Four quick tips about increasing family involvement in public schools

Joe Nathan
ECM Contributing Writer

Professor Joyce Epstein has a number of startling, research-based views on family involvement.  She’s coming to Minneapolis to share her ideas and suggestions in a free, public presentation at 6 p.m. on Nov. 10.

Epstein is a fine speaker, and has been asked to share her research throughout the world. More information is available at http://www.csos.jhu.edu/p2000/center.htm

Here are several key things she has discovered:

• The best predictor of family involvement in city schools is not the income, race, or marital status of the family.  The best predictor of family involvement is what the school and educators do to promote it. She has lots of examples of how schools can and are doing to encourage family involvement.  She’ll share some of this on Nov. 10.

• There are six different forms of family involvement. They have a different impact on students. For example, volunteering in your child’s school does not necessarily improve the achievement of your own child. Neither does serving on a school committee. Both are valuable in other ways. But these forms of involvement won’t necessarily produce higher achievement for your own youngster

• The form of family involvement that does the most to improve student achievement is to help families understand what they can do at home to improve a student’s skills. Many of these things can be fun, like going to a grocery store and practicing basic math skills. “What’s a better bargain, two half gallons of milk at $2 each, or a gallon that costs $3.50?”

• Family involvement through high school has great benefits for youngsters. It helps produce better attendance, grades, behavior, and attitudes. Again, what the school does to help families can and has produced more family involvement.

• Each school should have a team that produces a yearly family involvement plan.The school leader should be a part of this team, and it should have a budget to help carry out its activities. The team should include some parents and in a high school, some students.

Epstein’s federally funded Center has produced many materials that schools can share with families to help them with their youngsters. Some of the best use the federal government has made of our taxes has been to support Epstein’s work for more than 20 years.She calls these “TIPS…Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork.” See http://www.csos.jhu.edu/p2000/tips/index.htm

Schools can learn from each other. Currently more than 1,000 schools, 100 school districts and 17 state departments of education are part of the National Network of Partnership Schools that Epstein and her colleagues have created.

Dr. Epstein will be speaking at 6 p.m., Nov. 10, North High School, 1500 James Ave in Minneapolis. Several groups, including the Center for School Change (where I work), Minneapolis Public Schools, Growth and Justice, MinnCan and the Department of Organizational Leadership at the University of Minnesota are co-sponsoring this. Seating is limited. Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius will provide a welcome. Please RSVP if you want to attend, csc@macalester.edu.

Joe Nathan, formerly a public school teacher, directs the Center for School Change at Macalester College.  Reactions welcome, jnathan@macalester.edu

up arrow