Many scholars have coincided about the importance of healthy parent-teacher interactions as a means of improving overall student success. However, what are literal methods, procedures, or programs that target and increase family involvement? This review of two articles published by professionals on Education Week, an independent news organization that covers all news related to K-12 education, will discuss just that. The two articles up for analysis include “Improving Parent-Teacher Relationships Can Help Students Succeed, Study Finds” and “Dream Teams: What Happens When Adults and Students Come Together to Shoot for the Stars.” The first article is by Kate Stoltzfus. Stoltzfus is a commentary associate at ED Week who manages ED Week Teacher Blogs and is a contributing writer to ED Week Teacher through Teaching Now Blow and special reports. The second article is from Tyler S. Thigpen a partner at Transcend, a national nonprofit focused on accelerating innovation in the core design of school, and a co-founder of MENTOR Georgia and The Forest School: An Acton Academy in South Metro Atlanta.
According to Stolzfus, there exists a plethora of professional development geared towards helping teachers improve for students. However, parents are often left out of this development. Going off a study published by the University of Missouri seeking to improve parent-teacher and student-teacher relationships, Stolzfus analyzes ways in which schools can measure and improve parent participation (2017).
Thigpen, on the other hand seeks to change the nature of student and parent roles in the learning environment entirely. He asserts that the old-school model of teaching whereby students are passive and obedient beings who comply to adult direction is outdated. In this model parents are in the periphery, they are kept at distance which makes it hard to assess the needs of their child and how to help address those needs. Thigpen offers insight on how to effectively change this relationship, proffering that students rather than parents are unifiers of their communities and schools.
A Closer Look
The University of Missouri study randomly selected 105 teachers from 9 urban schools (representing over 1800 K-3 students) to participate in a professional development program to improve teacher’s relationships with students and parents. The study found teachers “who participated in the training were more like to develop favorable perspectives of parental involvement (attending meetings, volunteering, and visiting the school)” (Stolzfuz, 2017). In turn, “parents whose children studied with those teachers were more likely to be involved and have a better parent-teacher relationship” (Stolzfuz, 2017).
Using the data garnered from the study, Stolzfus describes how response from teachers indicated students with more parental involvement exhibited more successful academics and fewer behavioral problems compared to students with little parental involvement.
Thigpen meanwhile supports a new model of teaching where young people have opportunities to be active drivers of their learning. In this model, parents are active partners in their child’s learning, they know how to partner with educators to support the learning community.
The Suggested Approach
Stolzfus, referencing the University of Missouri study, suggests that professional development training target teacher’s biases, makes support plans for students with behavioral issues, and implement learning strategies to improve communication and collaboration with parents (2015). She also recommends that trainings help teachers develop meaningful relationships with parents. In acknowledging that parent-teacher relationships are affected by parent’s race, ethnicity or immigrant status, Stolzfus beckons that teacher are mindful of how their perceptions influence student development.
Thigpen’s approach differs from Stolzfus’ in many ways. He supports a more pragmatic approach to the problem of increasing parental involvement. He backs a practice called Dream Teams, designed by Achievement First Greenfield. Dream Teams are community of “champions” (family, peers, teachers, and community members) who rally around each child to help them articulate and pursue their greatest potential (2018). Dreams Teams are designed to help learners and families embrace new roles under the new model of teaching (detailed above).
In Dream Teams, students are the leaders, they pull together the community. They host informal and formal meetings with their Dream Team members (comprised of the individuals of their choosing so long as it is representative) to confer their goals with and to tell them about their learning experiences. Thigpen asserts this practice as one that builds trusting and healthy relationships, holds kids accountable, and gives kid agency over their learning while simultaneously strengthening the family, community, and school engagement (2018).
In comparison, Thigpen’s approach seeks to enable the students as a means of increasing involvement of teachers, parents, community members, and peers whereas Stolzfus merely looks to change the ways teachers interact with students and parents.
Thigpen, Tyler S. (2018). Dream Teams: What Happens When Adults and Students Come Together to Shoot for the Stars?. Retrieved from Edweek Blogs, http://blogs.edweek.org/.
Stoltzfus, K. (2017, February 24). Re: Improving Parent-Teacher Relationships Can Help Students Succeed, Study Finds. Retrieved from Edweek Teacher Blogs, http://blogs.edweek.org/.