Developing Parent–School Partnerships
Roles for Parents in the Child’s Development and Learning
Parents have always been active in the schools. When my father was an elementary school student in the early 20th century in Austin, Texas, mothers took turns going to the school to prepare lunch for the children. Parents have traditionally helped with school parties and volunteered in the classroom. Parent–teacher organizations have raised money to provide needed books, equipment, and other materials that are not in the school budget. The idea of a partnership with parents goes beyond helping with school programs. The National Association of Elementary School Principals has developed standards for early childhood education that denote the relationship with parents as a partnership. The indicators for this partnership describe new dimensions of parent–school relationships. In the standards, the following statement is made (National Association of Elementary School Principals, 1998, p. 22): “Parent involvement is of basic importance to the success of all elementary school programs. For an early childhood program, it is crucial and should be a high priority for the principal.” Standards descriptors for the partnership include the following (National Association of Elementary School Principals, 1998):
- Parents share development of the school’s educational program, and so understand and support it. In meetings, newsletters, conversations, and other ways, the principal and staff provide information about the developmental philosophy of the program and its goals.
- Parents are helped to increase their effectiveness in working with their children, both at school and in the home, through their involvement in the school’s work and their participation in classrooms, meetings, and conferences.
- Parent concerns regarding parenting and their individual performance as parents are addressed both formally and informallythrough conferences, newsletters, workshops, and in personal conversations.
- Parents are actively involved in the school site council, making decisions about the program.
- A reciprocal relationship is formed and nurtured. Teachers recognize that parents have valuable information to share about their children. All parties seek to make both school and home places where young children feel secure and enjoy success.
The last descriptor declares that parents have valuable information to share about their children. This includes active involvement in the assessment of children’s progress in development and learning. Communication with parents is not limited to reporting to parents, but also includes them in the information-gathering process when children are assessed.
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