In communities where parents are involved in their children's education, students achieve more than children whose parents do not become involved in school activities. Realizing the importance of parent involvement in student success, schools have to make an effort for parents to become and stay involved in their children's education.
School and family share a major responsibility because both of them influence the educational success and failure of their children. For example, when students fail, "some blame the child and the family for their weaknesses and deficiencies. Interestingly, if students succeed, schools and families both claim responsibility, and sometimes even acknowledge each other's contribution to 'children's success'" (Epstein, 1992). Agreeing to share the contributions represents a functioning partnership; however, this may not be the case in communities where obstacles lie between the school and the family.
Maintaining workable partnerships to increase or improve parenÂ¬tal participation in school activities involves the removal of certain obstacles. One in particular is the situation where teachers contact the parent only when the child is experiencing learning or behavioral problems in school. Another barrier is the practice of some parents, who do not contact the school unless their child is experiencing or showing signs of unusual distress at home.
Schools without significant parental involvement should look critically at their practices to stay in contact with the home. In some communities, the schools may inadvertently create limitations that bring about the following barriers: (a) physical, (b) social, (c) emotional, and (d) communication. Physical barriers relate to the frustrations parents have in making arrangements to attend school events. For some parents, the problems might be finding a babysitter, having inappropriate transportation, or being unable to take time away from work.
In terms of social barriers, the limitations have to do with family values regarding education. Also, there are households in which personal and social problems prevent parent involvement (e.g., drug dependency, alcoholism, mental illness, homelessness). As for emotional barriers, it is difficult to erase the unpleasant memories of parents who had negative experiences or social rejection when they attended school. In addition, they may be reluctant to voice concerns about the school or the teacher, not wanting to cause problems for their children.
Last, communication barriers relate to the methods used to keep parents informed and the welcome they receive when attending school functions. If parents do not read or speak English, then written and verbal communications should be in their native language.
School and family partnerships can thrive if these barriers are addressed from the perspective of understanding the choices that parents make concerning their ability to support school activities. The level at which parents may or may not participate does not affect their primary interest in the safety of their children at school.