By Mark Henshaw

Getting up every day to raise two elementary-aged daughters is not easy. Before Jacquie’s children leave for school, the following questions run through her mind: “Are their lunches packed? Is their clothing weather appropriate? Did I sign that agenda?”

Jacquie is a single mother from London, Ontario who works full-time to support her two young daughters. In spite of her busy schedule, Jacquie took time with KNAER-RECRAE to discuss her experiences with parent-school communication.

“Receiving regular emails from my children’s teachers makes a difference”. In a world where the word “busy” has almost become a staple in every family’s lifestyle, technology has helped to bridge the gap between Jacquie and her children’s teachers. “Face to face communication is sometimes a luxury, so picking up my girls every day after school is the only chance that I get to talk with their teachers. Otherwise, we mostly stick to email.”


Although Jacquie wishes she can do more to engage with her girls’ teachers, an exchange of notes from both Jacquie and the teachers may not be a reflection of parent-school engagement in general. For instance, Parent Involvement Committees around Ontario continually struggle with recruitment and retention of parent representatives.

People for Education (P4E) recently published a study on Parent Involvement Committees. The study found that one of the biggest challenges with parental engagement was recruiting and keeping members. In response, one of the more successful attempts at retaining PIC members was by hosting video conference calls during meetings to cut down on commute costs and to increase membership flexibility. Like Jacquie’s story, the use of communication technology can indeed support increased parent-school engagement.

But when parents are present, the results are encouraging. The P4E study also found that about 50% of the respective PICs members were parents. Among the many benefits of parental membership, a key benefit was the parent engagement in school boards meetings. For instance, when parents engaged at board meetings, the opportunities for impact are board wide. From the school board’s view point, having parents on the PICs gives them community based perspectives on local issues. Besides, what is a Parent Involvement Committee without parents involved?

A longitudinal study conducted by Dr. Barnard gathered feedback from 1165 parents and teachers from Chicago on parent involvement in elementary schools and educational attainment. The study outcomes revealed that there was a significant association “between parent involvement in elementary school and indicators of school success at age 14 and age 20” (Bernard, 2004). Additionally, the study found a significant association between parent involvement in early school and long-term school success.

A Harvard Family Research Project brief also outlines similar support for parental engagement with elementary aged children’s education. One finding suggests that children whose parents read with them at home can recognize letters of the alphabet and write their names quicker than children whose parents do not. Other findings suggest that children in grades K-3 whose parents engage in school activities have high quality work habits and task orientation.

Although both schools and parents will always face different challenges in connecting with each other, the benefits of these interactions are essential to developing our children’s long-term educational success. We have over 50 resources related to parent-school communication on our website.

Thanks to People for Education for the following parent resources:

References:

Barnard, W. M. (2004). Parent involvement in elementary school and educational attainment.Children and youth services review,26(1), 39-62.