This paper is an attempt to provide an interdisciplinary solution to the issue of parental involvement and it's association with student achievement in elementary education. I chose to research this issue due to my concern for the children in my community that return to elementary school each year after the beginning of the school year; many times several weeks after the start of school. In fact, parents continued to register their children to return to school late into October of this year. Children that return to school eight weeks into the school year are at great risk of being successful and promoting to the next grade level. I work in the local elementary school district, which serves a portion of four neighboring communities, while not serving any one municipality exclusively. The issue that I would like to provide a solution for is that of parent involvement with their elementary school children and how that involvement can impact their children's academic success. It is my hope that by exploring and researching this topic in the disciplines of Education, Psychology, and Sociology, a viable solution will present itself.
The Education discipline has shown findings that there is a positive correlation between parent involvement and improved student achievement. However, the type of parental involvement that produces the increase in student achievement is more than that of a parent volunteering at their child's school. Elementary schools that provide an opportunity for growing parenting skills as well as encouraging at home learning activities have shown increases in student achievement (Ingram, Lieberman, and Wolfe, 2007). According to Ingram, Lieberman, and Wolfe (2007) some additional studies suggest that not all aspects of parental involvement correlate with intended outcomes. They cite Henderson and Mapp (2002) who found that some forms of parent involvement (e.g. communicating with the school, volunteering, and attending school events) have little impact on student achievement, especially in high school. Parents that support and encourage learning and education in general tend to have children that demonstrate higher scores, better school attendance and improved student attitudes. " 'Indeed, in some situations parent involvement can be negatively correlated to grades and test scores (Fan & Chen, 1999; Shumow & Miller, 2001)' ". " 'Additionally, there are significant barriers; these parents' lack of knowledge about how to help with schoolwork or support learning at home; parents' negative attitudes about school; societally pervasive barriers such as lack of time and money, poverty, single parenthood, non-English literacy, and cultural gaps between home and school (Iowa Department of Education, 1994); a lack of teacher training in parent involvement; and teachers' negative attitudes and inaccurate assumptions about parents.' "
The Ingram, Lieberman, and Wolfe (2007) study of the role of parents in high-achieving schools serving low-income, at-risk populations makes several implications and recommendations for schools, teachers and parents. "Based on prior research and the results of the present study, it is recommended that stakeholders in education focus parent involvement efforts on improving parenting practices and helping parents provide learning opportunities at home (Ingram, Lieberman, and Wolfe, 2007)." The parents in the study placed a prominence on parenting and learning at home, so therefore, should focus their efforts on providing positive conditions at home that foster learning. These efforts would include providing for a child's basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, health, and safety, as well as providing school supplies and a place for children to complete schoolwork. Parents should also get involved with home-based learning activities that foster development of a child's social skills, basic skills, advanced skills, and enrichment (Ingram, Lieberman, and Wolfe, 2007).
Ingram, Lieberman and Wolfe's (2007) study also recommended that teachers provide support and guidance for parents to supervise and assist their children at home as well as assisting parents in locating community resources that will assist them accomplish their parenting and personal goals. Recommendations were also presented for schools to offer training for both parents and teachers. Schools should offer parenting courses and other training opportunities that would maximize their impact on their children's academic success. Schools need to provide training for teachers and staff to increase their ability to work with parents, especially those parents that are not comfortable in a school setting. Schools need to offer opportunities for parents and teachers to work together, foster a better understanding of families' cultural backgrounds, and what is expected of their children. Schools need to unite community resources to help families receive the services they require as well as act as a liaison to community resources such as libraries, zoos, theaters, and museums to extend learning opportunities for their children.
Finally the authors (Ingram, Lieberman, and Wolfe, 2007) study suggests that given the limited funding available to schools, parents and the communities, that the allocation of those funds are extremely critical and should be allocated to providing parenting education programs and learning at home activities to yield the most significant results.
Likewise as evidenced by DeCastroAmbrosetti and Cho (2005) in their research study of teacher's perceptions of minority parents in their article entitled "Do Parent's Value Education?" much evidence is found that communication is the key to successful parent involvement which in turn leads to improved student achievement. Their study agreed with Ingram, Lieberman, and Wolfe's study that " 'There are many factors that constrain parental participation in schools: narrow vision of parental involvement, school personnel's negative proclivity, lack of teacher training, pressing employment issues and cultural differences (Ramirez, 1999; Yap and Enoki, 1995).'" Teachers need to understand families' cultural backgrounds, involve the families as a resource for the students' at-home learning and incorporate home and community resources which all correlate directly to the school-home relationship. Pre-service and in-service teachers were participants for this study along with the surveying of five educational courses, three of which involved family involvement strategies and included diversity components in the curricula and two courses were multicultural education. Teachers that took part in this study found that taking courses that included cultural diversity positively influenced several teachers' attitudes towards issues of diversity (DeCastro-Ambrosetti and Cho. 2005). Several participants found that "because of their limited cultural knowledge, teaching experience and exposure to issues of diversity, they felt ill equipped for teaching students." It is interesting to note that through this study many teachers continue to blame the home environment and the parents' lack of value towards education for low academic success. To improve parent involvement it is paramount for teachers to be instructed in multicultural education and diversity components and additionally, in family involvement strategies that will foster trust and good rapport between parents and teachers. We found that students (pre-service and in-service teachers), even at the onset of the credential program, in the context of there first education courses, were infusing terminology into their discourse, which pitted parents against teachers. This dialogue set up a negative dichotomy which situated parents as "other" as well as "parents against teachers."
DeCastro-Ambrosetti and Cho (2005) find it is imperative to provide courses for pre-service and in-service teachers that accentuate parents as partners, instead of opponents, in their children's schooling. It is fundamental for teacher educators to create positive perceptual views of parents for pre-service and in-service teachers from the onset of their credential program. From a Social Work perspective regarding positive student achievement through parental involvement it is also important to note the resources that are available in the homes of these families (e.g. books, computers, newspapers, magazines) will add to the overall success of the child. Parents that are concerned with their child's development in such a way that they are aware of and reward scholarly accomplishment, are involved in the child's school and if they are English language learners they use English at home will produce a successful student. Several other variables that factor into the equation of positive student achievement include the families' socioeconomic status, parental martial status, mothers' education level, and the number of children in the home as well as the gender of the child. When parents have high expectations for their children in terms of academic achievement a child is more likely to meet those expectations. It was found that the mothers' education level correlated directly with higher expectations for student achievement. "Mothers who were high school graduates had higher expectations, and mothers with postsecondary education (especially those with a bachelor's degree) had even higher expectations of their children's education achievement (Zhan, 2005)." The parents' marital status impacts the level of expectation placed on the child's academic achievement and behavior. Married parents had higher expectations for good behavior and student achievement than that of single-parent households. Mothers provided most of the research compiled in this study as a direct result of their completing the survey instrument. This study concluded that there is a positive correlation to family income, assets, parent education levels and parent expectations in regard to student achievement. A study of parental involvement and educational outcomes finds that there are two dimensions of parental involvement. The first is that of the level of parent-child communication regarding academic expectations, parenting style, what parents do at home, parent supervision of schoolwork, and extended learning opportunities. The second dimension includes parent-teacher communications through attending parent-teacher conferences, school meetings and events, contacting teachers and administrators (Park, 2006). This study agrees with the Zhan 2005 study that student achievement improves with improved parent involvement with their children as well as with the child's school. However, Park found "rather than money, what parents do at home for their child's development (for instance, how frequently parents talk to their kids about school experiences or whether parents help children do math homework) becomes more relevant to explain variation in the success of children (Park, 2006)." This study also revealed that families of high socioeconomic status (SES) benefit more from parent-child communication than their low SES counterparts. This also correlates to the amount of time and quality parents spend with children extending the learning opportunities at home. Parent-child communication fosters educational gaps between students from different socioeconomic status, families from low SES in general spend less time communicating with their children or extending the learning experience at home. Parent involvement at school is also determined by the sincerity of the teachers and administrators to support the parent-child connection as opposed to making the parent uncomfortable by dwelling on the child's shortcomings rather than successes. Again, the sociology consensus reveals that it is the at-home parental involvement with children that is the major factor in improving student achievement outcomes. Another perspective that addresses the issue of parental involvement and student achievement is found in the psychology discipline. Cosby and Poussiant challenge black America to reclaim their endangered families and communities by changing their beliefs to rise as victors instead of victims through their book entitled "Come on, People! On the Path from Victims to Victors (2007)." This book details solutions to "take their neighborhoods back; become purposeful and effective parents; get actively engaged in shaping the lives of their children; take care of their physical and emotional health; encourage their families toward higher education; and to think entrepreneurially about employment and economic achievement." Many of these parents lack the knowledge to be successful in their parenting duties. The path from victims to victors involves raising self-esteem, releasing feelings of abandonment, sadness, being used, unprotected, fearfulness and undefended. Taking an active role in the lives of their children and modeling positive behavior to change their lives. Valuing education, parent involvement with their children play an integral role in the overall success of the child. Additionally, a study done by Carlson and Corcoran (2001), detailed four specific causes that impact parent involvement and student achievement, they are: economic status; parent socialization; childhood stress and maternal psychological well-being. Economic status impacts child development especially in low-income families that may not be able to provide for basic needs such as sufficient food, shelter, clothing and goods that promote healthy development. Poverty and low-income can lead to parenting deficits, which create a domino-like effect in a child's development including their ability to thrive and cope in the world. Socialization plays an important role in the growth of a child; two-parent homes provide the needed support, encouragement and supervision and the duties can be shared between the parents to ensure the child's success. In single-parent households, the custodial parent often has the sole financial and parenting responsibilities therefore has limited time to supervise the children's schoolwork as well as developing socialization skills. The non-custodial parent does not provide day-to-day interaction with the children or monitoring of schoolwork. Given the home environment, stress can be a critical factor in a child's healthy development. " 'The stress of family change is cumulative because any disruption requires readaption, and therefore the number of family transitions has greater negative consequences for children than any particular family structure experienced (Amato, 1993; Wu & Martinson, 1993).' " There is a higher rate of depression among single mothers as well as lower levels of psychological functioning. This can be evident due to the stress of possible marital trouble, separation, divorce, inadequate income and resources. The child's behavior is negatively impacted when the mother is of poor mental health, mediocre parenting along with heightened negative perceptions of child may ensue. It is interesting that the findings of this study revealed that the "maternal psychological well-being is shown to be an important mechanism by which family structure affects behavioral outcomes, but not cognitive ones (Carlson and Corcoran 2001)." The study also cited that children who live in a single-parent family environment from birth are at the greatest risk for behavioral and cognitive deficiencies. Family structure plays a vital role in a child's behavioral and academic outcomes and children that are reared in a two-parent household have a greater chance of being successful overall. The issue of parent involvement in elementary education is very complex. The only viable solution is to take an interdisciplinary approach to incorporate all aspects of the problem. An eye-opening piece of information was uncovered while interviewing a parent regarding the registration of children after the school year was well underway. The parent had no knowledge regarding the payment of fees. Parents are not aware of the Illinois Administrative Code that covers school fees and waivers. It is not common knowledge that a parent can register their children without payment of school fees. If a parent is unable to pay the fees a waiver is completed and submitted. If a parent is able to pay the school fees but does not have the funds at the time of registration, no Illinois public school can deny the child entrance to school. All studies researched agreed that parent involvement is paramount to the success of a child. The type of parental involvement at home that positively impacts student achievement are: actively organizing and monitoring the child's time, helping with homework, and discussing school matters. Daily parent-child communications about school as well as high expectations positively impact student achievement. Other parent involvement activities such as volunteering, attending school events and meetings do little to improve student achievement and in some cases can negatively impact student achievement. Parents' high expectations of student achievement and behavior at all levels of socioeconomic status positively impact student achievement. Parent-teacher communications need to be respectful, sensitive, and positive to ensure a child's victory. Schools need to provide training for their staff and teachers on multicultural education and parent involvement strategies. Educators need to be aware of the fact that some parents who may seem unwilling to enter the arena to discuss their child's progress, that the parents themselves may never have been successful in school. Some parents experience great distress by just entering a school building due to their own past experiences in the elementary education setting. Parents need to feel comfortable discussing their child's progress and possible deficits in a non-threatening arena that fosters trust and positive results. Parents need to step-up and take a more active role in their children's education by becoming advocates for better education, enlightening themselves in regards to state and local policies concerning school fees and make certain their children begin school on time each year. Parents need to empower their children to become life long learners and to seek opportunities to extend learning at-home. Schools also need to provide opportunities for parents to expand their parenting abilities and increase awareness of at-home strategies that have a positive influence on student achievement. Schools can offer workshops on managing time more effectively to give single-parents the information they need to make the most of their limited time with their children. School personnel need to educate themselves regarding community resources that can support parents in trouble, such as depressed mothers and low-income families so that this information can be shared with parents and community members. Educators and parents need to pool their resources and extend those resources to the communities they serve to increase overall awareness of the steps parents can take to increase student achievement. It truly takes a village to raise a child.
Cosby, B., Poussaint, A. (2007). Come on, People! On the Path from Victims to Victors. PR Newswire Association LLC. United Business Media. Retrieved December 1, 2007 from PR Newswire site: http://sev.prnewswire.com/publishing-information-services/20070420/CLF05820042007-1.html Carlson, M. J., Corcoran, M. E. (2001). Family structure and children's behavioral and cognitive outcomes. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(3), 779-792. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from Research Library Core database. (Document ID: 78862349). DeCastro-Ambrosetti, D., Cho, G. (2005). Do parents value education? Teachers' perceptions of minority parents. Multicultural Education, 13(2), 44-46. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from Multicultural Module database. (Document ID: 977253711). (2007). Illinois School Board of Education, Springfield, Illinois. 23 ILLINOIS ADMINISTRATIVE CODE 1 SUBPART B: SCHOOL GOVERNANCE pp. 50 – 53. http://www.isbe.net/rules/archive/pdfs/oneark.pdf. (2007, October 31). Ingram, M., Lieberman, J. M., Wolfe, R. B. (2007) The role of parents in high-achieving
schools serving low-income, at-risk populations. Education and Urban Society.
Retrieved November 20, 2007 from SAGE Journals Online and HighWire Press site:
Park, H. (2006). Parental involvement and educational outcomes: The significance of
Institutional arrangements of educational system. The Impact of Comparative Education
Research on Institutional Theory. International Perspectives on Education and Society,
Volume 7, 187-208. Elsevier, Ltd. Retrieved December 1, 2007 from Science Digest Online ISSN: 1479-3679/doi:10.1016/S1479-3679(06)07009-5 (2007). Prairie-Hills Elementary School District 144, Markham, Illinois. Board of Education
Policy Manual, Section 4, Operational Serivces, 4:140 Waiver of Student Fees
http://www.phsd144.net/Manual/index.htm. (2007, October 31). (2007).