What are some critical perspectives?
One common criticism is that family participation in education is something that only middle-class and affluent parents can or will do. Many surveys have found that parental involvement with schools generally involves middle-or upper-class families. Middle-class families were also found to feel more comfortable with schools and tended to feel that they shared similar attitudes with the teachers. They also felt that self-initiated involvement was welcomed by the schools.
Recent research, particularly work done at Johns Hopkins University, suggests that this is not a full picture. They found that poor parents, single parents, parents with less formal education, and parents who are not native speakers of English did tend to become involved with schools when activities were scheduled or arranged to meet their needs. They were also more likely to become involved if schools made efforts to make them feel welcome.
This research also found that students from poorer families do better when parents, schools, and communities work together. Parents from poor backgrounds want their children to succeed, and research shows no significant class, race, or ethic differences in this regard. The only real difference is that some parents take the initiative to help their children, while others need more guidance and encouragement to do so. Poor parents may have less formal education, and they may be more wary of teachers and school authorities. These problems can be overcome with a good family, school, and community connections program.
Another criticism is that parents may get involved with schools to push agendas that help their own children at the expense of others in a school or district. Good school-and-family partnership programs should work to balance the needs of those parents who are highly involved and those who, for various reasons, are less involved or less vocal about their needs.
Some observers also feel that family-school partnerships are overly controlled by the schools and are not responsive to the needs and desires of parents and families. To address this issue, schools need to reach out to the community and become involved in community-based institutions. This will enable diverse groups from the community to become involved in problem solving and decision making. Some schools that have made the effort to be more inclusive have been rewarded by active community support for a range of reform and development projects.