Strong leaders know that effectively engaging parents and families in the education of their children may be the most powerful component in successful school reform (National PTA, 1997; U.S. Department of Education, 1996; Dianda & McLaren, 1996). In a recent interview, U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley stated that since the community looks at principals as leaders, they must demonstrate that leadership if the school is to become a center for the community (NAESP, 2000).
The most effective management strategies of good leadership combine both top-down and bottom-up approaches to develop a collective vision and common sense of purpose for educational improvement (Senge, 1994; Annenberg, 1999; Bolman & Deal, 1991). A productive leader knows the benefit of bringing the school, family and community into balance and knows that the coordination of a shared vision engages all three spheres to enhance students' development, learning and success.
An effective leader considers families as full partners in planning and implementation. Melaville & Blank (1993) and Dauber & Epstein (1989) contend that one key to involving all parents is to create an atmosphere in which teachers, administrators and families are all seen as valuing parental involvement. Schools that are friendly and welcoming to family members have an easier time creating successful partnership programs (Davies, 2000).
Morrison (1994) found that a mixture of informal and formal activities works well. Parents can become engaged through social and recreational activities and, once engaged, are more likely to become involved in their child's education. It is also essential for schools to provide supports, such as childcare and transportation.
School leaders can provide or support in-service training for teachers and acknowledge and reward them when they use parent involvement. In one study, teachers who conducted several workshops for parents were more likely to request parental help with learning activities at home (Epstein, 1987). The researchers believe that a link exists between the investment of the teacher's and administrator's time in conducting workshops and the ensuing use of parents as partners in their children's education (Epstein, 1987).
Annenberg Institute for School Reform. (1999, Spring). Focus on leadership in public education. Public Engagement Today, 2.
Bolman, L.G., & Deal, T.E. (1991). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Dauber, S.L., & Epstein, J.L. (1989). Parent's attitudes and practices of involvement in inner-city elementary and middle schools. In N. Chavkin (Ed.), Families and schools in a pluralistic society (pp. 53-71). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Davies, D. (2000, September). How to build partnerships that work: Creating effective partnerships between schools, parents and communities isn't just a nice idea. It's a necessity. National Association of Elementary School Principals. Principal Online (On-line). Retrieved October 16, 2000, from the World Wide Web: http://www.naesp.org/comm/p0900b.htm
Dianda, M., & McLaren, A. (1996, July). A pocket guide to building partnerships for student learning (On-line). Washington, DC: National Education Association. Retrieved October 13, 2000, from the World Wide Web: http://www.nea.org/partners/pocket.html
Epstein, J.L. (1987, February). Parent involvement: What the research says to administrators. Education and Urban Society, 19(2), 119-136.
Melaville, A., & Blank, M.J. (1993, April). Together we can: A guide for crafting a profamily system of education and human services. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.
Morrison, M.T. (1994). Increasing parental involvement by motivating parents of fourth and fifth grade students to become more meaningfully involved in children's education. (Practicum Report). Miami, FL: Nova University.
National Association of Elementary School Principals. (2000, September). The 21st century principal: Opportunities and challenges. An interview with U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley and NAESP Executive Director Vincent L. Ferrandino. Principal Online (On-line). Retrieved October 16, 2000, from the World Wide Web: http://www.naesp.org/comm/p0900a.htm
National PTA. (1997). National standards for parent involvement programs. Chicago, IL: Author.
Senge, P.M. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. New York: Doubleday.
U.S. Department of Education. (1996, July). The role of leadership in sustaining school reform: Voices from the field. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved August 28, 2000, from the World Wide Web: http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Leadership/execsumm.html
Additional Useful References:
Annenberg Institute for School Reform. (1998). Reasons for hope, voices for change: A report of the Annenberg Institute on Public Engagement for Public Education. Providence, RI: Author.
Becker, H.J., & Epstein, J. (1982, November). Parent involvement: A study of teacher practices. Elementary School Journal, 83, 85-102
Becker, H.J., & Epstein, J.L. (1982). Influences on teachers' use of parent involvement (Report 324). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of Schools.
Decker, L.E., & Boo, M.R. (1996). Community schools: Linking home, school & community. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Education.
Epstein, J.L. (1995, May). School/family/community partnerships: Caring for the children we share. Phi Delta Kappan, 79(9), 701-712.
Epstein, J.L., Coates, L., Salinas, K.C., Sanders, M.G., & Simon, B.S. (1997). School,family, and community partnerships: Your handbook for action. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
Gillum, R.M. (1977, April). The effects of parent involvement on student achievement in threee Michigan performance contracting programs. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, New York.
Gross, S.J. (1998, May). Flying through the storm: Educational Leadership, 55(8), 31-33.
Henderson, A.T., & Berla, N. (1994). A new generation of excellence: The family is critical to student achievement. Washington, DC: National Committee for Citizens in Education.
Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (1995). The Leadership challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Kretzmann, J.P., & McKnight, J.L. (1993). Building communities from the inside out: A path toward funding and mobilizing community assets. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Education.
Lewis, A.C., & Henderson, A.T. (1997). Urgent message: Families crucial to school reform. Washington, DC: Center for Law and education.
Rioux, J.W., & Berla, N. (1993). Innovations in parent and family involvement. Princeton, NJ: Eye on Education.
U.S. Department of Education. (1997). Achieving the goals: Goal 8: Parental involvement and participation. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved October 10, 2000, from the World Wide Web: http://www.ed.gov/pubs/AchGoal8/