The Barriers and Benefits to Family Engagement
Barriers In Educator Preparation
Below the National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement outlines some of the biggest barriers and their root causes to effectively prepare educators for family and community engagement.
A Crowded Curriculum in Which Family Engagement Is Viewed as an “Add-on”. Educator preparation programs face multiple requirements and mandates set forth by states and accreditation family engagement. Too often these requirements take precedence over standards with limited credit hours to address them.
Partner Schools Limit Opportunities for Candidates to Engage Families. Education candidates are required to fulfill clinical hours as part of their licensure. Frequently, however, these clinical engagements offer limited opportunities for candidates to engage with families. These limitations are sometimes a reflection of privacy concerns or schools themselves having narrow partnerships with families. In addition, mentor teachers themselves often struggle to engage families and need their own support and guidance to do this work well.
Minimal Focus on Family Engagement in State Licensure Requirements and Lack of Enforcement of These Requirements. Landscape analyses of state licensure requirements for family engagement show that family engagement is not valued; and even in cases when it is, the requirements are not enforced.
Lack of Resources to Support and Recognize Faculty in Designing Courses Integrating a Family-Focus and Lack of Family Engagement Familiarity among Faculty. Faculty receive little support in either designing stand-alone family engagement courses or embedding family and community topics into existing courses such as classroom management or multiculturalism. Educators need to enhance their knowledge and skills on family engagement. They need professional opportunities on how to build these topics into coursework in meaningful ways through appropriate methods. Institutions often do not value or recognize the time and effort that supporting hands-on learning in family engagement might take through the tenure process or as a valuable field of scholarship.
Weak or Nonexistent Statewide Frameworks Limit Family Engagement. Faculty and state leaders also view weak statewide frameworks for family and community engagement as limiting how family engagement is positioned in EPPs. In context, many state education agencies do not have statewide frameworks or lack a clear definition of family and community engagement. This is problematic because although there are a number of national frameworks for family and community engagement, the work at the state level, rather than federal, guides the accreditation and licensure process. Without clear definitions of the purpose, importance, and implementation of family engagement within a state, it is too easily ignored in EPPs.
Little Focus on Family Engagement in the Accreditation Process and a Lack of Family Engagement Professional Standards. There are a number of standards and accreditation systems that stress the importance of educator preparation and continuous learning in family engagement for particular fields or discrete points in children’s development. No one set of competencies exists for family-facing professionals to practice family engagement in education across the developmental spectrum, particularly one that is grounded in an understanding of equity and social justice. Without a robust and clear set of practice standards, it is difficult to obtain a scope and sequence of study for pre- paring educators for family engagement. As a response to this need, the Family Engagement Core Competencies: A Body of Knowledge, Skills, and Dispositions for Family- Facing Professionals was developed. (Educator Preparation Framework for Family and Community Partnerships, NAFSCE, 2022)
Barriers At Home & School
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).
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).
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).
What are three essential aspects of parent engagement?
Connect, engage and sustain.
Another barrier is the increasing concern among parents about the involvement of politicians in curriculum decisions. This worry ranked slightly higher than concerns about children's happiness and well-being, and could potentially create tension or mistrust between parents and schools.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to changes in family engagement, with some families becoming more involved while others have become further disengaged. It is important for schools to sustain and build upon relationships with all families, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, and to provide support for families in navigating virtual learning and technology (Learn more: Strategies to Virtually Engage and Support Families 2021).
To address these and other barriers to family engagement, schools and districts can take a number of steps, such as:
High-impact family engagement in education can bring many benefits for both students and schools. According to a recent survey, both parents and educators are eager to be more involved in children's education, with shared priorities and goals (Learn more: Literature Review on Family Involvement: The Home-School Partnership 2005).
When families are actively engaged in their children's education, students are more likely to have:
Stronger sense of belonging at school
Schools also benefit from increased parent involvement, as it can lead to higher levels of:
Improved communication and collaboration
Stronger sense of community
However, there are also some barriers to effective family engagement that can make it difficult for schools and families to work together effectively. One such barrier is the perception gap between parents and teachers regarding students' academic achievement. While most parents believe their children are at or above grade level, only 44% of teachers believe that most of their students are ready for grade-level work. This discrepancy can make it difficult for parents and teachers to have productive and constructive conversations about students' progress and needs (Learn more: Learning Heroes. Parents 2021 | Going Beyond the Headlines 2021).