Parental involvement is frequently touted as a key part of any solution to the achievement gap in US schools. Yet the mainstream model of parental involvement has been challenged on the grounds that it neglects parents’ political agency, the cultural diversity of families, and the empirical evidence of limited efficacy. This article argues that to understand parental involvement’s promise and limitations, it is necessary to consider it in historical context. Accordingly, it traces the history of “parental involvement” as a policy goal through the past half century. It provides an account of the mainstream parental involvement research, as well as critiques. Ultimately, the article argues that parental involvement is neither boon nor bane. As an important aspect of the politics of public schooling, parental involvement has diverse effects, which can support or hinder equity and student success.
Cristina Santamaría Graff and Brandon Sherman
For educators located in the Global North or South what it means to work with families in inclusive settings is often a reflection of fundamental conceptions of the very nature of schooling and learning. These conceptions, whether implicit or explicit theories, inform teacher practice, interaction, communication, and involvement when it comes to students’ parents, families, and communities. Understanding how theories of learning relate to family engagement and inclusive practices allows for (a) an accounting of established knowledge and practices and (b) more innovative future directions for engaging parents, families, and communities in schooling. Three specific theories of learning (behaviorist, sociocultural, and critical) demonstrate stark differences in how the roles of parents and family are understood in their children’s education. Each of these theoretical lenses produces different answers to the question of what it means to work with families. They entail different conceptualizations of parent/family engagement and inclusion, the challenges to this engagement and inclusion, and the tools used to address these challenges. Families can be positioned as passive recipients of knowledge, contributors to knowledge, or knowledge-makers. Regarding their child’s schooling, parents can be seen as supporters, contributors, or collaborators. They can be situated on the periphery of schooling or in the center. Contrasting and complementary elements of behavioral, sociocultural, and critical theories of learning provide insight into traditional, relational, and transformative approaches to working with families. These theoretical approaches entail practical implications as well, reflected in both standard educational practices and in extant findings in the field of educational research. This theoretical/practical approach allows for insight into why, in application, there is dissonance in perspectives among educators about how to work with families and what this work may entail and look like, and provides suggestions for how families and communities might come to play a more central role in the education of their children.
The number of homeschooling families in the United States has been growing at a steady rate since the early 1990s. Attempts to make sense of homeschooling—including research—are inherently political. These attempts are, therefore, highly contested. It is impossible to provide an agreed-upon definition of homeschooling, much less a precise number of families that homeschool, why they homeschool, or what the learning outcomes of that homeschooling might entail. Instead, homeschooling is best understood as a set of educative practices that exists in and between institutional schooling and family life. As families and schools evolve and change, so will the meaning and significance of homeschooling.
Doret de Ruyter and Lynne Wolbert
Human flourishing has gained and is gaining popularity as an overarching ideal aim of education. Influential advocates of educational theories on flourishing are, among others, Harry Brighouse, Kristján Kristjánsson, Doret de Ruyter, and John White. Most contemporary theories on flourishing hark explicitly or implicitly back to Aristotle’s theory about eudaimonia. Aristotle constructed his theory as an answer to the question of what is the ultimate aim of a human life and defined it as acting virtuously. Contemporary theorists define it in somewhat wider terms, namely as a successful, morally good, happy, and well-balanced life. A theory on human flourishing is regarded as an objective well-being theory, that is, it describes from an objective point of view rather than a person’s subjective evaluation what it means to live one’s life well. Flourishing as an ideal aim of education has implications for the education and upbringing of children. Teachers and parents need to know what constitutes a flourishing life, what contributes to it and what does not, and they are expected to act in a way that enables children to lead a flourishing life (in the future). This, however, raises, several issues. Firstly, there are different ideas (of philosophers of education) as to what flourishing precisely means and therefore also different views on the role of schools and how they should aim for the flourishing of children: for instance, whether there should be a course on living a good life, or whether education for flourishing should permeate the entire curriculum and school ethos. Secondly, it could be objected that aiming for flourishing implies aiming for perfection and that this is not only detrimental to the well-being of children, but also too demanding for parents (and teachers). With regard to the well-being of children it is, however, possible to refer to empirical research that shows that when educators aim for self-oriented perfectionism (i.e., that children are themselves convinced that it is good to strive for perfectionism rather than having to do so to gain approval), they actually contribute to the well-being of children. With regard to the demands against parents it can be argued that in addition to their responsibilities regarding the interests of children to be able to live a flourishing life, parenting (well) is an important aspect of a flourishing life of many adults. Thirdly, it could be objected that focusing on the ideal aim of flourishing does not sufficiently take into account the differences in “luck” in individual lives and inequalities on a societal level, that is, human vulnerability. Theory on education for flourishing therefore does well not to overestimate the influence of parents and educators to equip children to live flourishing lives and needs to keep asking questions such as, for example, what role the (political) community plays in enabling all children to have the chance to lead a flourishing life.
Elias Avramidis and Anastasia Toulia
There has been a proliferation of studies examining attitudes toward the inclusion of students with special educational needs (SEN) in regular education settings. Most studies to date have focused on examining the attitudes regular teachers hold toward inclusion on the assumption that their acceptance of the policy of inclusion is likely to affect their commitment to implementing it. Other researchers have directed their attention to the attitudes held by typically developing children toward their peers with SEN and, to a lesser extent, to the attitudes of parents toward the inclusion of students with SEN in their children’s classroom. Teachers have been found to generally hold positive attitudes toward the notion of inclusion, which are largely affected by the severity of the child’s disability, the level of in-service training received, the degree of prior teaching experience with students with SEN, and other environment-related factors. Typically developing students have been found to hold neutral attitudes toward their peers with SEN. Age, prior experience of studying in inclusive settings, and parental influence seem to influence their attitudes. Studies on parents’ attitudes have revealed neutral-to-positive attitudes toward the general notion of inclusion. Several factors were found to influence parental attitudes, such as their socio-economic status and education level along with their child’s type of disability. Most attitudinal research to date has described static situations through the employment of single methodological research designs. Consequently, there is a need for mixed-method studies that employ coherent and, wherever possible, longitudinal research designs.
School governors play an important part in the democratic governance of education in a number of countries and forming a middle tier of accountability between state and schools. They carry out their role in a voluntary capacity. School governors are drawn from a range of backgrounds, including parents, school teachers, local politicians, business people, and professional groupings. They have a variety of responsibilities, depending on the country in which they are based. Their responsibilities can include, among others: developing a strategy for the school, monitoring the school budget, setting disciplinary strategy, setting school fees. Some members of the school board are elected, while others are co-opted or serve in an ex officio function—for example, head teachers. Political, social, and economic changes—based largely on shifts to the political economy of capitalism facilitated via organizations such as The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since the late 1970s—have resulted in changes across education systems, leading to the globalization, privatization, and deregulation of public policy as a whole, and have affected the role and competencies of school governors. This is particularly the case in England and South Africa.
Mass migration has transformed the education systems of many Western nations. Schools are more culturally diverse than ever before. The relationship between race, ethnicity, and education is being increasingly scrutinized. Some ethnic minority students face continued educational disadvantages as seen in their overrepresentation in disadvantaged schools and lower ability classes, below-average performances in standardized tests, and lower rates of high school completion and university admission. In contrast, other minority students, notably many children of Asian migrants, enjoy disproportionately high educational success and are viewed as a “model minority.” The education outcomes of ethnic minority students are therefore sharply polarized and largely reflect their levels of socioeconomic advantage. While high-achieving Asian students are often children of highly educated middle-class migrants, underperforming groups are typically from less-developed countries or disadvantaged social backgrounds. While educational disadvantage among ethnic minorities has been well documented for many decades, the phenomenon of educational success among minority groups is comparatively less well researched. The debates and evidence relating to Asian migrant students’ educational success need to be examined to provide a more holistic understanding of the role of race, ethnicity, and social class in shaping outcomes. As the fastest growing minority group in many anglophone countries, Asian migrants are reshaping many education systems, offering a new educational “success story” that urgently needs to be more fully understood. While some commentators attribute Asian success to cultural values, such as Confucianism, these kinds of cultural explanations are often simplistic and essentialist. The superior performance of many Asian migrant students reflects a complex array of both cultural and social factors. In particular, their parents, typically skilled migrants with strong educational capital, bring with them norms and practices honed during their own experiences with fiercely competitive education systems in Asia. This makes them well equipped to succeed in the increasingly competitive and hierarchical educational systems of the West. Their aspirations and anxieties reflect their migrant status in our unequal societies. Therefore, cultural values are often mediated by structural factors including national policies relating to immigration and education, students’ social class background and migrant status, and prevailing race relations and structures of opportunity in migrant-receiving societies in the West, all of which contribute to the polarized education outcomes of ethnic minority students.
Barbara Otto and Julia Karbach
In the recent years, parental involvement in a child’s academic development has been of great scientific interest. As parental involvement is a broad term it encompasses many parental activities that need to be further specified. In line with this, no widely accepted theoretical framework of parental involvement exists so far. Moreover, in terms of assessment of parental involvement a large variety of instruments have been applied: Parental involvement has been assessed by behavioral observations, self-reports, or reports by others. In spite of a missing definition and widely accepted theoretical framework, a myriad of research has been conducted to identify determinants and correlates of parental involvement. In this context, several empirical studies have revealed that the way parents get involved in their children’s schooling depends on a diverse set of variables, which refer not only to the parents themselves, but also to the family setting and the school context. However, the main body of research has focused on the effects of parental involvement. Although it has been found to be a significant predictor for children’s academic success parental involvement also seems to show changes related to the child’s age and grade level. Moreover, the different dimensions of parental involvement seem to have differential predictive value for students’ academic outcomes. Less empirical studies have been done referring to the associations of parental involvement with academic outcomes other than performance. Moreover, the very few intercultural studies conducted in this field suggest there might be similarities but also differences between Western and Eastern parents in the way how they get involved with their children’s education. Based on the presented aspects, future research should aim at developing a consistent definition and widely accepted theoretical framework of parental involvement as well as further investigate underlying determinants and mechanisms.
There is an increasing interest in policy and research regarding the educational experiences of refugee and asylum-seeking children. In many countries across the globe these children constitute a growing segment of the student population. Like other student categories, refugee and asylum-seeking children have rights to an equal and meaningful education. Nevertheless, numerous research contributions have proven that these children are, from the outset, in a disadvantaged position that has been further exacerbated by poorly educated teachers, a lack of resources, the absence of appropriate support, exclusion, and isolation. There is far less evidence of positive examples. Three distinct perspectives have been widely discussed in the literature: a) inclusion and exclusion through organizational spaces; b) pedagogical practices and classroom-based interventions; and c) relations between schools and refugee and asylum-seeking parents. A review of the literature suggests that refugee and asylum-seeking students or, for that matter, other migrant students with poor socioeconomic status in a host country will never have equal educational opportunities unless their previous experiences are properly assessed, understood, and recognized and unless their first language is acknowledged as a vital vehicle for learning. Furthermore, scaffolding must be provided by language support teachers, and students must be granted access to inclusive spaces on the same terms as other non-migrant students. Finally, parents ought to be provided with platforms for active involvement and a tangible opportunity to advocate for their children’s educational rights.