Although one might argue that while most parents intuitively know that parental involvement is vitally connected to student achievement, many struggle to follow through. What are those barriers? As a teacher at an urban charter school, are those barriers different for my students than in other schools? What activities and strategies might an urban charter school utilize in order to increase parental involvement?
To begin finding answers to these questions, I read the article, “Parental Involvement in Urban Charter Schools: New Strategies for Increasing Participation” from The School Community Journal (2011, vol. 21, No. 1). The study described research-supported positive academic and behavioral outcomes for students whose parents are involved in their education. This involvement included a spectrum of support: meeting basic health and safety needs, support at home, volunteerism at the school, and activity in decision-making roles at the school level. The positive benefits from involvement extended to the parents and to the community.
As schools of choice, charter schools might be assumed to have fewer barriers to parental involvement. Unfortunately, a 2007 study (Jeynes) cited in the article showed that parental involvement was still a significant challenge in charter schools. That article, “Parental Involvement in Urban Charter Schools” discussed three main barriers in the urban setting. These factors include language barriers, work schedules, and a sense of disenfranchisement. In general, schools with urban, working-class, low-income parents of racial and ethnic minorities had less visible parental involvement than other schools.
So, as leaders of innovation in education in an urban setting, what can we do to meet the needs of our educational community? After studying highly-effective urban charters around the country, the authors of the aforementioned study in The School Community Journal suggested the following strategies:
- Wrap-around services, incentives, and contracts to enhance and ensure participation
- Technology for advertising parent volunteer opportunities
- Involving parents in decision-making and governance of the school
As a charter school, we have the power to be innovative and respond quickly to the needs of our community. Ultimately, we want our students to meet academic challenges and become productive citizens. Parental involvement has been shown in research to be linked to student achievement and positive behavior; therefore, it is our obligation as a charter school to find effective strategies to involve parents. This teaching mom knows that, “it takes a village to raise a child.” So, teachers must pull together to find ways for all of the villagers to take part in their children’s education.