Saturday, September 24, 2011

Funding Parental Engagement Services Is A Sound School District Policy

Dr. Michael A. Robinson

It has been stated many times over that organizations fund what they believe is crucial to their mission. When a monetary importance is attached to a strategic objective or an organizational goal, one is made aware of its significance to the organization. This basic management concept easily applies to the educational arena. The funding associated with a school district’s departments or units of family and community engagement allows stakeholders to potentially evaluate the significance school districts associate with the importance of parent and community involvement.

If school districts desire a robust and effective parental engagement program, one where families, communities, and schools become authentic partners in forming a high performing school system those departments must be sufficiently funded. A sense of priority is communicated to internal and external stakeholders when parent and community outreach programs are satisfactorily provided resources. Seminal researchers in the area of parental engagement do not suggest parent and community support programs and services be funded at the levels of academic and or student services. Albeit, research has shown effective parental engagement and community involvement policies and programs have a direct impact on student achievement while reducing strain on student service personnel who perform home visits, parent conferences, and or counseling sessions with students.

School districts which have elected to eliminate part or their entire parental engagement department in the name of budget reductions have a very limited understanding of the indispensable role parent involvement plays in relation to the academic success of students and school systems. Abolishing family and community outreach services, specifically those aimed at increasing parental and community connections to their neighborhood schools and the school district overall will result in an eventual eroding of confidence from parents about the real mission of their public school system. Failure of school leadership to embrace the impact of parents supporting learning at home while working in concert with school based leadership can do damage to the educational community that possibly will take years to reverse.

A strong recommendation for school districts considering reducing or eliminating their family and community outreach departments would be not to do so, but to re-consider the benefits to actually adding more resources and what it would mean to overall school performance. Finally, for those school districts which have severely reduced or eliminated their parent and community outreach services restore them as soon as possible. Re-establish the relationship with your families and community by committing to ensure effective two-way unfettered communication. A sound and fully supported program of services in the area of parental engagement will help schools in achieving its schools in closing achievement gaps, increase in the number of students enrolled in advance classes, assist in preparing students to career and college ready.

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