between parents and teachers. Parent and teacher focus groups, conducted around the country as part of the Parents As School Partners research project, identified common areas of conflict between parents and teachers (Baker, 2000).

 

  • Parents felt that teachers waited too long before telling them about a problem and that they only heard from teachers when there was bad news. Most parents felt they didn’t have easy or ongoing access to their children’s teachers and that teachers blamed parents when children had problems in school. Some parents felt unwelcome at the school, believed schools didn’t really want their input, and thought communication was a one-way system, with schools sending out information and parents having few, if any, opportunities to share ideas with the school.

  • Teachers believed parents didn’t respect them, challenged their authority, and questioned their decisions. They believed parents encouraged students to disrespect them. Teachers resented that not all parents sent their children to school ready to learn and wanted parents to follow through more with the academic and disciplinary suggestions they made.

 

  • Mobility. Some urban areas have low rates of home ownership. Families that rent tend to move around a lot more, which makes it harder to build relationships between families and school staff (Metropolitan St. Louis, 2004).

  • Lack of vested interest. Many families don’t see the value in participating and don’t believe their involvement will result in any meaningful change (American Association of School Administrators, 1998).

 

  • Difficulties of involvement in the upper grades. There is typically less parent involvement at the middle and senior high school levels, as adolescents strive for greater autonomy and separation from their parents. Families often live further from the school their child attends and are less able to spend time there (Caplan, 2000).

 

Although the benefits of family involvement are numerous and have been well documented, a review of the literature found that family involvement programs were often not fully implemented for the following reasons (Drake, 2000):

 

 

 

  • Educators were concerned that closer relationships with families would mean giving up power and decision-making.

 

  • Families were not sure how far they could go making suggestions or asking questions; they worried that children would be punished for their parents’ actions by a teacher or principal who was annoyed or threatened by the parent.  

 

 

Literature Review on Family Involvement: The Home-School Partnership. Christie Blazer, Senior Research Analyst Research Services Office of Accountability and Systemwide Performance Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Project Appleseed, family engagement, parental involvement public schools

"A 10% increase in parental participation (a form of social capital) would increase academic achievement far more than a 10% increase in school spending."

Project Appleseed, family engagement, parental involvement public schools

This is not an argument against school budget increases, but an argument for paying attention to social capital (Putnam, Sanders 2001). Research repeatedly correlates family engagement with student achievement, yet this strategy is rarely activated as an integral part of school reform efforts (Weiss et al, 2010).  Our program can increase family engagement in your school community!

Project Appleseed's Parental Involvement Toolbox is ourl program designed for educators and parent leaders to supersize and mobilize family engagement.

You get unlimited membershio reproduction rights to our web site content for distribution in newsletters, memos, booklets, pamphlets and more for one year!*

Learn family engagement with our In-person or Online training!. Utilize one of America's most accessible parent and family engagement leaders in your schools!

Download our slideshow: Strong Families, Strong Schools! Family engagement should be an essential strategy in building partnership with parents.

Pledge

AS A PARENT, GRANDPARENT, OR CARING ADULT, I hereby give my pledge of commitment to help our community’s children ....

Toolbox

Project Appleseed's Parental Involvement Toolbox is ourl program designed for educators and parent leaders to supersize and mobilize family engagement.

Report Card

Project Appleseed provides this self-diagnostic tool which is intended to help parents rate their contributions to their child's success at school.

Membership

You get unlimited membership reproduction rights to our web site content for distribution in newsletters, memos, booklets, pamphlets and more for one year!*

Checklist

How well does your school reach out to parents. The following questions can help you evaluate how well your school is reaching out to parents.

Training

Learn family engagement with our In-person or Online training!. Utilize one of America's most accessible parent and family engagement leaders in your schools!

Events

For 25 years we have lead American education with two celebrated events – National Parental Involvement Day and Public School Volunteer Week

Slideshow

Download our slideshow: Strong Families, Strong Schools! Family engagement should be an essential strategy in building partnership with parents.