Parent Involvement: Improving the Parent Involvement Quotient
Author: Michael Webb
August 4, 2014
When it comes to parent involvement, the common phrase, “There is no ‘I’ in team,” helps us remember to work together. However, may it be suggested there is an “I” in team, and recognizing that “I” is essential to effective collaboration.
When referring to the “I” in team, it does not mean selfish, but rather refers to the question, “What can ‘I’ do to contribute to the efforts of the team?
The focus on how the “I” in team affects everyone is important for improving parent involvement in schools. If each member of an administrative team can focus on the paradigm “What can ‘I’ do to improve my parent involvement?” it will immediately begin the path to change.
Parent Involvement Quotient (PIQ)
One effective practice in identifying the “I” in team is to work with data and determine a baseline measurement. This measurement is known as the Parent Involvement Quotient (PIQ), but you may use any name you like. The point is to identify your school’s baseline score by using any best-practice strategy that helps measure parent involvement.
For this article, I am going to use Dr. Joyce L. Epstein’s framework of parent involvement from her book School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action. Her framework includes seven areas in which a school and parents can work together:
- Parenting – Assist families with parenting skills, family support, understanding child and adolescent development, and setting home conditions to support learning at each age and grade level. Assist schools in understanding families’ backgrounds, cultures, and goals for children.
- Communication – Communicate with families about school programs and student progress. Create two-way communication channels between school and home that are effective and reliable.
- Volunteering – Improve recruitment and training to involve families as volunteers and as audiences at the school or in other locations. Enable educators to work with volunteers who support students and the school. Provide meaningful work and flexible scheduling.
- Learning at Home – Involve families with their children in academic learning at home, including homework, goal setting, and other curriculum-related activities.
- Decision Making – Include families as participants in school decisions, governance, and advocacy activities through school councils or improvement teams, committees, and other organizations.
- Collaborating With the Community – Coordinate resources and services for families, students, and the school with community groups, including businesses, agencies, cultural and civic organizations, and colleges or universities. http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB11_ParentInvolvement08.pdf
Using a Framework to Find What Each “I” Can Do
- Create the PIQ Baseline. Score your school on a 1–10 point scale on each of the items in your strategy. A score of “1” represents your school is doing nothing related to the topic, and a score of “10” represents you are doing an exceptional job. Add up those scores and you have your initial PIQ score. If appropriate, have students and parents participate in the assessment as well.
- Validate Data. How do you know if the score you’ve given yourself is accurate? Did you go off of a hunch, or did you gather quantitative data? To achieve real improvement, you need to have accurate data. What are the numbers that measure your school’s level of parent involvement? You can gather numbers by looking at parent attendance at parent-teacher conferences, school events, survey-return rates, or the number of parent volunteers.
As an example, let’s look at the third item in the framework cited above: volunteering. Let’s say I have a 500-student campus with 800 parents identified via student information cards. I have 65 parents as members of the PTA/PTO, 15 of whom attend regularly. I might begin by assigning my school a score of 4 (1–10 scale) in that area.
- Connect the Data to Your Vision. Once you have accurate data from which to build, the next step is to connect the data to a vision. You have a baseline, so now you should ask yourself, “What would be different on campus if we raised our score just 1 point, 5 points or even 10 points?” This answer should help you and your team see the vision of what improvement could look like and be excited to move forward.
- Make It Happen. This is the last step where the “I” comes in. Obviously, one principal, teacher, staff member, or parent can’t do everything to improve parent involvement. Once you know the data and have your vision, each team member should ask, “What can ‘I’ do to make this happen?” One person could work on communication and another could work on increasing event attendance. Each team member shares what his or her contribution will be and makes a plan to start working.
Cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” In improving parent involvement, a team of “I’s” that are accountable to each other and work together can have great power. Each person plays an important role in achieving the goal. Ultimately, it’s through the proactivity of the “I’s” that the “we” becomes possible.