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Volume 13, Number 5
September/October 1997

Making the Connection Between Families and Schools

Parents can tell us a lot about what makes a good family-school connection


Researchers and practitioners have long acknowledged a strong link between parent involvement and children's success in school. Studies conducted over the last 30 years have identified a relationship between parent involvement and increased student achievement, enhanced self-esteem, improved behavior, and better school attendance.

But despite this evidence, family involvement in schools throughout the United States remains minimal. In an attempt to explain this, researchers including James Comer, Joyce Epstein, and Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot have identified some of the factors that contribute to the gap between parents and schools that can be difficult to bridge. (In this article, "parent" refers to any adult caretaker.)

Factors such as cultural, racial, and economic differences between school staff and parents can lead to incorrect assumptions and stereotyping on both sides. Parents are often apprehensive about making contact with school staff: They may feel that they have no business talking to teachers whom they consider the "education experts." Other obstacles, such as work schedules, inadequate child care, and lack of transportation can also limit parents' active involvement in schools.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


Also by this Author

    For Further Information

    For Further Information

    A. Lareau. "Social Class Differences in Family-School Relationships: The Importance of Cultural Capital." Sociology of Education 60, no. 2 (April 1989): 73-85.

    S. Lawrence-Lightfoot. Worlds Apart: Relationships Between Families and Schools. New York: Basic Books, 1978.

    J. P. Comer. School Power. New York: Free Press, 1980.

    J. Epstein. "Effets on Student Achievement of Teachers' Practices of Parental Involvement." Advances in Reading/Language Research 5 (1991): 261-276.