What are the benefits of family and community connections?
There are numerous benefits from well-implemented school and community partnership programs. They include increased student attendance, higher achievement and report-card grades, a sense of greater security, fewer behavioral problems, and an increase in positive attitudes about school and homework.
Sue Doubler, a Project Director of TERC Student and Scientist Partnership Conference talks about a project that involves local scientists in the classroom. She also talks about combining assessment in this program.
Research also finds that parent participation tends to decline as students get older, unless school programs are put in place to encourage it. Affluent communities tend to have better connections to schools. Poorer communities need to organize programs that reach out to parents to increase involvement. Poorer communities tend to have more negative perceptions about parent involvement; this is largely because without a planned program, contacts tend to occur only when students have problems or are in trouble.
The studies also find that most families are concerned with their children's education and want to help them succeed in school. Just about all teachers and administrators express interest in increased parental and community involvement. Despite their common interest in helping children succeed, however, teachers and parents may not communicate with each other, in part because of past fears and frustrations experienced by both sides. Good family-and-school partnership programs work to overcome these challenges, so that all parents can be involved in their children's education across the grades in positive ways. Planned partnership programs are needed to ensure equal participation by school, family, and community -- rich or poor.
Another benefit of these programs is to help educators and families cope in an increasingly diverse society. According to a recent article "Quality Counts," "nearly 1/3 of school age children in the United States are members of minority groups compared with 12% of teachers. The proportion of African Americans in the teaching force has declined in recent years and that of Latino teachers has increased only slightly. But the percentage of K-12 students who are members of minority groups is in the midst of a long and steep incline." (EDUCATION WEEK, 1/13/00. v. 19.no. 18. p.32) Working together can help teachers, parents, and students find common ground and avoid the pitfalls that can occur when people misunderstand the motivations and ideas of those from other cultures.
Recent research has also demonstrated an important role for fathers in helping increase student achievement. Children whose fathers are involved with schools have a higher likelihood of getting better grades than those whose mothers alone are involved. Children whose fathers are involved are also less likely to get suspended or expelled in middle and high school. Because many traditional programs for "parental involvement" have really meant "maternal involvement," it is important that family and school connection programs reach out to fathers and work to include them in as many types of school-related activities as possible.