Building effective partnerships with parents requires utilization of diverse communication strategies. Productive partnership is an outcome of teachers and parents engaging in a collaborative exchange of ideas that is more than simply sharing assessment and instruction information (Shapley & Case, 2004). Diverse communication strategies requires knowledge of two-way compared to one-way communication strategies (Barbour and Barbour, 2001; Berger, 2000; Townsend, 2009). While one-way communication strategies such as newsletters, school handbooks, and progress reports, help to keep parents informed about school activities and policies, effective partnership with parents requires proficiency with two-way communication strategies.
The reality that problems exist for families, regardless of their socioeconomic status (SES) is indisputable. A social justice mindset recognizes social conditions creating an opportunity gap are leading indicators in education and must be addressed if we ever want to truly mitigate the trailing indicator known as the achievement gap. Mehlinger (1995) posits, “If America’s poor children could be provided the same conditions for growing up, including the same quality of schools, as those afforded to middle-class suburban youth, we would have no crisis (in education) at all” (p. 27).
Results of the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) international average distribution of literacy skills identify the opportunity gap rather than an achievement gap as the major factor to be considered in educational reform. PIAAC results show the United States had a larger comparative percentage of adults performing at both the top and bottom of the distribution. Thirteen percent of U.S. adults age 16-65 performed at the highest proficiency level (4/5) on the PIAAC literacy scale. This was higher than the international average of 12 percent. Yet, 18 percent of U.S. adults performed at the lowest level of the PIAAC literacy scale (at or below Level 1), which was higher than the international average of 16 percent.
The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) defines literacy as the use of “printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one's goals, and to develop one's knowledge and potential.” Average scores on the PIAAC literacy scale for adults age 16 to 65 ranged from 250 in Italy to 296 in Japan. The U.S. average score was 270. Compared with the U.S. average score, the average scores in 12 countries were higher. In 5 countries they were lower. In other 5 countries they were not significantly different.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s (1965) and its subsequent reauthorizations (NCLB, 2001; ESSA, 2010) emphasized closing the achievement gap. The PIAAC results (2012/2014) indicate a statistical significant change compared to the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey (ALL, 2003-08). However, PIAAC results were not significantly different than the score on the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS, 1994-98). Metrics, including those mentioned above have sought to quantify gaps in achievement. However, perhaps it is more crucial to examine the qualitative experiences found in diverse populations that lead to an opportunity gap.
The seven correlates of Effective Schools Research (Lezotte & Snyder, 2011) address the leading indicators of learning. Schools that interdependently implement Effective Schools Research optimize the learning for all mission regardless of SES factors. Since we all desire to make a difference for our future students, it is time to embrace the reality that the most effective way to mitigate the adverse impact of a lack of opportunity is to ensure public schools are culturally responsive, capable of emotional nurturance, AND staffed by highly qualified educators prepared to deliver the curricula. Maslow (1959) initially referred to basic needs as “deficiency needs” that must be satisfied BEFORE growth can occur (p.125). The essential basic needs of anyone in a classroom: love and belonging, can be addressed by implementation of effective differentiation and Response for (Reading) Intervention which mitigates failure. The results of educational failure in early childhood education includes:
- Dropping out in later years at 3-4 times greater rates is correlated with children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school (National Adult Literacy Survey, (2001) NCES, U.S. Department of Education).
- More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level. This is far below the level needed to earn a living wage (National Institute for Literacy, Fast Facts on Literacy, 2001).
- Approximately 50 percent of the nation's unemployed youth, age 16-21, are functional illiterate. Given this they have virtually no prospects of obtaining good jobs (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).
- Illiteracy is a variable in 75% of those on welfare, 85% of unwed mothers and 68% of those arrested are illiterate. About 60% of America's prison inmates are illiterate (Washington Literacy Council).
- Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, "The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure." Over 70% of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.
The link between reading failure in the early elementary grades and failure in society is profound. Sixty-six percent (66%) of students who cannot proficiently read by the end of 4th grade will become involved in jail or on welfare. More than five million U.S. children (7%) had a parent who lived with them go to jail or prison. This proportion is higher among black, poor, and rural children. This creates a cycle that only a social justice mindset can begin to mitigate. To promote the common good, highly qualified, culturally responsive teachers must willingly exhibit emotional awareness to nurture effective partnerships with students and their parents.
Some teachers may seem naturally comfortable building partnership with parents with little apparent effort. However, the reality is they more likely mastered emotional intelligence skills and are aware of personal needs in relation to social dynamics. These teachers exhibit genuine interest in the parents’ point of view. They exhibit effective communication strategies and willing use two-way communication skills for building parental partnerships.
Most prospective teachers need to develop these skills for building effective parent partnership. Awareness of a need is insufficient to ensure implementation of effective practice. Simulations and multimedia case studies can build the teacher candidate’s self-efficacy. Research by Walker and Dotger (2011) identifies the advantages of such a process for optimizing this essential correlate of Effective Schools Research.
Teacher preparation programs need to offer this type of professional development. Otherwise, teacher candidates will continue to enter the classroom ill-prepared for embracing and optimizing the home-school correlate. Twenty-first century tools such as avatar simulations and multimedia case studies can supplement Clinically Rich Teacher Preparation Programs.
A better relationship between teachers and parents results in more dialogue, improved school climate, and increased student achievement (Purkey & Novak, 2016). Knowing this, effective leaders plan for teachers’ professional development needs and encourage utilization of action research to improve instruction and classroom assessment (Marzano & Waters, 2009) as well as optimal home-school relationships.
Anderson, C.J. (March 30, 2018) Building effective parental partnerships to help close the opportunity gap
[Web log post] Retrieved from http://www.ucan-cja.blogspot.com/
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