Using Positive Student Engagement to Increase Student Achievement (page 3)

— The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement
Updated on Apr 30, 2014

Increase Parental Involvement  

Parental support is directly linked to student engagement in learning especially among African-American and Latino youth (Garcia-Reid et al, 2005; Richman, Rosenfeld, & Bowen, 1998). Therefore, schools must break down any barriers that impede parental involvement and work diligently to increase parental interaction at school and with their children’s schoolwork (Garcia-Reid et al., 2005). Schools can do this by creating a welcoming and inviting environment at the school for parents, providing opportunities for parents to collaborate with the school and/or teachers to identify support needs of the students, and keeping the lines of communication open. An example of open lines of communication is ensuring that schools with high English language learner or ethnic minority populations develop cultural and linguistically specific information (Garcia-Reid et al., 2005). However, it is important to note that parents do not have to be in the schools to be involved in their child’s learning; they can offer substantial support from home by reinforcing the importance of completing homework or attending classes. Additional information regarding this topic is available from The Center’s September 2006 newsletter, What Schools Want Parents to Know (

Focus on School Safety

Students who do not feel safe in school tend to have difficulty concentrating in class and retaining what was taught (Garcia-Reid et al., 2005). Therefore, schools need to create a safe refuge for students in the school. School leaders should set clear behavior expectations for students and encourage teachers and other staff to model expected behavior (Noonan, 2004). There are actions that a school could implement to sustain a safe, orderly, and equitable learning environment, including the following (Noonan, 2004; Spellings 2006):

    • Consistent and nondiscriminatory enforcement of school disciplinary action codes.
    • Accessibility to support staff, including school-based security personnel, counselors, and community volunteers.
    • Violence prevention programs where students learn how to avoid and/or properly respond to confrontations.

School safety is a key component in ensuring that students are schooled in an environment that allows them to focus on educational activities.

Offer Extracurricular Activities

Student engagement in the classroom also is related to participation in extracurricular activities, especially among students from low-income families (Fredricks & Eccles, 2006). The authors say students who are involved in extra curricular activities outside the normal school day have been found to be more engaged in the classroom. Extracurricular activities provide students with an opportunity to develop a positive support system among their peers and adult staff, which also are key components of fostering student engagement in the classroom (Heller et al., 2003). Schools could assist in fostering student engagement in learning by offering “structured activity settings”—such as student clubs, sports teams, and volunteer activities—to students outside the normal school day (Fredricks & Eccles, 2006). If money or staffing is an issue, seek out adult volunteers from the community or local colleges and universities to sponsor these organizations and activities. Participation in extracurricular activities can be very beneficial to the academic, social, physical, and emotional growth of students (Fredricks & Eccles, 2006).  

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