Although they have differences, they also share valuable similarities where each overlap, i.e., goals, responsibilities, and influences that impact the child's learning and development. The maximum overlap of schools and families happens when they operate as true partners with intentionality and frequent and clear communication between parents and teachers.
While the relationships children form with peers are essential, the most significant relationship, in terms of a child's school success and development, is the one that parents and schools create. When parents and schools work together effectively, they develop stronger relationships with one another that positively impact children's behaviors and learning. Building partnerships between families and schools is an effective strategy to address academic gaps that have historically existed, especially in underserved communities. Family and school partnerships are even more critical following the COVID-19 pandemic.
What can parents do at home or outside of school to partner in closing the achievement gap?
One of the ways that parents can partner in closing achievement gaps is by ensuring their children attend school daily and on time. They can cultivate a love for reading by offering a range of books and encouraging daily reading, providing reading materials and opportunities to learn outside of school, and limiting excessive television and electronic device screen time.
Parents should also establish frequent communication with teachers and stay informed about their child's progress and any areas of improvement.
Providing a structured and supportive learning environment at home is also essential. A supportive learning environment should include a designated homework space and eliminate distractions. Parents should also help with assignments, review completed work, and provide assistance if needed. Attending parent educational workshops offered by the school or in the community is also helpful as they provide valuable insights to help parents understand educational strategies to support their child at home.
Tips for parents to build strong relationships with their child's school:
Building parent-school relationships is essential for effective collaboration and support. It is an ongoing effort and takes active participation. Parents should begin by inquiring with the child's teacher and schedule a time to:
- Volunteer in the classroom to connect with teachers and school staff.
- Help in the main office.
- Inquire if help is needed to shelve books in the library.
- Laminate class materials or help with bulletin boards.
- Help organize school Book Fairs or special initiatives.
- Offer to help in the school lunchroom or during recess.
- Provide one-on-one reading support to students.
- Participate on parent boards such as the PTA, Advisory Boards, or Booster Clubs.
- Chaperon Field Trips
Below are additional ways for parents to engage. Not all parents can be as involved in their child's school as much as they would like to, but there are still ways to get involved, such as:
- Start the school year by opening the lines of communication by sending a note, email, or phone call. Initial communication can include what the child does well, what makes them uncomfortable, or the best ways and times for contact.
- Attend events such as Open House and Parent Teacher Conferences. These events are a great way to connect with teachers and gain insightful information.
- Attend virtual parent groups, meetings, or workshops hosted as a way to gain knowledge and contribute thoughts and ideas.
- Advocate by staying current with school policies and procedures and communicating needs and concerns with teachers or administrators.
- Participate in parent surveys and focus groups.
- Engage in conversation with your child. Ask them about assignments, school experiences, challenges, or concerns.
- For additional support, connect with community resources such as local community centers, libraries, and nonprofits.
Too often, parents and educators do not define parent engagement activities in the same ways. Parents might see their engagement as behaviors such as providing assistance with homework, reading to their child, or instilling values of character or expectations of a good education. Teachers could define parent engagement as volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning field trips, and participating in parent committees or advisory boards. Failure to truly define involvement can lead to missed opportunities and assumptions that can be harmful. Parent engagement is not one size fits all. Ultimately, it is engaging in the child's school in meaningful ways that impact their academic and social-emotional well-being. Advocating, maintaining communication, and expressing interest is parent involvement.