Parental Involvement is critically important in a child’s education. Research has shown that parent’s positive involvement with their children’s schooling is associated with many encouraging outcomes. There are many parents who want to be involved in their child’s day to day activities, but many circumstances enable this opportunity. Despite their best intentions to support their children, there are many barriers that prohibit the support. John Wherry (2009) discusses ways to overcome barriers that effectively prevent so many parents from getting involved. In addition, Gregory Flynn (2007) explains in order for schools to increase parental involvement, they need to promote critical behaviors and provide teacher training. Whereas, Cecily Mitchell (2008) believes by figuring out what parent involvement actually entails and how to effectively achieve it, remain challenges for schools and districts across the nation even as they work to build strong partnerships between schools and families. This paper identifies barriers that are prohibiting parents from becoming more involved in their child’s education and strategies to overcome these barriers that are preventing parental involvement.
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There is an abundance of literature which introduces many to the importance of parent involvement and a vast variety of reasons are present to support the view of how parents and teachers can make the involvement work. Parental involvement involves a partnership between the teachers and parents. This partnership bridges a gap between parents and teachers to enhance a child’s education. In this partnership between parents and teachers, they encounter barriers that prevent the partnership from working together; which lead them to find strategies that will help them overcome the barriers. Parental involvement is an issue that has been around for centuries and is one of the key components of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (Mitchell, 2008). This literature review explains that parental involvement plays an important part in a child’s education and in order for parental involvement to be a success; teachers and parents have to overcome barriers that prevent this partnership from being successful. Wherry (2009) provided a candid description on ways schools can prevent barriers of parental involvement. He developed strategies that will make the up and coming school year be the best ever for parental involvement for some teachers and parents. He goes on to state, there is a way for parent support to boost student learning available to any school, that makes the modest effort to overcome barriers that distinctively prevent parents from being involved in their child’s education. Parental involvement has generally been defined as diverse activities in the home or at the school that permit parents to share in the education process (Wright). It is reasonable to assume with such attention given to the importance of parental involvement both in the literature and by the government, that there has been a significant increase in parent participation in our schools (Flynn, 2007); however, according to the National PTA, there are 50 million children enrolled in schools and one in four parents is actively involved in their child’s education (Griffiths-Prince, 2008). Parental involvement is when parents and teachers participate in a regular, two-way conversation involving student educational learning. This includes parents being involved in their children’s education in various ways, both at home and at school.
When parents feel good about their school involvement and the school’s instructional efforts, they tend to hold high expectations for their children’s interests, aspirations, and learningâ€¦ (Risko, Dalhouse, 2009); consequently, parents who are in touch with the children’s education can better observe classroom activities and improve their communication with the teacher. Many parents seek out the opportunity to share in their children’s experiences, as well as communicate with their children. Although parent involvement is revealed to have a big impact on the student achievement and success, it could be led to be seen as a vital ingredient to education form, for example, findings from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 suggest that parental involvement does not independently improve children’s learning, but some involvement activities do prevent behavioral problems (Domina, 2005). Because of unfortunate circumstances, there are some parents who are not able to be involved with their child education. While parental involvement is important to public education, there are barriers that prevent parents from being involved with their child’s education.
Identifying Barriers of Parental Involvement
Education is the key to many children having a good future. In order for a child to reach this milestone in their lives, they need not only their parents, but also the teachers. Even though parents know their children better than anyone else and can be virtually important school partners if allowed to be (Wherry, 2009); however, there are some parents who tend to be less involved in their child’s education (LaBahn, 1995). Could this be on purpose or do they have legitimate reasons? When educators learn what barriers exist in their schools, it could be an important step to increasing parent involvement (PSEA, 2007) because; schools play a strong role in determining the level and nature of parent involvement (B &W, 2008). Parents may be doing the best they can (LaBahn, 1995) and it is still not enough, because parental involvement is a challenge to some parents. Many of them have to deal with various barriers, such as lack of communication, lack of time, and language differences.
Lack of Communication
Lack of communication is one barrier that prevents parental involvement. Differences in expectations and misunderstandings about each other goals can lead to uncertain and tenuous, and contentious relationships (Risko & Walker-Dalhouse, 2009). Parents who receive negative communication or no communication from schools tend to have trust issues. The trust issue leads parents to believe the school has an unfriendly climate. Also, if a parent had a bad experience as a young child with teachers, that experience could leave a parent fearful of speaking to their own children teachers. These negative perceptions of schools held by many parents should be replaced with some positive perceptions of the school.
Many parents are not aware that help is needed because the school has not advertised the opportunities. Although some schools send out information pertaining to parental involvement with different types of activities, this does not happen at every school. Many parents would feel eager to come to the school to volunteer their services, if they were invited into the schools. Parents are most likely to agree to partake in a classroom activity if they are asked directly by the teacher to do a specific task. Schools should work to build and maintain a welcoming and responsive school atmosphere (Wherry, 2009).
Lack of Time
Lack of time is also a barrier that prevents parental involvement. Parents often cite time as the single greatest barrier to volunteering, attending meetings, and joining decision making committees at their children’s school (PTA, 2009). Parents, who work in low-paying jobs that do not offer time off for illness or family emergencies, do not have a lot of time for parental involvement and they cannot risk their jobs to take time out to visit their child’s school. There just simply are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything (LaBahn, 1995).In today’s society there are more single family households that require the parent to work long hours.
With the increase in single-parent households and the dramatic change in the work force, with mothers of school-aged children entering in great numbers, time has become a valuable commodity for parents who struggle to make ends meet (Patrikakou, 2008). For example, many mothers do not have equipment or the skill to plan science fair experiments or construct woodworking projects, and fathers may not be able to help design and sew costumes for the school play (LaBahn, 1995).
Parents also feel that when the children are not in school, time should be spent with the family and not attending meetings at the school. Some parents feel that too much involvement in their child’s education could have a harmful effect, either by making their child uncomfortable or making the child dependent upon them. Teachers and parents know that time is often one of the greatest challenges and that is why it should be spent on building up the child education. Principals of K-8 Title I schools report that time is a barrier to parent involvement more often than any other factor. 87% of Title I principals report that lack of time on the part of parents is a significant barrier to parent involvement, and 56% report that lack of time on the part of school staff is a barrier (find reference). Since many parents think there is not enough time for work, cleaning, cooking, and parent meetings, they do not bother attending school meetings.
Another barrier that prevents parental involvement is language differences. Approximately 20% of U.S. students are learning English as a second or other language, of these students over 40% are immigrants (Wright). Non-English speaking parents may find that it is difficult communicating with their child’s teachers. Nancy Hyslop (2000) stated many Non-English parents experience low self-esteem, culture shock, and misconceptions. Many of these parents are confused about their roles in education and how to help their children. They lack knowledge on how local systems operate and very often they do not know where to go for information pertaining to their child’s education. In recent years with the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity of families, the home and school environments may hold different and sometimes diverging beliefs about the appropriate degree and nature of parent involvement (Patrikakaou, 2008).
Hispanics sometimes encounter discrimination by the larger society which discourages them from getting involved in events at their child’s school. Parents who do not speak English may not understand newsletters, fliers, or speakers at meetings (PTA, 2009). Even if one has not experienced discrimination, there is a fear that discrimination could happen. Non-English speaking parents want the same end result as many English speaking parents, which is for their child to receive an education that will allow them have a better future. Even when language differences occur, a teacher’s willingness or attempt to speak the home language can convey care about the students and parents, and this willingness can encourage parents to feel comfortable enough to speak in English and can enhance possibilities for communication and rapport. (Risko & Walker-Dalhouse, 2009). In order for the schools to reach beyond these barriers, there needs to be parental involvement implemented into the education program.
Strategies to Overcome Barriers
If barriers are preventing parents and teachers from sharing ideas or exchanging information pertaining to the child, then everyone involved needs to find strategies to overcome these barriers. They can reach the partnership needed if they figure out strategies to deal with barriers such as, lack of communication, lack of time, and language differences. Mitchell (2008) examines parent involvement in public education. She explains in her article that parent involvement has to happen on all levels. Even though the parents and teachers tend to have barriers that prevent parent involvement, Mitchell state everyone involved in the child’s education, including teachers, parents, principals, communities and even the school district have to find strategies to overcome these barriers.
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There are many ways that a school can improve communication (LaBahn, 2007) such as, informing families about routines and providing them with specific ways they can help at home provides parents with structured opportunities to participate in their child’s education (Patrikakou, 2008). The most important thing a parent can do for their child education is stay in contact with the teacher. The teacher can keep parents regularly informed about student progress, school requirements, and school events (Wherry, 2009). The teacher is the bridge between the parent and the child education; therefore, parents look to the school for answers about learning issues (Wherry, 2009). That bridge will help parents stay connected with the child’s teacher, enable them access to monitor classroom activities, and correspond with the efforts of the teachers.
A study conducted by Berthelsen & Walker (2008) explained that five items were used to assess parents’ contact with their child’s school program. A number of activities in which parents may have participated at their child’s school were identified to which parents could give a yes/no response: “During this school term, have you â€¦”-“contacted child’s teacher”; “visited child’s class”; “talked to parents of other children at the school”; “attended a school event in which your child participated”; and “volunteered in the classroom or helped with a class excursion”. Engagement in three or more activities was indicated by 76% of parents. Parents were most likely to have talked with other parents at the school (92%) or visited the child’s classroom (87%), and least likely to have volunteered in the classroom or helped with a class excursion (48%).
A parent-teacher conference is one way for parents to keep in contact with the teachers. The parent is able to sit and have a two-way conversation with the teacher and tell the teacher what they expect from the child and the teacher. The teacher can also speak to the parent and find out what are their expectations of them as educators. When parents and teachers learn how to communicate with each other, they can become stronger and knowledgeable by working together.
Unfortunately many parents are not able to attend parent-teacher conference, because they do not have the time: however, many schools are working around parents schedule for that one on one. Teachers are encouraging parents to drop by the schools when classes are dismissed or call their homes after work hours. Schools can set aside time during the school day for teachers to meet with parents at school or at home or free teachers from routine chores, such as lunchroom supervision, so that they can work with parents (Moles). Students need more than their parents, they also need the people who want to see all children make it in this world.
Parents who are have language barriers need strategies to help them feel better about being a part of their child’s education. By creating culturally aware school-family partnerships, school systems can reduce cultural, discontinues, create diverse learning opportunities, improve racial perceptions and attitudes, and foster interethnic friendships (Patrikakou, 2008). For example, when parents enroll their children in the Early Head Start program, the program managers makes sure a translator is there to help ease the Hispanic family discomfort and make their first experience with the program a rewarding experience. There are comprehensive program that can provide a model for empowering immigrant parents and changing teacher perceptions of immigrant parents’ school interest and involvement. The program titled the Immigrant Parent Partnership Program supported parent engagement through leadership classes, multiple-language programs, teacher action research to increase teacher understanding of immigrant parents, and the creation of a parent resource center (Risko & Walker-Dalhouse, 2009). The often heard statement, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is very true.
Parental involvement plays a key role in the Early Head Start work setting. Our program is based solely on parent involvement. We have to find ways to encourage parents to become better involved in their child’s education. Something as simple as coming in and helping the child take their shoes off and placing them in the correct cubby, helps the teachers in achieving some of the goals for the students. We also include parents in the decision making at the center. Parents are asked to complete an application to be a member of the policy council; in which, the parents names are placed on a ballot to be voted on. The policy council consists of community leaders and parents. The community leaders assist the parents in making vital decisions regarding the children at the centers.
Politically we are a non-profit program financed by the government with certain stipulation. We are expected to work with the community by building up the parents with children who attend the centers. In order for the program to qualify for federal and state grants, we have to incorporate In-kind that involves the parents and community members. Arkansas Better Chance and Arkansas Better Chance for school success require the program to receive a 40% in-kind match of the grant amount. We achieve this goal by encouraging parents and community workers donating goods, providing services, and performing jobs at the centers.
Parent involvement also plays a key role in the education process. It has been shown that children whose parents are involved in early childhood programs, such as, Head Start, have higher cognitive and language skills than do children whose families are not involved or part of such programs (Patrikakou, 2008). Children at a young age, needs that extra help and encouragement. We are expected to allow the children to play and socialize with each other, but they still need to learn what is expected of them when they enter into the public school system. We encourage our parents by providing them people to speak to with concerns regarding their children developmental skills. We share educational information to the parents that will provide their children learning environments which will help them grow into well adjusted students. As an Early Head Start teacher, the job involves working closely with the parents concerning their children’s education and needs. When a parent comes into the center and volunteers to wash clothes, dishes, or help feed the children, this take a big load off the teachers. We encourage parents to come in and rock, not only their children, but the other children in the center. When we work with the parents, we develop a bond that helps make all transitions easier. Working with the parents allow us to learn more about the children and about the parent, in return, they learn who we are as people and not teachers. Parental involvement is a necessity in the school systems. When parents are involved, children are more acceptable to learn and behave, because they learn, their parents are only a phone call away.
After viewing the literature on parent involvement, brings the research to the conclusion that parental involvement matters in the school systems. Bringing teachers and parents together as one, sometimes means going around, over, and under barriers for solutions to a parent involvement program that works for everyone. To get to this point in a child’s life, many parents and teachers have to discover strategies that will work for them. Although factors such as lack of communication, lack of time, and language barriers can prevent parent involvement, there are many ways to triumph over the barriers. Encouraging and involving parents in decisions pertaining to their child can make a big difference. Children will have better attendance, higher grades, test scores and graduation rates. Parents will have a better understanding of how the school operates. Teachers can increase community support with parents and students. Parents are the key to their children future. When parents and teachers come together as one, a child is able to leap over bounds and conquer the world. Barriers are just stepping stones to great outcomes.
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