Parent engagement in schools is defined as parents and school staff working together to support and improve the learning, development, and health of children and adolescents.1,2 Parent engagement in schools is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage parents in meaningful ways, and parents are committed to actively supporting their children’s and adolescents’ learning and development.1,2 This relationship between schools and parents cuts across and reinforces children’s health and learning in multiple settings—at home, in school, in out-of-school programs, and in the community.
Engaging parents in their children’s school life is a promising protective factor. Research shows that parent engagement in schools is closely linked to better student behavior,3-6 higher academic achievement,7-9 and enhanced social skills.10,6 Parent engagement also makes it more likely that children and adolescents will avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as sexual risk behaviors and tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use.11-14
Efforts to improve child and adolescent health have typically addressed specific health risk behaviors, such as tobacco use or violence. However, results from a growing number of studies suggest that greater health impact might be achieved by also enhancing protective factors that help children and adolescents avoid multiple behaviors that place them at risk for adverse health and educational outcomes.
Strategy Guide for Engaging Parents in School Health
To encourage parent engagement in school health, schools can:
Individual schools and school districts should determine which actions are most feasible and appropriate, based on the needs of the school and parents, school level (elementary, middle, or high school), and available resources. Schools should also evaluate their efforts to increase parent engagement in school health to learn which actions have the greatest impact.
Fact Sheets on Promoting Parent Engagement
- Overview Brochure [pdf 4M]
- For School Districts and School Administrators [pdf 851K]
- For Teachers and Other School Staff [pdf 747K]
- For Parents and Families [pdf 723K]
Staff Development Program for Engaging Parents in School Health
Staff development is critical to helping school staff strengthen their abilities to involve parents. This program is designed to help school staff ―
This guide provides the step-by-step procedures, activities and exercises, handout materials, resources, and PowerPoint® presentation (with facilitator narrative and notes) needed to implement this staff development program. In addition, an e-mail template to use in promoting the availability of this program to school staff—and inviting them to participate—is included.
- Epstein JL. School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Preparing Educators and Improving Schools Second Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press; 2011.
- National Family, School, and Community Engagement Working Group: Recommendations for Federal Policy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project; 2009. Available at www.ncpie.org/docs/FSCEWkgGroupPolicyRecs.pdf.
- Epstein J, Sheldon S. Present and accounted for: improving student attendance through family and community involvement. The Journal of Educational Research 2002;95(5):308–318. 1998;20:245-260.
- Sheldon SB. Parents' social networks and beliefs as predictors of parent involvement. Elementary School Journal 2002;102(4):301–316.
- Flay BR, Allred CG. Long-term effects of the Positive Action Program. American Journal of Health Behavior 2003;27(1):S6–S21El
- Nokali NE, Bachman HJ, Votruba-Drzal E. Parent involvement and children's academic and social development in elementary school. Child Development 2010;81(3):988–1005.
- Fan X, Chen M. Parental involvement and students’ academic achievement: a meta-analysis. Educational Psychology Review 2001;13(1):1–22.
- Jeynes WH. A meta-analysis: the effects on parental involvement on minority children's academic achievement. Education and Urban Society 2003;35:202–218.
- Jeynes WH. The relationship between parental involvement and urban secondary school student academic achievement: a meta-analysis. Urban Education 2007;42:82–110.
- Hawkins JD, Catalano RF, Kosterman R, Abbott R, Hill KG. Preventing adolescent health-risk behaviors by strengthening protection during childhood. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 1999;153:226–234.
- Perry CL, Williams CL, Veblen-Mortenson S, Toomey TL, Komro K, Anstine PS, et al. Project Northland: outcomes of a communitywide alcohol use prevention program during early adolescence. American Journal of Public Health 1996;86(7):956–965.
- Storr CL, Ialongo NS, Kellam SG, Anthony JC. A randomized controlled trial of two primary school intervention strategies to prevent early onset tobacco smoking. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2002;66:51–60.
- Guilamo-Ramos V, Jaccard J, Dittus P, Gonzalez B, Bouris A, Banspach S. The Linking Lives health education program: a randomized clinical trial of a parent-based tobacco use prevention program for African American and Latino Youths. American Journal of Public Health 2010;100(9):1641–1647.
- Resnick MD, Bearman PS, Blum RW, Bauman KE, Harris KM, Jones J, et al. Protecting adolescents from harm. Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health. Journal of the American Medical Association 1997;278(10):823–832.
- Epstein JL. School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action. 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press; 2009.
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