A popular proverb with a clear message
It takes a village to raise a child is a popular proverb with a clear message: the whole community has an essential role to play in the growth and development of its young people. In addition to the vital role that parents and family members play in a child’s education, the broader community too has a responsibility to assure high-quality education for all students. In the past, parent involvement was characterized by volunteers, mostly mothers, assisting in the classroom, chaperoning students, and fundraising. Today, the old model has been replaced with a much more inclusive approach: school-family-community partnerships now include mothers and fathers, stepparents, grandparents, foster parents, other relatives and caregivers, business leaders and community groups–all participating in goal-oriented activities, at all grade levels, linked to student achievement and school success.
The research is clear, consistent, and convincing
Parent, family, and community involvement in education correlates with higher academic performance and school improvement. When schools, parents, families, and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer, and enroll in higher level programs. Researchers cite parent-familycommunity involvement as a key to addressing the school dropout crisis and note that strong school-family-community partnerships foster higher educational aspirations and more motivated students. The evidence holds true for students at both the elementary and secondary level, regardless of the parent’s education, family income, or background—and the research shows parent involvement affects minority students’ academic achievement across all races. Supporting teaching and learning requires addressing students’ social service needs, as well as their academic ones, and this broad-based support is essential to closing achievement gaps. The positive impact of connecting community resources with student needs is well documented. In fact, community support of the educational process is considered one of the characteristics common to high-performing schools.
How do parents, families, and communities get involved?
Parent, family, and community involvement means different things to different people. A research-based framework,6 developed by Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University, describes six types of involvement— parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community—that offer a broad range of school, family, and community activities that can engage all parties and help meet student needs. Successful school-parentcommunity partnerships are not stand-alone projects or add-on programs but are well integrated with the school’s overall mission and goals. Research and fieldwork show that parent-school-partnerships improve schools, strengthen families, build community support, and increase student achievement and success.
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