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In the Classroom

Break Barriers.

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What are the benefits and barriers to family engagement?

Literature Review

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).

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).


Brief Quiz

Business Graphs

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).


(Pictured) Dr. Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education

National Parental Involvement Day 2019

  • 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).

  • 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.