News Features & Releases
Beyond the Bake Sale
by Jill Anderson
Posted: April 30, 2007
Schools struggling to improve student achievement must make better efforts to get parents involved, according to speakers at the Askwith Forum on Wednesday, April 25. Unfortunately, many schools place parental involvement low on the list of things to be done to improve student outcomes. “There seems to be a disconnect between parental involvement and achievement,” said HGSE lecturer Karen Mapp, coauthor of Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships.
“It’s not that parents are hard to reach,” Mapp said. “[Educators] are not open to parents.”
When, in 1982, the Reagan Administration eliminated parental involvement as part of the Title I legislation, it forever changed the school and parent relationship.
“Parental advisory committees were wiped out overnight,” said Anne Henderson, senior fellow with the Community Involvement Program at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and coauthor of Beyond the Bake Sale.
Studies have long demonstrated that parental involvement in a child’s education at home and school results in higher grades and test scores, enrollment in higher-level programs, and higher graduation rates and college attendance.
“If a school is good at engaging parents, then student achievement will go up,” Henderson said. “How can we tap this in a way that will improve the achievement gap and improve all education for our kids?”
The challenge facing many communities is how to build those family-school partnerships, which require parental involvement, trust between a school and families, and teachers understanding families who don’t often share the same culture and values.
While schools often look to parents to help with fundraising activities, they often forget to provide information that will help them understand their children’s academic progress. Part of changing the parent-school dynamic is giving parents more information — not on how to be a better parent, but on what their child is learning at school and how to incorporate those lessons at home. Schools should also support parents by giving positive feedback on their children, Mapp said.
Schools that have already embraced parents in their communities are seeing improvements in student performance as a result.
Joy Salesman-Oliver, principal at the Higginson Elementary School in Roxbury, Mass., created a community coalition to help join together families and schools. “We work for them, they don’t work for us,” she said. “We are part of the community and need everyone to assist us with the goal of reaching maximum achievement within school.”