Parent Engagement/Involvement Or Parent Compliance?

I think The Parent Trapped. Not. is a fairly odd post in The Daily Riff blog.

However, I was struck by one sentence in it:

“While educators beat the drum about the importance of parental involvement in their child’s education, many really mean parental compliance.”

I’m sure that’s true for some.  I wonder about “many,” though.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “Parent Engagement/Involvement Or Parent Compliance?

  1. Teachers need to understand the value and utility of certain types of family engagement as a tool to boost and/or accelerate student success. Unfortunately, most teacher training programs provide little or no information, research, promising practices, and/or resources in courses about this critical area.

    Teacher candidates may hear that “parent involvement is important” but that is the end of it. No one demystifies which family engagement practices initiated by the teacher will produce the best outcomes for students. This is like telling teachers that teaching reading is important but, oh, by the way, we are not going to tell you how to do it. So a lot of misconceptions persist–and in a vacuum, a blaming attitude tends to prevail at schools and some teachers (not all but still too many) just wish parents would “do what we say” (compliance) and leave the rest of the decisions to “the professionals”. This is especially true in low income neighborhoods. Schools lead with their mouths (telling parents what to do–assuming they aren’t doing anything much at home) instead of leading with their ears by listening to and validating what families are already doing and offering them some new ways of supporting their child’s learning. School is not the only place were powerful learning happens.

    So the result is some teachers may practice random acts of family engagement that is not really connected to anything. Some are naturally gifted at communicating with families–others need help to do it better. Some insist it is not their job (mostly because it wasn’t part of their pre-service course work and it makes them nervous). Most teachers still believe that having parent volunteers on the school site is the most important kind of parent involvement. Research reveals how parents are supporting their children’s learning at home is the the kind of involvement most related to student achievement. So teachers need to identify and validate what is already happening at home and build from that perspective in order to get the best possible outcome for students. Teachers need to understand the power of establishing a sense of shared responsibility for student success rather than “just drop them off and we will do the rest”. If that strategy worked, we would have closed the achievement gap by now. We need to come out of our silos and work together.
    This is the message of all the sites listed on the right hand column of this site. Especially the Harvard Family Research Project.

    Want to know how to get the most bang for you buck by implementing strategic family involvement practices in your classroom? Join the Family Involvement Network of Educators to learn how to start. It is free. You will reduce your stress level, feel more supported and best of all, boost and accelerate positive outcomes for your students.

  2. I’d like to know more about why you felt my post for the Daily Riff was “odd”. I have to tell you that the experience was unsettling, but the only “odd” part was probably the fact that I didn’t just accept the school’s rejection of my concerns and came up with a solution for my son that I hadn’t ever considered. I think the “norm” is for parents and students to just accept that they have no input and should just accept whatever a school hands out on an outdated assembly line of learning options.

    My perception of educators beating the drum about parental involvement when many really mean parental compliance is based both on my experience as a parent and as an educator who has spent many hours in teachers’ lounges listening to the gripes about parents who don’t show up and those labeled “helicopter” parents. My experience has been that “many” teachers only appreciate those parents who smile, nod and blindly support whatever they’re asked to support. Parents who dare to ask hard questions, attempt to influence policy, or share research are met with resistance and even rolled eyes.

    It is my sincere hope that we’ll reach a point in education where parents and students are welcomed as fully respected collaborators in the educational process instead of passive recipients of whatever schools are passing out.

  3. Cathy,

    I think that both in your post and in this comment you make some excellent points. I always wonder, though, when I read a story where the writer is so much in the right and others are so much in the wrong. It raises a red flag for me since I have seldom seen or experienced such black-and-white situations. I think a bit of self-critique and reflection adds so much more credibility. That it why I called it a “odd” though, in retrospect, instead of using that word I just should have said what I have said in this comment.

    I’m glad things worked out well for your child.


  4. Wow..I am actually a reflection junkie. I’m extremely supportive of educators and I tried very hard to be clear about understanding the pressures they were under in my post. I followed a process of working through proper channels and was respectful. I was shocked when I received the email from the principal referring to my information sharing as “rhetoric” and informing me that they would not respond to any further communication or schedule meetings.

    I thought I reflected honestly about knowing I was pushing buttons by sending links to grading practice research. It makes me sad to hear that an honest portrayal of my experience calls my credibility into question.

    I can see that your belief system around meaningful parent engagement is genuine and based on solid research and best practice experiences. It may be hard for you to imagine that my experience could have been so out of line because you are surrounded by others who share your beliefs and practices. Unfortunately, there are places and professionals that have not developed those same beliefs and practices. I have worked in a number of those places and I believe it may be more pervasive than you think.

    Now that I have discovered your wonderful collection of parent engagement resources, I am likely to share more “rhetoric” with other parents and colleagues who are working to make positive changes.

    Thank you for doing all the leg work. I hope that your reality regarding parent engagement becomes mine.


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