A r c h i v e d I n f o r m a t i o n
Studies of Education Reform: Parent and Community Involvement in Education - 1995
Summary Review of the Literature
"Genuine reform," according to David Seeley (1981), author of Education Through Partnership, "depends on working on relationships -- with the home, community groups, politicians and business." There is a rich history of schools and the public they serve working together toward a common goal: the education of America's youth. Existing partnerships between schools and parents, families, and communities are being sustained; new and exciting partnerships are being forged throughout the nation.
Overview of the Summary Literature Review
This summary review of the literature synthesizes the current state-of-the-art in parent and community involvement; looks at the programs, practices, and their effects in the research and practice literature, especially since 1980; and ends with implications, conclusions and recommendations for research. The literature on middle grade (i.e., Grades 4 through 8) parent and community involvement programs and practices is highlighted throughout this review since activities in the middle grades are less well-developed and understood than those for earlier grades. This summary review was prepared from the larger literature review prepared as one of the major tasks of this study (Rutherford, Billig & Kettering, 1993). Additionally, we conducted another search of the literature since 1993 and source materials from this search are included here.
The initial literature review of the current state-of-the-art served two primary purposes:
- To assist researchers in the refinement of the plan for further research and as part of Studies of Education Reform: Parent and Community Involvement in Education, this review -- in combination with information gained through commissioned papers and a national conference -- provided the basis for fieldwork.
- To inform practitioners, policymakers, and other interested parties of the current state-of-the-art in parent and community involvement programs (where available, the review focuses on middle grade populations).
The conceptualization of parent and community involvement programs in Chapter 3 of this review involves the roles of parents and families (well established in research and practice), and community members (emerging as an important field of study) as they are facilitated in schools and school districts.
In 1991 the United States Department of Education commissioned twelve studies of different aspects of national educational reform. In the area of parent and community involvement, three areas were identified for concentrated study: l) districtwide programs, 2) school restructuring, and 3) adult-child learning experiences (home learning). This study focused on parent and community involvement in middle grades education including these three broad areas outlined in the original Request for Proposals.
To provide clarity, we define the three areas as:
- Districtwide programs. The emphasis of comprehensive district programs is on the variety of roles for parents and community members, particularly in schools with many educationally at-risk students. Such comprehensive programs might use innovative methods of communicating with parents on various educational and child development issues; on recruiting community members as volunteers in new, meaningful ways; and on developing other ways to make the programs attractive to different kinds of parents and community members. Collaboration with businesses and community service agencies such as flextime for school conferences or other school-related activities may also be considered.
- School restructuring. At the building level, schools may change their practices and structure in significant ways to encourage more parent involvement with emphasis on school initiated activities to promote contacts with all parents.
- Adult-Child Learning Experiences (home learning). Parents can extend their children's school learning through home activities such as reading; assisting with homework; encouraging family games, activities, and discussions; and improving their own parenting skills. Parents are assisted by the school staff through workshops, seminars and parent education courses or through suggestions from teachers for home learning activities.
Criteria for Selection and Inclusion
A determination of the sources to be selected and included in this review was made according to the following criteria:
- Timeliness. Primarily, research and materials related to practice included in this review have been conducted or developed after 1980. Materials that were developed prior to 1980 have been included if they were used as a foundation for later research or program development. It is worth noting that much research was done prior to 1980 when funding for research was more available.
- Grade level appropriateness. Every attempt was made to include literature and research on middle grade parent and community involvement programs. However, research and materials are across all grade levels. Items from other grades were included to provide an indication of the rich sources of information on parent and community involvement programs, and to illustrate the need for further research in the middle grades.
- Focus on the roles of parents, families, and community members as facilitated in the areas of home learning, school restructuring, or districtwide programs. The items included in this review focused primarily on one or more of the three topic areas mentioned above. Other items were included if they addressed the overall context of parent and community involvement in grades four through eight or if they laid the foundation for further research or material development in any of the three topic areas.
Limitations of the Review
This review of the literature is limited by the following factors:
- Structure of schools. Schools are rarely organized around middle grades, i.e., Grades 4 through 8. It is often difficult to separate those aspects pertaining to the middle grades from studies that include the early elementary grades (K-3) and/or secondary school grades (9-12).
- Overlap. In our review of research and practices in the schools, we found considerable overlap among these topics. When appropriate, we have indicated where issues under one topic are related to the other two.
The conceptual framework proposed for this study indicated three areas of interest: the context of parent and community involvement programs; the roles that parents, families, and community members assume in the education of their children; and the effects of promising programs on parents, students, school staff, schools, and school districts. This framework guided the review of the literature:
- What are the contexts within which parent and community involvement programs operate? How do these contextual factors influence those programs?
- What are the roles that parents, families, and community members assume in the education of their children?
How are these roles facilitated?
What key elements are specific to these areas?
What key elements cut across all areas?
What key resources are needed to design, develop, implement, and sustain these roles?
- What are the effects of promising programs on parents, students, school staff, schools, and/or school districts?
How are these effects assessed or determined?
Overview of the Chapters
Chapters 2, 3, and 4 contain a detailed discussion of parent and community involvement programs and practices. Chapter 5 draws conclusions, discusses implications, and recommends directions for future research direction.
[Summary Review of the Literature - Chapter 2]