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Involving Parents: Best Practices in the Middle and High Schools


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Full Version of Involving Parents: Best Practices in Middle and High Schools

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  A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement



A growing body of evidence recognizes that family and community connections with schools make a difference in middle and high school students’ success. This review, based on the work of Henderson and Mapp, recognized that a family’s income level does not affect the family’s level of involvement. Low-income families are as likely to be involved in their children’s learning as higher-income families. Parents with high involvement rating tend to have students with higher grades and scores, no matter what the level of family income or background.

At the middle school level, it is especially important for parents to do the following:


  • Discuss school activities,
  • Monitor out-of-school activities,
  • Contact school staff, and
  • Volunteer and attend parent-teacher conferences and other school events. [Esther Ho Sui-chu and Douglas Willms (1996)]


At the high school level, it is especially important for parents to do the following:


  • Guide their students toward postsecondary education,
  • Make sure they read and do their homework, and
  • Stress the value of education. (Catsambis, Fan, and Chen; Shumow and Lomax, Trusty)


Henderson and Mapp emphasize that all students, "but especially those in middle and high school, would benefit if schools support parents in helping children at home and in guiding their educational career. Studies that look at high-achieving students of all backgrounds found that their parents encourage them, talk with them about school, help them plan for higher education, and keep them focused on learning and homework. The continuity that this constant support provides helps students through changes of school, program, and grade level." (p 73)

Parents’ involvement in school should be linked to improving learning, developing students’ skills in specific subjects, and steering students to more challenging classes. The parent involvement programs should also develop close relationships between teachers and the families.

For additional information and research findings, see the complete versions for parents, teachers, and administrators.




So What


There are several implications for all of us based on the summary of the research of Henderson and Mapp. They share the following recommendations:

  1. Link all family and community engagement efforts to student learning.
  2. Recognize that all of us, regardless of income, education level, or cultural background, are involved in our students’ learning and want them to do well in school. 
  3. Create/Participate in programs that support families in guiding the students’ learning (Curriculum of the home). 
  4. Develop trusting and respectful relationships.
  5. Embrace a philosophy of partnerships and be willing to share power with families and educators. We - parents, school staff, and community members - must understand that the responsibility for the students’ educational development is a collaborative enterprise.
  6. Build strong connections between schools and community organizations.



Information for... Parents/Families should ask their school...



  • How do I get involved in my student’s learning? At home? At school?

  • How do I/we get involved in school? Do I/we know what our student is learning in school?

  • How do I/we share my/our expectations for post-secondary education?

  • How do we promote collaboration of school and community?



Information for... Teachers/Caregivers should ask...



  • How do I support the involvement of parents in my classroom?

  • What opportunities do/should I provide that will enable parent involvement to have a positive effect on my students’ learning?

  • How do I promote the students’ experiences and consideration for post-secondary opportunities?



Information for... Administrators should ask...



  • How do I support the involvement of parents in our school? The community in our school?

  • What opportunities do/should I provide that will enable parent involvement to have a positive effect on student achievement?



For additional implications, see the complete versions for parents, teachers, and administrators.

Now What



Some things you might consider as you seek to assure strong parent involvement at the middle and high school levels:



  • Share/Learn the families’ expectations for the students’ education.

  • Work with counselors to be sure the students are involved in classes that will help them reach family expectations.

  • Share/Learn effective practices in middle schools, which include interactive homework that involves parents with their students’ learning; workshops on topics suggested by parents (e.g., building students’ vocabulary, development of positive discipline strategies, supporting students through crisis); regular calls from teachers and leading with the positive; learning packets in reading, science, and math as well as training on how to use them; and meetings with teachers/parents to talk about progress. 

  • Involve/Get involved with the teachers and counselors at the high school to plan the students’ academic program; get information about program options, graduation requirements, test schedules, and postsecondary education options and how to plan for them; explanations of courses students should take to be prepared for college or other postsecondary education; and information about financing postsecondary education and applying for financial aid.

  • Build relationships! Through school visits, home visits, school events!

  • Prepare the students for the next level and help them plan for the future.



See the complete versions of best practices in the middle and high schools for specific ideas for parents, teachers, and administrators.

So What
Now What

Essential Learnings

  1. Programs and Interventions that engage families in supporting their children’s learning at home are linked to higher student achievement.
  2. The continuity of family involvement at home appears to have a protective effect on children as they progress through our complex education system
  3. Families of all cultural backgrounds, education, and income levels encourage their children, talk with them about school...
  4. Parent and community involvement that is linked to student learning has a great effect on achievement than more general forms of involvement...
  5. Programs that successfully connect with families and community invite involvement, are welcoming, and address specific needs of parents and community.
  6. Parent involvement programs that are effective in engaging diverse families recognize, respect, and address cultural and class differences.
  7. Effective programs to engage families and community embrace a philosophy of partnership...


unchecked checkbox Birth to 5
unchecked checkbox Elementary
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