The Seven P's of School-Family Partnerships

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Encouraging parents' involvement in their children's education is as American as apple pie. In fact, there is widespread support for the national education goal that states: "By the year 2000, every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children."

Research can play an important role in developing effective school-family-partnership programs. Two informative findings from our own research, for example, have practical implications for intervention. First, the quality of parent-teacher relationships, rather than the quantity of contacts, relates to improved student achievement and behavior. And second, teacher outreach to parents and parent perceptions of how welcome their involvement is are far more important than demographic factors such as race or socioeconomic status in determining parent involvement.

These findings emphasize that improving the constructiveness of parent-teacher relationships and increasing the ways in which teachers can influence parents' perceptions and practices are the keys to establishing effective partnerships between schools and families. Yet national surveys of parents and teachers show that several obstacles impede the implementation of parent-involvement activities. Two barriers are the most frequently cited: lack of training and lack of time. Only a small percentage of teachers, for example, report that they received any specific preservice training on parent involvement. Few colleges of education offer such a course. Beyond that, the teachers note that they already have multiple tasks to complete within a restricted time frame and with limited resources.

Given these realities, priority must be given to assisting teachers in overcoming these barriers to establish effective partnerships with parents.