Parental involvement is a combination of commitment and active participation on the part of the parent to the school and to the student. There are many problems concerned with involvement. Many secondary schools simply do not know how to deal with the nontraditional family and the areas of concern that it represents. Parents feel unwelcomed at school, lack knowledge and education, and may not feel that education is important. The number of solutions that can be used to improve parental involvement are substantial. The most important of these, however, is for the principal of the school to be totally committed. When these solutions are implemented the effects are great, especially for the student. Improved student achievement is the key objective. "Parental involvement, in almost any form, produces measurable gains in student achievement" (Dixon, 1992, p. 16). The concept of parental involvement with the student and the school is a vital one and can produce great rewards for all concerned. However, it has been found that schools do not always know what the term parental involvement really means (Vandergrift & Greene, 1992). According to Vandergrift and Greene, there are two key elements that work together to make up the concept of parental involvement. One of these is a level of commitment to parental support. This includes such things as encouraging the student, being sympathetic, reassuring, and understanding. The other element needed is a level of parental activity and participation, such as doing something that is observable. "This combination of level of commitment and active participation is what makes an involved parent" (Vandergrift & Greene, p. 57). The effect of parental involvement (in terms of providing a home learning environment) on achievement and cognitive development has been explored in recent studies of English pre schoolers (Sylva, et al, 1999; Melhuish et al, 2001). Sylva et al (1999) ran a longitudinal study (The Effective Provision of Pre School Education Project, EPPE) to assess the attainment and development of children between the ages 3 to 7 years. More than three thousand children were recruited to the sample which investigated provision in more than 100 centres. A wide range of methods were used to explore the effects of provision on children’s attainment and adjustment. Of particular interest here is the impact of parental involvement in interaction with professional provision. The idea of a ‘home learning environment’ (HLE) was devised to describe a range of learning related provision in the home as reported by parents. HLE included reading, library visits, playing with letters and numbers, painting and drawing, teaching (through play) the letters of the alphabet, playing with numbers and shapes, teaching nursery rhymes and singing. Melhuish et al (2001) concluded that, ‘higher home learning environment was associated with increased levels of cooperation and conformity, peer sociability and confidence, … lower anti-social and worried or upset behaviour and higher cognitive development scores … after age it was the variable with the strongest effect on cognitive development’ (p.ii) And, ‘Its (HLE) effect is stronger than that of either socio-economic status or mothers’ qualifications’ (p26). Whilst HLE scores were generally higher in homes in the upper social classes, ‘ … there are parents high on SES and qualifications who provide a home environment low on the HLE index … there are parents low on SES and qualifications who provide a home environment high on the HLE index’. (p.9). 24
3.4 In a study which flowed from the ongoing EPPE project, Siraj-Blatchford et al (2002) set out to identify the most effective teaching strategies in the Foundation Stage. Intensive case studies were made of 14 sites rated in the EPPE project as offering ‘good practice’. In essence, the aim of the case studies was to explain the statistical relationships...
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