As a longtime school administrator, my primary professional goal has been constantly improving the educational experience for students and staff alike. This endeavor involves aligning the variables and resources conducive to a successful learning atmosphere, and one such factor is the crucial balance of parental involvement in the educational process. Parent engagement, in this sense, can be an important component of a student’s classroom experience, with countless studies and assessments noting how such relationships can lead to better student academic performance, behavior, and social health – not to mention a stronger, more transparent relationship between educators and parents.
Over the last few decades, the link between academic success and positive parental engagement has become undeniable. By bridging certain aspects of a student’s in-class and at-home lives, districts can facilitate a more seamless, organic learning experience and position that student for future success. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reinforces these facts, noting: “Parent engagement in schools is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage parents in meaningful ways, and parents are committed to actively supporting their children’s and adolescents’ learning and development … parent engagement [also] makes it more likely that children and adolescents will avoid unhealthy behaviors.”
A 2021 Positive Action assessment further underscores these benefits, suggesting that increased parent involvement can potentially reduce absenteeism, improve parent and teacher satisfaction, and establish open communication to ultimately strengthen student performance.
Such values came to a head during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw districts rapidly shifting to a remote learning format and blurring the line between school and home. This new, uncertain approach often thrived from parental engagement – as has ongoing COVID recovery efforts within districts. One 2020 study found that, even amidst ongoing obstacles and difficulties associated with the pandemic, most observed parents engaged in online learning activities when appropriate, contributing to improved student involvement despite a general lack of traditional classroom structure.
Furthermore, a 2022 Brookings assessment emphasizes the importance of increased parent-school engagement to bolster districts’ COVID response to benefit student learning – especially for students of color and students from low-income families. The assessment notes:
“More than two and a half years later, the cumulative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and their caregivers are coming into clear view … these concerns are heightened for children of color, who were significantly more likely to lose a parent or caregiver from a COVID-19 related death. Learning rates slowed during the pandemic for most students, and even more so for students of color and students from low-income families … family engagement in COVID-19 recovery efforts cannot be an afterthought.”
However, if mishandled or overlooked, parent engagement can create a countereffect – or, at the very least, a missed opportunity. For instance, some parents may feel alienated if they cannot get involved due to life circumstances and scheduling conflicts. In these situations, schools should take steps to open up new lines of communication to keep these parents apprised. What’s more, districts should also work to establish home-classroom boundaries when necessary, mitigating the possibility of encroachment or distraction, which might otherwise undermine a teacher’s or parent’s ability to positively contribute to the broader interaction.
Regardless of the situation, all such relationships should exhibit balance, cohesion, and mutual willingness to aid students in their academic endeavors. Therefore, as administrators, we must empower our educators to forge stronger parent connections, bolstering a more productive and comfortable school experience.