ParentNet® - Foundation in Research
ParentNet was developed and continues to evolve as a viable program for schools because it relies on the most current research on parent involvement. Through research, we know that parent involvement boosts academic success and student achievement regardless of socioeconomic standards. And experts are convinced of the importance of parent-school collaboration and what parents can do at home and school that makes a difference to children's success.
How ParentNet Supports the Research
Below are summaries and links to some of the research in the field that ParentNet has drawn upon in the development of its program. Following each summary is a statement of how ParentNet is designed to support the research.
Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University has developed a framework for defining six different types of parent involvement. This framework assists educators in developing school and family partnership programs. "There are many reasons for developing school, family, and community partnerships," she writes. "The main reason to create such partnerships is to help all youngsters succeed in school and in later life."
Epstein's framework defines the six types of involvement and lists sample practices or activities to describe the involvement more fully. Her work also describes the challenges inherent in fostering each type of parent involvement as well as the expected results of implementing them for students, parents, and teachers.
The following information is excerpted from Epstein's work, describing her framework of six types of involvement and sample practices that have been gleaned from extensive research:PARENTING: Help all families establish home environments to support children as students
- Parent education and other courses or training for parents (e.g., GED, college credit, family literacy).
- Family support programs to assist families with health, nutrition, and other services.
- Home visits at transition points to pre-school, elementary, middle, and high school.
COMMUNICATING: Design effective forms of school-to-home and home-to-school communications about school programs and children's progress.
- Conferences with every parent at least once a year.
- Language translators to assist families as needed.
- Regular schedule of useful notices, memos, phone calls, newsletters, and other communications.
- School and classroom volunteer program to help teachers, administrators, students, and other parents.
- Parent room or family center for volunteer work, meetings, resources for families.
- Annual postcard survey to identify all available talents, times, and locations of volunteers.
LEARNING AT HOME: Provide information and ideas to families about how to help students at home with homework and other curriculum-related activities, decisions, and planning.
- Information for families on skills required for students in all subjects at each grade.
- Information on homework policies and how to monitor and discuss schoolwork at home.
- Family participation in setting student goals each year and in planning for college or work.
DECISION MAKING: Include parents in school decisions, developing parent leaders and representatives.
- Active PTA/PTO or other parent organizations, advisory councils, or committees for parent leadership and participation.
- Independent advocacy groups to lobby and work for school reform and improvements.
- Networks to link all families with parent representatives.
COLLABORATING WITH COMMUNITY: Identify and integrate resources and services from the community to strengthen school programs, family practices, and student learning and development.
- Information for students and families on community health, cultural, recreational, social support, and other programs or services.
- Information on community activities that link to learning skills and talents, including summer programs for students.
- Service to the community by students, families, and schools (e.g. recycling, art, music, drama, and other activities for seniors or others).
ParentNet supports Joyce Epstein's framework, providing viable types of parent involvement in each of the six categories:
- Parenting: ParentNet meetings support families in a variety of ways. They give people a frame of reference for their parenting, a way to develop parenting skills, and methods for creating a learning environment at home. They also help form a community of caring adults, often there to support others when needed.
- Communicating: ParentNet builds home-to-school and school-to-home communication two ways. First, faculty liaisons are trained to work with parents and to bring parental concerns back to appropriate staff and administration. Second, written summaries of ParentNet discussions are sent to all grade-level parents and all teachers who work with those students.
- Volunteering: ParentNet provides volunteer and leadership opportunities for a wide array of parents, including fathers, working parents, and others not often active in other school programs.
- Learning at Home: ParentNet meetings provide information and ideas to families about how to help students at home with homework and other curriculum-related activities, decisions, and planning. Using the skills and experiences of those in attendance, as well as the faculty liaison, parents always leave with relevant ideas to use in their own family settings.
- Decision Making: ParentNet builds parent leaders in a school community. All ParentNet facilitators receive comprehensive training in communication skills and are trained to reinforce the "Parent Contract" in ParentNet meetings. This contract teaches all parents ways to communicate, make decisions, and problem-solve with the school that can be applied in board and committee meetings, teacher conferences, and advocacy groups. etc. ParentNet provides a network that links all parents in a grade to a group of parent leaders and representatives.
- Collaborating with Community: ParentNet leaders regularly collaborate with the community as they utilize its resources to enrich meetings, invite guest participants, and develop parent education programs that meet the needs of their parent population.
In their study "Parents and Teachers Talk about Parental Involvement in Public Schools," Public Agenda delves into just exactly what parent involvement means to teachers and parents and what types of involvement really make a difference to kids success. Their conclusion is that the most important type of parent involvement is what parents do in the home to teach respect, discipline, and a love of learning. Teachers want parents to hold kids accountable for their behavior and academic performance and provide an atmosphere at home that is conducive to learning. Parents want the same thing as teachers!
In ParentNet meetings, parents discuss ideas and strategies that help them make a difference at home. Common topics include how to set boundaries and limits, how to improve communication, how to hold kids accountable, and many other topics that help parents be better parents.
CRESST, a research unit of the UCLA Graduate School of Education has defined six characteristics that make a good school. Through sound research findings, CRESST concludes that what makes a good school has less to do with the configuration of the school or the socioeconomic standard of the neighborhood. There are successful schools in the inner cities of America, just as there are unsuccessful ones in the country's wealthy suburbs. What makes the difference between success and failure? Research shows that a good school has:
- Strong and professional administrators and teachers.
- A broad curriculum available to all students.
- A philosophy that says all children can learn if taught, coupled with high expectations for all students.
- A school climate that is conducive to learning. A good school is safe, clean, caring, and well-organized.
- An ongoing assessment system that supports good instruction.
- A high level of parent and community involvement and support.
One of the most prevalent and consistent findings in the research on good schools is that parent involvement makes a difference. Positive parent involvement has a significant impact on student achievement, student school attendance, and the central role of the school in students' lives. In good schools, parents:
- Participate with the school in establishing its organizational goals.
- Actively participate in developing the school's policy on discipline, grading, attendance, testing, promotions and retention.
- Visit with teachers and administrators at the school on regular basis.
- Inquire as to what happened at school on any given day and help children clarify concerns.
- Inquire about homework assignments, provide a place and time for students to complete their work and offer assistance to students as needed.
- Speak well of the school.
- Take stock periodically to determine if they, their children, and the school are together in their plans for their child's future.
- Recognize that children spend only a portion of the day at school and that much more of their time is spent at home; therefore much can and should be done at home to increase their child's learning.
- Join a school organization if at all possible.
- Listen to their children.
ParentNet helps parents become skilled at how to increase their child's learning, how to listen to children, and how to effectively offer assistance when needed. Not only do ParentNet meetings facilitate this type of sharing between parents, but the ParentNet contract teaches a model of effective communication that is useful in all levels of parent-school communications. In whatever ways parents participate in shaping the school community, ParentNet is designed to provide a foundation of respect that honors diverse opinions, open communication, and effective problem-solving.