The Importance of Family and Community Engagement in Elementary Schools

Family-school engagements are increasingly seen as powerful avenues for more equitable, culturally responsive, and collaborative schools (Auerbach, 2009). Although family engagement is not only desirable but also possible in schools, less research with insufficient data on its feasibility is documented. Institutional administrators are expected to be directly involved in initiating, planning, implementing, and sustaining the programs. This is contrary to what is observed as many administrators interact with parents during events as figure­heads and district organized meetings. This article shows that reaching out to parents is not simply a trend, but the right thing for schools to do. Beyond the benefits for student achievements, there is the value of parent involvement through improved family health, lifelong learning, and greater access to life op­portunities in underdeveloped and marginalized communities. Community participation increases achievement, promotes democratic schooling, and community capacity building. When meaningful partnerships are pursued, they enhance effective community participation which increases educational opportunities for students, and their families. To enhance meaningful partnerships, the role of community and institutions leaders is important. However, from the article it can be said that this area has been neglected with little research and insufficient training of school and community leaders. One of the studies on leadership at college education showed that only 20% of the college heads reported their graduates being well prepared to work with families. Lack of policy implementation studies to evaluate what takes place in practice means few empirical reports to support the practice. The strongest indicator for health relationships existing in schools is how parents understand their roles and responsibilities to support education.

The current article examined the contribution of Latino parents’ to school engagement by analyzing four schools in Los Angeles. Participants in this study included three middle-aged Latino principals and one Afri­can American assistant principal, each with 10-25 years of administrative experience. Young, a principal in one of the schools observed that bad teaching in elementary schools is a result of parents’ ignorance of classroom teaching. She allowed parents in the classroom to learn with their children and reported that parents expressed a wish to understand more about the curriculum and school operations. Home visits helped cement the relationship between teachers and parents. The home visits suggested by a parent led to the school receiving an award and grants from the National Network of Partnership Schools. Zavala, another principal, used a school as a centre for community empowerment. The democratic purpose of schooling and its empowerment abilities lead to more engagement. The partnership eliminates extreme poverty and violence in communities. Zavala’s Parent Colloquium empowered that changed the school community full of gangs, and drug addicts into an active community in the management of the school. It was used in raising awareness and addressing community needs as a bridge to meeting school objectives. Perez believed that the school has a responsibility not only to children’s learning but to the overall improvement of family and community life. Parents need to be part of the school, to understand academics. Perez and Franco believed schools should empower parents. To them, nothing is more important to success in schools than relationships among students, staff, and parents.

Based on the evidence provided above, what role should school administrators and district coordinators play in ensuring healthy school parent partnerships?

References

Auerbach, S. (2009). Walking the Walk: Portraits in Leadership for Family Engagement in Urban Schools. The School Community Journal. Vol. 19, (1) 9-32.