Building successful home/school partnerships: strategies for parent support and involvement.Over the last two generations, the delineation of "informal" and "formal" education has become a boundary between family and school. As a society, we believe a world of difference exists between teaching a child to hold a spoon spoon,
n an instrument with a round or ovoid working end; designed to be used for scraping or scooping. and teaching that same child to hold a pencil. With the acceptance of this boundary, we have created two separate, sometimes adversarial ad·ver·sar·i·al
Relating to or characteristic of an adversary; involving antagonistic elements: "the chasm between management and labor in this country, an often needlessly adversarial . . . , worlds - home and school - and have populated pop·u·late
tr.v. pop·u·lat·ed, pop·u·lat·ing, pop·u·lates
1. To supply with inhabitants, as by colonization; people.
2. them with separate, sometimes adversarial, adults - parents and teachers. Children must live in both worlds, moving back and forth at the beginning and end of each school day. While both parents and teachers strive toward a goal of well-educated and well-loved children, various problems appear to hinder hin·der 1
v. hin·dered, hin·der·ing, hin·ders
1. To be or get in the way of.
2. To obstruct or delay the progress of.
v.intr. achievement of this goal.
Many individuals in both the popular press (Dodge, 1991; Foster, 1994; Rubenstein, 1988; Shea, 1993; Singal, 1991; Vogel, 1994) and academic publications (Edelman, 1992; Kozol, 1991; O'Callaghan, 1993) have addressed the conditions in America's public schools and the seeming inability of these institutions to educate many children. Teachers claim that a whole variety of social problems prevent them from teaching. Many children come to school undernourished, in poor physical health and with their basic needs for safety and security unmet un·met
Not satisfied or fulfilled: unmet demands. . Some children may come to school under the influence of drugs or alcohol and/or may be armed. These conditions undoubtedly make learning in school difficult, if not impossible, for children. Children must feel safe before they will be able to learn (Garbarino, Kostelny & Dubrow, 1991). On the other hand, many parents claim that teachers are failing to teach their children critical academic skills and values, and schools have become places where children can easily find drugs, alcohol and weapons. Thus, some parents perceive school to be an introduction to trouble rather than a way to stay out of it.
Data currently indicate that fewer than 70 percent of the young people in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. will graduate from high school; minority children have even lower graduation Graduation is the action of receiving or conferring an academic degree or the associated ceremony. The date of event is often called degree day. The event itself is also called commencement, convocation or invocation. rates (Garbarino, Dubrow, Kostelny & Pardo, 1992). Furthermore, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Kozol (1991), many children who do graduate may not be reading at an 8th-grade level. While the reasons for such outcomes are varied, and, in fact, difficult to pin down, it is certain that parents and teachers, working separately, will not be able to solve the problems.
Teamwork and collaboration are more likely to achieve positive results than when school systems and families work alone. The teacher bears the responsibility for developing and fostering this collaboration (Rotter, Robinson & Fey, 1987). Recognizing the classroom as the accepted site of a child's education and the home as the site of a child's nurturance, support and socialization socialization /so·cial·iza·tion/ (so?shal-i-za´shun) the process by which society integrates the individual and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways.
n. (Lightfoot, 1978), classroom teachers can use several strategies to enlist en·list
v. en·list·ed, en·list·ing, en·lists
1. To engage (persons or a person) for service in the armed forces.
2. To engage the support or cooperation of.
v. parents' collaboration.
Effective schools share a number of basic features: strong leadership, an emphasis on academics, ongoing evaluation, a safe school climate and positive teacher-pupil relationships (Garbarino, Dubrow, Kostelny & Pardo, 1992). In addition, a high level of parental involvement appears to have a direct impact on student achievement (Henderson, 1987; Marcon, 1993; Rotter, Robinson & Fey, 1987; Seldin, 1991). Teachers recently named greater parental involvement as their number one priority for improving education (Chira, 1993). Thus, in light of research findings showing the benefits of parental involvement and teacher support for such involvement, an obvious solution to some of the problems becomes apparent. Before a truly effective parental involvement program can be implemented, administrators must understand the nature of change within a system (in this case, a school) and the roles and culture within the school. Then, the interface of the home and school systems and strategies teachers can use when dealing with family and classroom situations can be discussed.
The structure of many organizations makes it difficult to implement change. Long-standing rules must be followed, and resistance to change is inherent to many of the rules. Often, organizations respond to requests for change by only appearing to do something different, while the same basic rules or methods are still used. This is called "first order change" (Watzlawick, Weakland & Fisch, 1974). Real, or "second order," change requires alteration of the rules or methods of doing things (the structure).
Consider the school principal who wishes to increase the number of parents attending school functions and so asks the teachers to send out an invitation and two reminder notes, rather than just an invitation alone. If the turnout remains poor, the principal may conclude that the parents are just apathetic ap·a·thet·ic
Lacking interest or concern; indifferent.
apa·thet and continue to rely on the same strategy. The reminder notes, while a deviation from previous actions, are merely elements of first order change. If, however, the principal changed the function from the usual weekday evening to a Saturday morning, provided child care and encouraged a buddy system buddy system
An arrangement in which persons are paired, as for mutual safety or assistance.
Noun 1. buddy system in which each parent brings another parent, attendance might increase. These actions constitute second order change because the structure of the activity has changed. Such second order change required the principal to cease viewing parents as having many faults, and instead to recognize parents' strengths that can be tapped simply by being flexible with rules and methods.
Roles and Culture Within a School
Schools and families have many structural similarities (Fisher, 1986). Both have different individuals performing complementary behaviors defined by their roles within the system. A degree of flexibility in those roles and behaviors marks well-functioning systems. Flexibility allows individuals to perform tasks according to their strengths rather than simply according to the role they occupy. The roles in school, however, often do not appear to be negotiable NEGOTIABLE. That which is capable of being transferred by assignment; a thing, the title to which may be transferred by a sale and indorsement or delivery.
2. . Parents' roles in school settings are rarely discussed, making their responsibilities unclear and making it likely that they will only be called upon when their child is having a problem.
A school culture built on the idea of collaboration leaves teachers free to discuss parents' interests and responsibilities for participation and to incorporate them into the classroom without feeling threatened by their presence. This strategy allows parents to define their participation and involves them in determining the boundaries between home and school, rather than being told where that boundary ought to be. Moving toward a system that encourages inclusion, participation and collaboration is the ultimate goal.
Strategies for Improving the Home-School home·school or home-school
v. home·schooled, home·school·ing, home·schools
To instruct (a pupil, for example) in an educational program outside of established schools, especially in the home. Relationship
Building upon Strengths. Reframing reframing (rē·frāˑ·ming),
n the revisiting and reconstruction of a patient's view of an experience to imbue it with a different usually more positive meaning in the is a strategy that family therapists use to shift from a deficit perspective, in which faults are highlighted, to one that recognizes strengths. In order to reframe Re`frame´
v. t. 1. To frame again or anew. something, one must consider what useful purpose a seemingly seem·ing
Outward appearance; semblance.
seeming·ly adv. negative behavior might serve and then shift to that frame of reference. For too long, many professionals have taken a custodial view toward families they perceived to be dysfunctional dys·func·tion also dis·func·tion
Abnormal or impaired functioning, especially of a bodily system or social group.
dys·func . As a result of this deficit model perspective, professionals often believed that parents were incapable of being allies and simply needed to be tolerated and avoided. Educators, without ever meeting many parents, would often blame them for their children's difficulties. Whatever level of truth lies in that assessment, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to develop a positive bond between family and educator. It would be much more helpful to "think of parents as professional child-rearers with considerable on-the-job experience" (Hayes, 1987).
Reframing behaviors that have been negatively labeled in the past can also promote collaboration. When attending a teacher's conference, I once heard a parent describe their child as being very active and often out of control. The wise teacher looked at the parents and said that the child was "spirited" - giving the parents a new label they found acceptable and helpful. After all, what parent would ever want to break a child's spirit? While the child's behaviors did not change dramatically, the parents now looked upon their child in a new way and worked to channel that spirit rather than quell quell
tr.v. quelled, quell·ing, quells
1. To put down forcibly; suppress: Police quelled the riot.
By digging a little deeper beneath the surface, one can view multi-problem families as also being multi-resource (Walker 1991). These families often have support from extended family and almost always are strongly motivated to help their children succeed. Walker suggests that many of these multi-resource families are better able to deal with a crisis since they live in an often chaotic world in which their resources are constantly challenged. When professionals recognize all that these families have been able to conquer, rather than focusing on what they have failed at, they will find it easier to appreciate the families' strengths.
Making Schools Family-Friendly. Families sometimes bring their own unique concerns into the schools. These concerns can, and should, be acknowledged in a helpful manner, as long as the child's school issues remain the focus. "The child is the family-school connection. It is he or she who must traverse traverse - traversal the worlds of home and school each day and it is he or she who brings the worlds in juxtaposition juxtaposition /jux·ta·po·si·tion/ (-pah-zish´un) apposition.
The state of being placed or situated side by side. " (Eno, 1985, p. 161). Any program developed to enhance home-school collaboration must improve students' classroom achievement. Both home and school affect a child's academic performance. By focusing on school issues, parents and teachers can discuss just about anything in a non-threatening, collaborative manner (e.g., How does that situation affect your child's school performance? What can we do to help your child handle this in a better way?). In such a climate, parents are more likely to participate as most parents will do almost anything "for the good of their children."
Understanding that parental participation is critical, school personnel should assess families' comfort levels when participating in school activities. Drawing up a needs assessment of all the parents, focusing on their current levels of involvement and seeking suggestions they might have for increased participation are all strategies for moving toward a more collaborative home-school relationship. In the meantime Adv. 1. in the meantime - during the intervening time; "meanwhile I will not think about the problem"; "meantime he was attentive to his other interests"; "in the meantime the police were notified"
meantime, meanwhile , educators could ask themselves a few simple questions in order to assess the "family-friendliness" of their schools:
* Are all school meetings with parents problem-focused?
* How easy is it for a parent to find out what is going on in a classroom?
* Are parents a source of information? Is parental input valuable and can you name a few specific instances when parental input had an impact on outcome?
* Do parents typically come to the school to discuss positive activities?
* Are meetings only held during the school day?
* Do school personnel usually discuss parents in a negative fashion?
* Are parents informed when their children are doing well?
* What percentage of parents were at the last school function?
* Do teachers and parents describe their relationship in an adversarial fashion?
* Did most of the parents struggle with school themselves?
PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT PROGRAMS AND STRATEGIES
1. Educational support and drop-out prevention programs.
2. Parenting skills training.
3. Workshops where parents can judge their schools' quality.
4. Adult literacy programs.
5. Parent tutoring programs for their own children.
6. Random meetings with the principal.
7. Potluck meals in the classroom.
8. Field trips with invited parents.
9. Invitations for parents to visit and participate.
10. Invitations for parents to make presentations.
11. Assignment of parents to committees.
12. Recognition of parents at school assemblies.
13. Fathers' night out.
14. Evening conferences.
If the answers to these questions suggest that parents are not comfortable in school settings or simply cannot find the time to participate, then specific strategies can be developed to meet those concerns. Since so many parents were uncomfortable with school when they were children, they may now be reluctant to participate. Parents may feel intimidated in·tim·i·date
tr.v. in·tim·i·dat·ed, in·tim·i·dat·ing, in·tim·i·dates
1. To make timid; fill with fear.
2. To coerce or inhibit by or as if by threats. by education jargon jargon, pejorative term applied to speech or writing that is considered meaningless, unintelligible, or ugly. In one sense the term is applied to the special language of a profession, which may be unnecessarily complicated, e.g., "medical jargon. and the system and may, as a result, distance themselves from involvement.
1. Speak the language of the family; use their words and definitions.
2. Understand the family's rules and rituals.
3. Try to keep jargon to a minimum - especially at first.
4. Monitor your own level of discomfort; do you resort to "the facts" when you become uncomfortable?
5. Try to build a collaborative, rather than an adversarial, system.
6. Ask the family to suggest solutions.
7. Recognize signs of a power struggle.
Sometimes educators feel too much is demanded of them. A strength-focused, collaborative perspective turns parents into partners, thus lightening lightening /light·en·ing/ (lit´en-ing) the sensation of decreased abdominal distention produced by the descent of the uterus into the pelvic cavity, two to three weeks before labor begins. educators' load.
Joining with Families. The parent-teacher relationship is the most important interaction between home and school. Such alliances might even reduce the number of children referred for therapeutic intervention. While teachers and parents may meet for a variety of reasons, the overriding (programming) overriding - Redefining in a child class a method or function member defined in a parent class.
Not to be confused with "overloading". goal should be for the teacher to "join" with as many families as possible. Joining means "letting the family know" that the teacher "understands them and is working with and for them" (Minuchin & Fishman, 1981, pp. 31-32). The following strategies, if implemented at the beginning of the school year, may help teachers join with their students' families and thus create a family-friendly school (see also Table 1).
* Parents can be invited to meet their children's teachers before the year begins at an orientation, or the teachers could invite parents to a potluck dinner. These activities provide opportunities for teachers to solicit parental input and ask what educational methods the parents have found to be effective in the past. They also provide an opportunity for teachers to build a positive relationship with parents, rather than one based on problems.
* In another successful strategy, teachers send home children's work each week with a letter. The letter can include a review of the week's activities and suggestions for reinforcing school-learned knowledge at home. Parents can be encouraged to respond with "Monday Messages." This strategy establishes a two-way dialogue rather than a one-way evaluation directed to parents.
* In schools with computerized telephone systems and resources for multiple answering machines, teachers can record messages concerning study units and homework assignments so that parents can call at their convenience to gather information. This allows parents to be involved and to reinforce at home what their child has done during the day (Minner, Prater prate
v. prat·ed, prat·ing, prates
To talk idly and at length; chatter.
To utter idly or to little purpose.
n. & Beane, 1989).
* Principals can set the tone by having lunch meetings with parents to discuss their concerns and ask for suggestions.
* Principals can actively seek parents' input by asking them to sit with teachers on certain committees.
Principals also need to support teachers' efforts to "join" with families by granting time off or compensating teachers for extra time spent with families. Teachers will feel supported and appreciated.
The Parent-Teacher Conference As an Opportunity for Connection. Goals for the parent-teacher conference can include "the exchange of feelings, beliefs and knowledge between parent and teacher about a particular student. This exchange should facilitate cooperation between home and school for the benefit of the student" (Manning, 1985). Since the parent-teacher conference is often the sole contact between parents and teachers, it presents the primary opportunity to facilitate this cooperation. Consequently, what happens during this time is critical. Several counseling techniques, including active listening Active listening is an intent to "listen for meaning", in which the listener checks with the speaker to see that a statement has been correctly heard and understood. The goal of active listening is to improve mutual understanding. and developing a trusting relationship with parents, are particularly suited to the conference process. Table 2 lists many of the techniques that can be used to build such relationships. In addition, by scheduling conferences during the first few weeks of school, teachers will allow parental participation early on in the planning of the academic year and thus avoid many potential problems from the outset (Neilsen & Finkelstein, 1993).
This first meeting is a good time for teachers to gather information about the family's rules, roles and learning style (Green, 1992). Teachers should seek answers to the following questions:
* Who has the primary responsibility for child rearing (and, consequently, monitoring school work)?
* What is the child-rearing style in this family? Parents usually exhibit one of three styles (Baumrind 1967, 1968):
* Authoritarian (behavior is controlled according to absolute standards)
* Authoritative (behavior is controlled according to developmental needs)
* Permissive permissive adj. 1) referring to any act which is allowed by court order, legal procedure, or agreement. 2) tolerant or allowing of others' behavior, suggesting contrary to others' standards.
PERMISSIVE. (no control is attempted; instead, a non-punishing, affirming manner is used).
* How is the family defined (who are its members)?
* How does the family describe their style of problem solving problem solving
Process involved in finding a solution to a problem. Many animals routinely solve problems of locomotion, food finding, and shelter through trial and error. ?
* Who speaks for the family and is it the same person who has primary child-rearing responsibilities?
1. When do you not experience__________?
2. What is different at those times?
3. What are you doing differently when__________is not happening?
4. How will you know when the problem is solved?
5. If you woke up tomorrow and your problem was miraculously mi·rac·u·lous
1. Of the nature of a miracle; preternatural.
2. So astounding as to suggest a miracle; phenomenal: a miraculous recovery; a miraculous escape.
3. solved, what would be different?
6. If a person had all of the skills you believe necessary to solve this issue what might he or she do?
7. What is a sequence around the issue?
8. How do you stop things from getting worse? (Emphasize that things could be worse and preventing further deterioration de·te·ri·o·ra·tion
The process or condition of becoming worse. requires some competence.)
9. How have you resolved this problem in the past?
10. Has there ever been a time when this was not happening?
For a more complete listing see:
O'Hanlon, W. H., & Weiner-Davis, M. (1989). In search of solutions. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : W. W. Norton.
This information will allow the teacher to assess the family structure and identify points of entry into the family system. Family structure and family learning styles have an enormous impact on a child's school adjustment (Green, 1992). Teachers would also benefit from knowing if parents are involved with other professionals (e.g., social workers). Too often, different groups of professionals work with the same family without any coordination.
The Solution-Focused Conference. Teachers should consider using a solution-focused approach during conferences. Borrowing from the work of Kral (1989), O'Hanlon & Weiner-Davis (1989) and de Shazer (1985), the solution-focused conference has several features. After joining with the family, the teacher works to clearly define the concern, redefine Verb 1. redefine - give a new or different definition to; "She redefined his duties"
define, delimit, delimitate, delineate, specify - determine the essential quality of
2. it as a solvable problem, agree on a specific, clearly defined goal and gather information from parents about whether a similar situation exists at home and what has been done to correct it. If the parents have successfully handled the problem at home, the teacher can enlist their help in forming a strategy for the classroom. A list of questions that may be used in a solution-focused conference can be found in Table 3.
Assigning specific tasks and establishing follow-up plans provides support for the changes discussed during conferences. These may also be used to strengthen any past successes. Table 4 lists a number of options that can be used to plan change strategies. If the conference leads only to an impasse im·passe
1. A road or passage having no exit; a cul-de-sac.
2. A situation that is so difficult that no progress can be made; a deadlock or a stalemate: reached an impasse in the negotiations. , the group should consider involving other people, including other family members or consultants working with the family.
Making Plans: Strategies for Change
1. Write up behavior contracts.
2. Offer advice.
3. Ask solution-focused questions.
4. Gather more information and plan for follow-up.
5. Design tasks for the parents, particularly to observe something.
6. Create a task for family members whereby they look for their strengths.
7. Ensure that any assigned task is possible; build on success.
8. Think about direct skill training.
9. Practice during the meeting.
10. Avoid detours or being overwhelmed o·ver·whelm
tr.v. o·ver·whelmed, o·ver·whelm·ing, o·ver·whelms
1. To surge over and submerge; engulf: waves overwhelming the rocky shoreline.
11. Contract for mutually agreed-upon goals.
12. Decide if a referral is necessary.
13. Ask yourself, Am I stuck?
1. Know the agencies in your area.
2. Know competent people with whom you can work at these organizations.
3. Refer to specific people, not just an organization.
4. Get agreement from the family that they will participate.
5. Ask the family to predict what might prevent them from participating and ask for solutions.
6. Check on families' ideas about solutions and possible referrals.
7. Make sure you provide for a follow-up meeting.
Referral. There will be times when both parties conclude that a referral for services outside the school system is appropriate. Teachers should know about the agencies in their area and develop contacts there. Table 5 lists a few specific steps that are important when making a referral. The goal is to find an appropriate fit between the family's needs and the referral's services. Such compatibility is more likely if the teacher is well-joined with the family, has knowledge of agency services and makes a referral to a specific person (Braden & Sherrard, 1987).
The authors have presented a collaborative, solution-focused approach that teachers can use to enlist parents' cooperation in creating effective, family-friendly schools. Lack of teacher training in systemic interpersonal skills "Interpersonal skills" refers to mental and communicative algorithms applied during social communications and interactions in order to reach certain effects or results. The term "interpersonal skills" is used often in business contexts to refer to the measure of a person's ability , lack of family-friendly school programs and difficulties of focusing on family and educational strengths act as barriers to effective collaborative systems. The specific strategies reviewed in this article can help remove those barriers. Lightfoot (1982) argued that threats of physical illnesses (e.g., diphtheria diphtheria (dĭfthēr`ēə), acute contagious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae (Klebs-Loffler bacillus) bacteria that have been infected by a bacteriophage. It begins as a soreness of the throat with fever. , tuberculosis tuberculosis (TB), contagious, wasting disease caused by any of several mycobacteria. The most common form of the disease is tuberculosis of the lungs (pulmonary consumption, or phthisis), but the intestines, bones and joints, the skin, and the genitourinary, , typhoid typhoid
or typhoid fever
Acute infectious disease resembling typhus (and distinguished from it only in the 19th century). Salmonella typhi, usually ingested in food or water, multiplies in the intestinal wall and then enters the bloodstream, causing , rheumatic fever rheumatic fever (rmăt`ĭk), systemic inflammatory disease, extremely variable in its manifestation, severity, duration, and aftereffects. ) have been replaced by the psychosocial psychosocial /psy·cho·so·cial/ (si?ko-so´shul) pertaining to or involving both psychic and social aspects.
Involving aspects of both social and psychological behavior. "illnesses" of drugs, alcoholism alcoholism, disease characterized by impaired control over the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Alcoholism is a serious problem worldwide; in the United States the wide availability of alcoholic beverages makes alcohol the most accessible drug, and alcoholism is , juvenile suicide, adolescent pregnancy adolescent pregnancy See Teenage pregnancy. , abusive Tending to deceive; practicing abuse; prone to ill-treat by coarse, insulting words or harmful acts. Using ill treatment; injurious, improper, hurtful, offensive, reproachful. parenting and educational failure. Viewing these concerns in the context of the family and working to improve family-school collaboration might, at last, result in the reduction or alleviation of many of these long-standing problems.
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David M. Rosenthal David M. Rosenthal is a philosopher at the City University of New York who has made significant contributions to the philosophy of mind, particularly in the area of consciousness. He was educated at the University of Chicago and then Princeton University. is Associate Professor, Department of Family Practice, and Director, Family Stress Clinic, and Julanne Young Sawyers is a doctoral student, Division of Counselor Education, College of Education, The University of Iowa Not to be confused with Iowa State University.
The first faculty offered instruction at the University in March 1855 to students in the Old Mechanics Building, situated where Seashore Hall is now. In September 1855, the student body numbered 124, of which, 41 were women. , Iowa City Iowa City, city (1990 pop. 59,738), seat of Johnson co., E Iowa, on both sides of the Iowa River; founded 1839 as the capital of Iowa Territory, inc. 1853. Among its manufactures are foam rubber, animal feed, paper, and food products. The city is the seat of the Univ. .