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How Important is Parent Engagement?

June 25, 2012 / by Pat Wasley

At the end of the school year, report cards, performance reviews, and assorted rankings are being churned out one after the other—for students, for teachers, for schools and districts. The bottom line for all the reports should be one thing:  improving student outcomes. And, with so many districts across the country facing budget cuts it becomes a bigger hill to climb for most educators.

So, I began to think, what is something that costs little or no money to do—that can improve student outcomes? My conclusion: Nurturing and growing teacher-parent engagement. The encouraging news: There is evidence that parent engagement is improving – in fact it has increased significantly during the past 25 years according to The MetLife Survey of Teachers, Parents and the Economy.

Here's what MetLife is concluding in a survey released just last March.

"Most teachers (91%) and parents (80%) agree that their/their child's school helps all parents understand what they can do at home to support a student's success in school, and 83% of students agree that their teachers and parents work together to help them succeed in school."

parent school engagement stats

The  survey  goes  on  to  show  that  64%  of  students  now  say  they  talk  to  their  parents  about school  daily, compared  to  40%  in  1988.  And,  students  who  say  their  parents visit  school  at  least  once  a  month  has  increased  from  16%  in  1988  to  nearly  50%  today.

parent engagement in school stats

It is encouraging to see that parents give teachers high marks for engaging them in their children's education — nearly  80% saying teachers do a  "good"  or  "excellent"  job at supporting parent engagement.

That's progress, and a good starting point. Still, there is work to be done. The survey also reveals that the level of parent engagement declines as students reach middle school, and falls even more at the high school level.

Something else stands out for me about this study: teachers are more than twice as likely to be satisfied with their jobs if they teach in schools with high parent engagement.  (57% vs. 25%)

So, let's think this through together. If we know parents are a key part of the equation in improving student outcomes, and we know teachers enjoy their jobs more if parents are engaged—how can we keep parents involved as students reach the higher grades? What forms of parent engagement are most likely to help you, as teachers?

Let's be proactive, have a positive attitude, and think of things together that can be done regardless of a school budget. As part of the Tch community, share your ideas.

What are the Top 3 things you believe would promote better parent engagement and improve student outcomes?

I'll start the list with my Top 3, please add yours!

  1. In your introductory letter to parents, give them the statistic from the Met Life survey that relates parent engagement to teacher satisfaction and tell them that it's definitely true for you.
  2. Ask your principal to make a special point in his or her newsletter to enlist parent engagement by listing the ways parents can become involved, and by helping parents understand that their engagement is important to everyone in the school.
  3. Tell your students why it is important for you to have them involved, and ask them to encourage their parents.

Topics: Class Culture, Teacher-Family Engagement, Communicating with Families

Pat Wasley

Written by Pat Wasley

Pat Wasley is the Chief Executive Officer for Teaching Channel. Pat began her education career as a public school teacher in the U.S. and in Australia. She has been a public school administrator, a researcher, a university professor and a dean of both the Bank Street Graduate School of Education and the University of Washington College of Education.

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