Optimizing Parental Engagement in Urban Environments

Optimizing Parental Engagement in Urban Environments


Megan Skelton & Brigid Clark, Class of 2018



Studies have shown that there are lower levels of parental involvement in urban schools than suburban schools. Public urban schools have long been associated with low-income populations and low academic performance scores. Typically, parents who have a low income are less likely to be involved in their children's school life. This is due to the fact that they are too busy making sure that their family has the resources to simply survive, and it takes time away from their personal dedications to their family members. Increasing parental involvement is especially important in urban environments because of high family dissolution rates, numerous two-parent working famillies, and unique sociological pressures on children. 




Parental involvement in academics is often influenced by how much the parents believe their actions will lead to increased learning and achievement in their children. Educators greatly benefit when parents are involved in the classroom. They gain confidence in their efficacy to teach, the curriculum is transformed to include community aspects, and the classroom becomes more collaborative and caring in nature. When parents increase their involvement in the school, they can initiate change regarding standards, ensure adequate resources, and address issues with teachers. Parental attendance is more likely to help students assimilate material covered in school and enhances parent-teacher relationships, both of which positively affect grades.
















There are six common ways that teachers involve parents in their students' learning: 

(1) Providing parents with opportunities to be decision makers

(2) Regular communication between teachers and parents about school programs and their children's progress (written and verbal)

(3) Communicating with parents about ways they can help their children be successful in school

(4) Inviting parents to serve on a school improvement council

(5) Reaching out to diverse families

(6) Providing links to social service agencies to address family needs

Specifically in urban schools, the final two approaches are even more significant. Urban environments are often areas in which families from a variety of diverse backgrounds reside. Different languages, ethnicities, and levels of socioeconomic status make up urban schools, and as teachers, we must accommodate for this. Trying to understand backgrounds that are different than your own is so important because it helps you understand where your students are coming from and how their home lives might affect their academic performance. Providing information on social services within the community can also be very beneficial in an urban environment. Some families might not be aware of the resources they have access to, so making sure they know you're there to help will be comforting. This clearly must be done in a non-judgemental and non-discriminatory way, so as not to single out families you assume might need the social services. Both of these approaches can be helpful in improving parent-teacher relationships. Reaching out to families can show them that teachers truly care about their students' success. This can also improve relationships between the parents and children, knowing that each party involved is invested in academic success. 













We interviewed a senior at Miami University who is currently student teaching in a Cincinnati middle school. She is part of the Urban Teaching Cohort, and because of this we believe that her knowledge on this topic is valuable. We asked her four questions to gauge how involved parents are in her urban student teaching placement, and how she thinks involvement of parents could be improved. 

Q: What grade(s) do you teach?

A: 7th and 8th grade

Q: Have you observed much parental involvement? If so, in what forms?

A: I have seen parental involvement in my school. At my school, we have required student-led conferences, where the students do most of the talking, and the teachers and parents listen to what the student has to say. I have seen many parents come and actively participate in these conferences. Through the meetings, I am able to see that the parents do care for their children very much. We also have a lot of field experiences at my school. Parents are always willing to help with these. For example, we went camping for four days with our students and there was at least one parent there helping every day--sometimes 4 or 5. 

Q: What are some ways you think the parents of your students could be more involved in their schooling?

A: I think that parents could be more involved with their children's schooling by making sure that students have the resources and supplies that they need to successfully complete school, whether it be a binder or a school fee so that the child can attend a field experience. As I say this, I also recognize my privilege. Not all parents have the means of providing these school resources for their children. 

Q: Do you think increased parental involvement would be beneficial to your students' academic performance?

A: Middle school students are at a pivotal time in their schooling career. They are in the transition between elementary school where they were guided every step of the way by their teachers, to high school where students must be independent and take charge of their schooling. In middle school, I think that parents can become more involved with helping their child make that transition. They can help by guiding their student to independence. They can track their child's grades with them and encourage them to get their work done, but they can't do the work for them. They must learn to do it on their own with some assistance. 

This interview provided information from a personal experience in an urban school setting. It is clear that this school is working to involve parents both on an academic level and a more personal level. While there is always room for improvement, this school provides an exceptional example of how to incorporate aspects of the community into the students' learning experience. 


Works Cited


Cucchiara, M. B. & Horvat, E. M. (2009). Perils and promises: Middle-class parental involvement in urban schools. American Educational Research Journal, 46(4), 974-1004.

Diallo, A. (2017). [Margaret Moberg teaches her first-grade class at the Stanley Makowski Early Childhood Center]. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/07/a-rust-belt-citys-school-turnaround/534006/.

Jeynes, W. H. (2007). The relationship between parental involvement and urban secondary school student academic achievement. Urban Education, 42(1), 82-110.

Kessler-Sklar, S.L. & Baker, A. J. L. (2000). School district parent involvement policies and programs. The Elementary School Journal, 101(1), 101-118. 

[Parent-teacher conference with student]. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/going-to-school/parent-involvement/parent-teacher-partnership/.

Sheldon, S. B. (2002). Parents' social networks and beliefs as predictors of parent involvement. The Elementary School Journal, 102(4), 301-316.

Yan, W. & Lin, Q. (2005). Parent involvement and mathematics achievement: Contrast across racial and ethnic groups. The Journal of Educational Research, 99(2), 116-127.