August 2007

Want more parents to get involved at your school? Personal invitations from teachers may be the way to go, according to a report in the May 2007 issue of the Journal of Educational Research.

Researchers surveyed parents at three urban, low-income elementary schools in the Southwest to find out how they made decisions about being involved in education. Parents said they were more likely to attend school events when they were specifically asked by a teacher or their child.

Being invited by teachers may be even more important for low-income parents because they are often perceived as participating the least. Although access to transportation, child-care issues, and time constraints have long been considered obstacles to involvement by low-income parents, the study determined that when teachers ask parents to take part, they find ways to work around these limitations.

However, school employees and parents often have different ideas about what qualifies as an invitation. Teachers and principals often consider flyers and newsletters sent home as such, but parents may perceive these as announcements of events, not invitations to participate. Casual conversations are more likely to be perceived as invitations than printed materials sent home with students.

Drawing a link between student success and parent involvement is also key to persuading parents. The degree to which parents believe that being involved in education will help their child be more successful is an important factor in their decisionmaking, the study reports.