As I have mentioned in previous posts, research and articles about parent engagement are plentiful and shared frequently on social media and blogs.  Larry Ferlazzo recently brought attention to a new report on parent engagement (EdSource Inc., Feb. 2014) which he posted to his blog.  He mentioned that it was a good summary even though it sourced a lot of research that was from around 10 years ago.  I look forward to Larry’s review of some more recent research, as he mentioned in his post.

Given that Larry believed that this particular report, “The Power of Parents”, could have been THE best overview of research, I saved it for a thorough reading.  As I worked through it, I came across some great points and statements pulled together.  The title itself may deter some readers, but it really wasn’t about parents having power in terms of school improvement or school closures.  Its subtitle is: “Research underscores the impact of parent involvement in schools.”  Although the report reviews research and how it relates to some new mandates in California, there were a number statements and considerations from the report that I think will remain important to parent engagement planning in education.  To list a few:

“Much of the research on parent involvement is written for an academic or policy audience. often in a very abstract terms.” (p. 1)

“The emphasis — and desire — for parent involvement has spawned decades of research that point to a powerful connection between parents’ involvement in their child’s education and a range of other outcomes.  However, although a large number of studies show a positive relationship between student academic outcomes and parent involvement, the relationship is a complex one“. (my bold) (p. 2)

“Outcomes will depend on many factors including the particular way parents are involved, the achievement measures used to measure academic outcomes (e.g., grades or test scores), the academic subjects that are bring measured (e.g., math or reading), and the socioeconomic background of students.” (p. 6)

“Most teachers and administrators would like to involve families, but many do not know how to go about building positive and productive programs and are consequently fearful about trying.” (p. 9)

The report goes into detail about a range of barriers to parent involvement but states that, in light of the barriers, “Principals are key to providing leadership in their schools — including sending the clear message that parents are welcome.” (p. 9).

The report also discusses the multiple ways that the extent and impact of parent engagement could be measured but makes this point, “The challenge for schools is to not get too bogged down in a bureaucratic exercise of tracking and assessing parent involvement at the expense of placing their energies into making it happen in the first place.” (p. 11)

I particularly liked the report’s point about the complexity of parent engagement precluding the drawing of strict cause-effect conclusions.  It goes on to suggest that it makes more sense to discuss outcomes as associated with parent engagement, rather than as causations. (p. 6)  The report provides a good summary of associated outcomes.

The report also lists main conclusions that can be drawn from the examination of the research.  These include the positive impact of parent involvement at home and communication between home and school.  The report also pointed to the case that there is little controlled research existing about the impact of parent involvement in trying to implement or change policies at their school or district through “school site councils, PTAs, or school boards”.  It does not, however, dismiss this kind of involvement and mentions research literature that described and identified impacts and gains of community organizing initiatives in implementing programs and polices at these levels.

In terms of the new laws for reform in California, schools must now get input from parents as to how additional state funds intended for low-income students, English learners and foster children are spent.  Supporters of the new law still cautioned that given the absence of guidance from the state on how to best involve parents and the slow pace of outreach in many areas, districts may not change much in terms of broadening who they engage.  This may be interesting to monitor and assess ahead.  In Ontario, parents do not have a formal or expected role in advising how funding should be spent at school or board level.  They could choose to input in budget areas, but it is not mandated.  The reports ends with a comment on this new law, “Schools could view this requirement as another onerous state mandate — or, as this report indicates, as one that has the potential to yield considerable payoffs to individual students and the entire school community in the short and long term.” (p. 11)

Thank you for reading my reflection on points in the report.

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