ON THE AGENDA | NOVEMBER 3RD, 2017 | REBECCA SILLIMAN

Student Success: A Mix of Teacher Collaboration and Parent Engagement

When examining student success outcomes, it is necessary to look not only to teachers, but to everyone who is and should be involved in a child’s education.

For years, policymakers, educators and researchers have examined ways to create stronger student success outcomes in K-12 education. Many research studies have found that teacher collaboration can positively influence student success. Earlier this year, Public Agenda, with support from the Spencer Foundation, released Teacher Collaboration In Perspective: A Guide to Research, part of the Teacher Collaboration In Perspective project. While teachers in most schools across the United States work in isolation, they can and should be able to collaborate in order to learn from each other and share ideas. Some findings cited in the Guide to Research about the potential impacts of teacher collaboration on student success include:

  • Schools that are more collaborative have been shown to have a stronger student academic outcome than schools that are less collaborative.
  • When it comes to specific approaches to fostering collaboration, studies have found different degrees of effectiveness in improving student achievement.
  • Strong social connections among teachers may benefit students.
  • Collaborative approaches to using student test score data might improve the effectiveness of data-informed school improvement.
  • While there is little doubt that there are benefits to increasing teacher collaboration, it is necessary to remember that teacher collaboration is not the only factor, nor are teachers the only audience that need to work together, to help students succeed. Including or engaging parents in their child’s education can also be a driving factor to student success.

    However, like my colleagues found out about teacher collaboration, the degree to which parents can be included or engaged in their child’s education varies. In a 2015 study conducted by Gallop, they define the difference between parent involvement and parent engagement, stating that “parents can be involved in their child’s education in many ways, including reading to their child, setting expectations for their child’s success and participating in school activities and conferences.” However, engaged parents are slightly different in that they also “experience a strong feeling of pride for the school and serve as the school’s advocate when discussing it with friends and neighbors.” Gallop also argues that parent engagement can have a greater impact on student success than parent involvement. Unfortunately, in Gallop’s nationally representative survey conducted with 3,356 parents, only 20 percent were fully engaged in the school.

    In a past blog, Public Agenda’s Matt Leighninger discussed ways to cultivate parent engagement, indicating, like Gallop, that there are different levels of how parents are engaged. He also states that when parents understand and are confident about their roles in their children’s education and feel welcomed by educators, they are more likely to be involved. While parent-teacher conferences and other conventional meetings are forms of parent involvement, there are other tactics, such as parent workshops, after-school programs and student-centered learning plans which contain similar characteristics of high quality engagement. However, more research is needed to examine if these other methods of engagement will in fact lead to deeper parent engagement.

    Overall, it is important to remember that when examining student success outcomes, it is necessary to look not only to teachers, but to everyone who is and should be involved in a child’s education. It is also vital to continue to investigate how these groups interact with each other to ensure that they are all working to create improved student success outcomes.


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