I have been involved in some discussions lately regarding the aspect of parent/family engagement initiatives that involve a focus on parenting skills and resources.  Such initiatives and events are often hosted at the school level, as well as at district-wide levels and may include speakers, workshops, and/or presentations.

Many are familiar with Dr. Joyce Epstein’s “Framework of Six Types of Family Involvement”.  Joe Mazza (@Joe_Mazza) has summarized the framework well and provided information here.  In this framework, Type 1 is listed as “Parenting” with the following suggestions:

Assist families with parenting and child-rearing skills, understanding child and adolescent development, and setting home conditions that support children as students at each age and grade level. Assist schools in understanding families.

With the on-going discussions about the difference between parent involvement and engagement in education, I have been wondering about the extent to which schools and boards are interested in supporting this aspect of outreach to parents.

Are there appropriate ways to support this?  Are there aspects of Dr. Epstein’s “Type 1” that should have more priority?

Ontario’s mandated Parent Involvement Committees (PIC) have their purpose outlined in the Education Act.  Here is the stated purpose of these committees:

“The purpose of a parent involvement committee is to support, encourage and enhance parent engagement at the board level in order to improve student achievement and well-being.” (O. Reg. 330/10, s. 6)

A parent involvement committee of a board shall achieve its purpose by,

(a) providing information and advice on parent engagement to the board;

(b) communicating with and supporting school councils of schools of the board; and

(c) undertaking activities to help parents of pupils of the board support their children’s learning at home and at school. (O. Reg. 330/10, s. 6.)”

Keeping in mind that these board-level committees are made up of parents, educators, community members and trustees, the legislation also provides some of the “how”:

“A parent involvement committee of a board shall,

(a) develop strategies and initiatives that the board and the board’s director of education could use to effectively communicate with parents and to effectively engage parents in improving student achievement and well-being;

(b) advise the board and the board’s director of education on ways to use the strategies and initiatives referred to in clause (a);

(c) communicate information from the Ministry to school councils of schools of the board and to parents of pupils of the board;

(d) work with school councils of schools of the board and, through the board’s director of education, with employees of the board to,

(i) share effective practices to help engage parents, especially parents who may find engagement challenging, in their children’s learning,

(ii) identify and reduce barriers to parent engagement,

(iii) help ensure that schools of the board create a welcoming environment for parents of its pupils, and

(iv) develop skills and acquire knowledge that will assist the parent involvement committee and school councils of the board with their work; and

(e) determine, in consultation with the board’s director of education and in keeping with the board’s policies, how funding, if any, provided under the Education Act for parent involvement as described in section 27 and clauses (a) to (d), is to be used. (O. Reg. 330/10, s. 6.)”

The focus to me does seem to be on parent engagement in student learning, as opposed to general parenting.  Or is this one in the same in some ways? As a member on a PIC, I am very hesitant to tell another parent how to parent.  But if a parent asks for a resource, I will do all that I can do to help them find it.  If the focus is about supporting student learning, what should that look like?  Is it about providing “Literacy Nights” or “Math Nights?  In what ways are parents included and interested in conversations and information about how kids learn or about the “big picture” questions in education?

Also, to what extent should parent engagement efforts be focused on Dr. Epstein’s other 5 types of family involvement–Communicating; Volunteering; Learning at Home; Decision-Making; and Collaborating with the community?

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