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Supporting Learning

Parent, student, and teacher in conference

What Can Parents Do to Strengthen Parent-School Connections?

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Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

September 2016

The start of the school year in the fall marks a new beginning for students and families, and naturally parents start thinking about what they can do to strengthen their children’s learning and development. But parent-school engagement is important all year round in order to connect the two important contexts where children grow — home and school.

Through communication across home and school, parents and teachers can share information about children’s progress and discuss their needs and interests to find the right opportunities to promote learning experiences. Meaningful dialogue between parents and teachers creates mutual understanding and enhances both parents’ and children’s experiences with school.

Family-school relationships have been described as a safety net to promote children’s learning and school experiences. However, parents differ in their skills, knowledge, resources, and available time to support student engagement with school and learning. These differences are why cooperation and shared responsibility between parents and teachers are necessary to foster learning and students’ success in school.

Shared Responsibility

How does shared responsibility work? On one side, teachers and schools should:

Volunteering and More

On the other side, parents’ involvement with their children's school may include fundraising, volunteering, or helping in the classroom. But parents can do more to connect to their children’s teachers and school staff in meaningful ways. As parents, you can:

Always work from the idea that parents and schools both want the best for children. As a parent, praise and thank teachers and school staff for their work when appropriate — and watch your connection with your children’s school flourish.

Sources

Christenson, S. L. (1999). Families and schools: Rights, responsibilities, resources, and relationship. In R. C. Pianta & M. J. Cox (Eds.), The transition to kindergarten (pp. 143-177). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Christenson, S., & Sheridan, S. M. (Eds.). (2001). Schools and families: Creating essential connections for learning. New York: Guilford Press.

Comer, J. P. (1984). Home-school relationships as they affect the academic success of children. Education and Urban Society, 16(3), 323–337.

Henderson, A. T., & Berla, N. (Eds.). (1994). A new generation of evidence: The family is critical to student achievement. Washington, DC: National Committee for Citizens in Education.

Kim, E. M., Coutts, M. J., Holmes, S. R., Sheridan, S. M., Ransom, K. A., Sjuts, T. M., & Rispoli, K. M. (2012). Parent involvement and family-school partnerships: Examining the content, processes, and outcomes of structural versus relationship-based approaches. CYFS Working Paper No. 2012–6. Lincoln, NE: Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools.

Peng, S. S., & Lee, R. M. (1992, April). Home variables, parent-child activities, and academic achievement: A study of 1988 eighth graders. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.

Raftery, J. N., Grolnick, W. S., & Flamm, E. S. (2012). Families as facilitators of student engagement: Toward a home-school partnership model. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 343–364). New York: Springer US.

Related Resources

The Eight "P" Philosophy for Effective School-Parent Partnerships — These eight “P”s help build effective school-parent partnerships.

Parent Keys to Success in the Parent-School PartnershipPACER Center — Get tips for creating a positive and productive family-school partnership.

Learning Opportunities to Discover — Tips to help support your child’s learning away from school.

Praise that Builds a Child's Self-Esteem — Use praise to recognize the efforts and accomplishments of your children, and build self-esteem in the process.

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