Collaboration is a Two-Way Street

Conventional wisdom says that schools with high levels of parental involvement perform better. I believe this to be true, but I have also found (as the parent of three elementary school students) that teachers don’t necessarily relish the idea of heavy parental involvement. And I think I know why.

Today I read an article in Education Week that describes this tension. It suggests that a lot of parents only come forward when they have concerns or criticism, which creates a difficult dynamic, and it provides some examples of steps successful schools have taken to ensure a healthy level of parental involvement.

“In affluent areas, parents know they should be involved, but absent good guidance and a plan [from the school], they try to do too much,” said Joyce L. Epstein, who heads the Center on School, Fmaily, and Community Partnerships at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “It’s important for people to know they can take charge of this topic with research-based approaches … that work.”

Click here to read the full article.

My read is that a lot of the interactions between parents and teachers happen when the parents are already upset about something, which makes the conversations less productive than they might otherwise be. This rings true to me. I recently heard about the parent of one of my kid’s classmates who felt that the school should be providing more “gifted and talented” resources for her daughter. She raised the issue at a PTO meeting which immediately created a contentious dynamic with the school.

The successful schools cited in the article provide guidelines to ensure that parents and teachers are working together, collaboratively, rather than in a confrontational manner. It makes perfect sense.

I am interested in using the internet to improve communications between parent and teachers and I’d love to hear examples of ways that this is happening today. Have you heard of any?

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