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     September 2006

Education Up Close

Creating Effective Teacher-Parent Collaborations

By forming effective partnerships with parents, teachers can get a boost in helping their students to succeed. This article provides three essential strategies for making these collaborations work.

Parents Want Your Help
Parents want their children to succeed in school. They want them to behave in class, to do their homework, and to benefit from the knowledge that a good education gives them.

And for the most part, they trust that teachers can help them achieve this. In a study of over 1200 parents of K-12 students conducted by Public Agenda, 90% believed that teachers knew how to motivate kids and help them to do their best(1).

For today's parents, however, their own role in their child's success is far from clear.

Changing Roles
Parental involvement in education used to mean organizing bake sales and attending PTA meetings. Teacher-parent communications were usually limited to report cards and two conferences a year. Today, both parents and teachers have come to expect more from their interactions with each other.

Today, involved parents want more say in what happens in the classroom. They desire more information about their children's curriculum and occasionally real decision-making power.

Teachers usually welcome parents who take an interest in their child's education. They know the difference a caring and attentive parent can make in a child's life and academic career.

While the form and scope of parental involvement in schools can involve sophisticated arrangements involving administrators and public forums, the good, old-fashioned one-to-one communication that occurs between teachers and parents is still the key to improving student performance.

Improved channels of communication foster understanding, caring and collaboration between the classroom and home. It also is our best hope for increasing support for our educational institutions.

Making Interaction Count-
It's Quality, Not Quantity, That Makes the Difference

Recent research from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Laboratory for Student Success at Temple University has shown that it is the quality of teacher-parent interaction that contributes most to student achievement. The researchers recommend using the following strategies to improve interactions with parents:
  1. Make It Positive
    Research has shown that teachers communicate with parents most often when the child misbehaves. It is important to also let parents know what their child is doing well. This actually helps parents be more responsive to those areas where their child needs work.

  2. Make It Practical
    Give parents resources to understand the curriculum. Then be specific about where students are having trouble. Make specific suggestions about what parents can do to help their child overcome the difficulties they are having with schoolwork.

  3. Make It Personal
    Although there is not a lot of time to write personal messages for every student in your class, collaboration between parents and teachers is raised when parents read something personal about their own child. Try to include personalized messages to parents whenever possible.
It is clear that parents and teachers have the same end goal in mind when it comes to their students. Armed with a few strategies and an understanding of what parents need, teachers can help parents become better partners in their children's education.

Read More About Parental Involvement

"Parental Involvement,"
Education Week, August 16,1999.
This article provides an overview of the changing state of parental involvement in the schools. It is accompanied by a list of relevant links within the Public Agenda Online This Web site presents detailed research conducted by Public Agenda about parental involvement in schools. The research reveals interesting differences that exist between what parents and teachers believe about parental involvement.

"The Seven P's of School-Family Partnerships,"
Education Week, February 3,1999
This thorough article provides detailed strategies for improving the parent teacher relationship. Authors Evanthia N. Patrikakou and Roger P. Weissberg, both psychologists from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Laboratory for Student Success at Temple University in Philadelphia, base the suggestions on the extensive research they've conducted on this issue.

Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science (ENC)
This section of ENC's comprehensive site offers several articles and interviews with teachers and parents about getting families involved in their children's education.

Trends and Issues: Relationships with the Community
This set of articles from the ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management offers insight into improving relationships with parents and guardians of students.

(1) Farkas, Steve and Jean Johnson."Playing Their Parts:
     What Parents and Teachers Really Mean by Parental Involvement"
     Playing Their Parts. March 1999. Public Agenda Online. Public Agenda.

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