Strategies Shared to Enlist Parents, Families in School Health

By Michele Molnar — November 16, 2012 2 min read
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Students can make significant academic gains when they are healthy, and who better to enlist in promoting health than their families and schools?

That premise guided the “Engaging Parents to Foster Healthier, More Successful Students” webinar conducted Nov. 14.

“The research shows students who have parents engaged in their school life are more likely to have better student behavior, better school attendance, higher academic performance, higher school-completion rates, and enhanced social skills,” said Shannon Michael, adolescent health researcher at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

She cited additional research that shows students who have parents involved in their school life are less likely to experiment with alcohol, smoke cigarettes, be emotionally distressed, become pregnant, and be physically inactive. “These are huge benefits,” she said.

“If parents and schools work together, they can deliver clear, consistent messages to students, encourage them to value education, assist them in getting necessary preventative care, and improve their overall access to resources and support networks,” said Michael. “We need parent and school partnerships to ensure our youth are healthy and ready to learn.”

Joyce Epstein, director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, talked about her research in determining how families can partner with schools and the community to impact students’ learning.

She talked about the Action Team for Partnerships model—basically a committee that is an arm of the School Improvement team.

An Action Team for Partnerships typically includes two to three teachers; two to three parents or family members; the school principal; other interested parties like a nurse, counselor, after-school coordinator, a representative of the PTA, and other community partners. At the high school level, one or two students would join as well.

“Effective partnership programs are goal-linked to increase student success in school,” said Epstein. School district leaders can help schools build the highest-level partnership programs.

“All programs of school, family and community partnership are about equity,” Epstein said. “In the old days, we had a deficit model. We thought parents were weak or unable or uninterested. When we focus on equity, it’s a strengths model. All families have some strengths. The equity model focuses on solutions to inequalities.”

Epstein’s advice to schools interested in spearheading such an effort is to:

  • Establish an action team;
  • Write an action plan for partnership each year linked to school improvement;
  • Use the framework of six types of involvement so parents can become involved;
  • Allocate a budget for planned;
  • Allocate time for monthly meetings; and
  • Evaluate and improve for next year.

The entire webinar can be viewed here.

To access information about engaging parents in school health from the CDC, visit their dedicated website.

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.