Parents are considered a child’s first teacher before collaborating with classroom teachers. Given this, as children develop, steadfast parental involvement and engagement is fundamental to a youngster’s lifelong learning and growth. In fact, extensive studies have shown that continuous parent commitment has a positive correlation to a child’s academic performance and social skills.

With this in mind, what exactly is parent engagement in schools? How can a parent be engaged in their child’s learning? What are the benefits of parent engagement?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines parent engagement in schools as: Parents and school staff working together to support and improve the learning, development, and health of children and adolescents. When parents persistently support their children’s education and growth in the educational setting, there are significant paybacks associated with that support.

So, how can a parent be engaged in their children’s academic and developmental life?

Parents have engaged in their children’s learning through traditional methods, such as volunteering in the classroom and school functions, escorting field trips and other activities, attending parent-teacher conferences, and calling teachers to provide updates regarding their child. Below are other ideas to consider as illustrated in the Collaborating for Success – Parent Engagement Toolkit designed by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), the State Board of Education and the Office of Field Services (OFS):

  1. Read all information sent from your child’s school, including homework assignments, progress reports, report cards, class schedule, lunch plans.
  2. Let your child know you are well informed of what is happening at school.
  3. Help your child properly understand the significance of school. Ask questions about his or her day. Set up a quiet place to complete homework.
  4. Encourage your child to read their choice of books at home. Take turns reading with your child and ask questions about their thought.
  5. Develop consistent techniques to connect with your child by engaging him or her in common affairs topics. Respect your child’s opinions and perceptions without being judgmental.
  6. When your child seeks assistance with homework, offer tips, not answers, to help develop independent/critical thinking. You can encourage your child to review class notes, homework, and completed tests. If you feel your child is struggling and/or you are unable to offer support, write a note to the teacher.
  7. Be eager to learn from your child and express your gratitude for the ability of his or her knowledge and enthusiasm.
  8. When your child shows a lack of enthusiasm for learning, motivate him or her rather than expressing frustration.
  9. If you have students with disabilities, participate in meetings related to the evaluation, identification, and annual Individualized Education Program (IEP), a provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
  10. During your child’s IEP meetings, ask questions about the services that the school will provide, the goals and objectives, and any accommodations that will be provided to assist your child’s learning.

Now that we recognize what parent engagement is and how to engage in children’s learning, what are the benefits of parent engagement?

The following list of possible benefits linked to children’s learning success when parent engagement is evident:

  1. Students are more interested in school, which equals better grades.
  2. Regardless of students’ socio-economic status or ethnic or racial background, they typically demonstrate the potential to graduate from high school and possibly transition to post-secondary education or vocational training.
  3. Students display fewer behavioral issues, are more motivated to learn, and possess better self-esteem.
  4. Students exhibit more confidence and security even when they are considered disadvantaged.
  5. Students have shown promising protective sexual and reproductive health risk behaviors.
  6. Students are inclined to keep pace with their academic performance in and outside the school environment.
  7. Teachers experience a supported learning environment, which translates into higher student achievement.
  8. Students are less likely to engage in substance abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors.
  9. Income or social status is secondary because the home environment that typically encourages learning yields success.

Overall, parent engagement represents a partnership for promoting academic success for our students. Let us all continue to do our part for the betterment of our children’s future.

For more information and resources on parent engagement, visit the Michigan Department of Education.