children & youth public policy analysis:
Increasing parental participation in education in DC
These comments demonstrate a frustration withthe seeming lack of commitment of parents tothe education of their children. Absent anassessment of actual engagement andengagement opportunities, however, it isirresponsible to extrapolate fact from anecdotessuch as these.
It is particularly irresponsible tomake public policy decisions on anecdoteswhen we can collect and use data
and whenwe consider comments like this one:"A lot of parents now are working parents.Parents do not have time to do that or havetime to meet just to meet. Woodson hasCollege Access Expo
program, which has goodresources and is useful for parents. It is amistake to assume parents are not involvedjust because they don’t come to meetings."
Barriers to parent engagement intheir children’s education
Research is rife with reasons for parental disen-gagement from their children’s education:•Poor parental literacy.•Bad personal educational experiences may leadparents to avoid their children's educational andschool needs.•Work constraints.•Lack of child care.•Transportation.•Disabilities.•Personal or familial health issues.•Uncertainty how to engage and be engaged.•Language.
Benefits for parents:
•More confidence in the school•Higher teacher expectations of theirchildren•Higher teacher opinions of them as par-ents•More self-confidence•More likely to continue their own educa-tion
Benefits for schools:
•Improves teacher morale•Higher ratings of teachers by parents•More support from families•Higher student achievement•Better reputations in the community
Summary of the research:Parental engagement benefitsfor parents and schools
Poor parental literacy:
Approximately 37 percent of the 170,000 Districtresidents age 16 and older operate at the lowestdefined level of literacy, or “below basic.”Functioning at the “below basic” level equates tohaving difficulty finding an intersection on astreet map, filling out a Social Security cardapplication, or adding up the total costs of purchases on a retail store receipt.
Perhaps the most obvious constraint is workingfor an hourly wage. These employees aresignficantly less able to take the time they needto attend to their children's educational needs. Asimilar constraint is shift work. There arethousands of shift workers in the District andmany of them are District governmentemployees (think police, firefighters and EMTs/paramedics). Their work schedule limits, if notprohibits, their participation in school activities.These constraints, then, effect more than low-wage workers.
In the District, just under 10 percent of residents report having a disability in 2007.This means, of the 404,199 residents, 45,837have a disability.
Certainly, no one is suggestingthat anyone who has a disability is disengaged;rather, having a disability presents a barrier toengagement.
Details about parental barriers toengagement