Family Engagement and Increasing Student Achievement

By Pete Hoepfner

AASB Board President

Increasing student achievement by reducing barriers has been a focus of my articles this year. Evidence shows that achievement differences between students are attributable to factors outside of schools and classrooms. We all want our children to succeed in school and we know that children need support in their education.

With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), increased stakeholder engagement is asked for as states, districts, and schools implement provisions of the law.

Family engagement programs and practices have been shown to have a positive impact on student outcomes and school improvement. Strategies that were found to be most related to student achievement include:

Parent engagement at home can be accomplished by monitoring and helping with homework and providing rules and routines for school. Parents can organize study time and provide educational materials and opportunities for students outside of school. And it can be as simple as parents talking about school experiences with students, knowing how well the student is doing in school. Additionally, results revealed that students with more engaged parents had higher academic achievement and missed fewer days of school.

Engaging families at school, having parents volunteer, attend events at school, and interacting with teachers is linked to increasing school success and student outcomes. Parents’ communication with teachers to prevent problems also was associated with decreased behavior problems.

School outreach efforts, parent-teacher organizations, parent-teacher conferences, family events at the school, show that increased communication efforts with families can have a positive impact on school success and student outcomes.

Building strong parent-school relationships by focusing on building parents trust with staff, having positive parent interactions with staff, and making parents feel welcome at the school. It is found that the presence and quality of these parent-community-school ties link directly to students’ motivation and school participation.

Family educational goals and values and creating programs that focus on increasing parental aspirations for children will result in better student outcomes. Increasing parental expectations are associated with increasing academic grades.

Perceived parental support studies have found that students who perceive their parents as supportive and engaged in their academics have better outcomes.

The primary obstacles to family engagement at the school tend to be around communication, and conflicts in scheduling. E-mails, phone messages, or fliers were preferred for information exchanges that involve quick updates for yes/no questions. Phone calls or in-person communications were preferred for discussions about student performance or behavior. Also, language barriers continue to persist with technology use and need to be considered.

Strong partnerships and relationships with family and community are fundamental to positive out-comes. Research has shown that four foundational elements of partner collaboration are:

  • A focus on building respectful and trusting relationships
  • Supportive and engaged school leaders
  • Skilled staff that work to align and coordinate partners
  • Using data to determine and act upon priorities

By creating a school culture of inclusion and a feeling of community, a positive administrative leadership with strong and effective leadership, building positive partnerships through strong communication, respect, and commitment, and creating opportunities for family involvement, these are ways to increase parental partnerships and engagement at school, ultimately leading to increased student achievement.

When considering how to increase your school districts student achievement, sometimes it helps to look at all facets involved, as in this case, family engagement.

I hope to see everyone at the 64th Annual AASB Conference, Empowering the Whole Child!

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