Engaged Parents, Engaged Students: Theory and Practice
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Engaged Parents, Engaged Students: Theory and Practice

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Research shows that parent involvement is the number one factor in student success. The more parents are engaged in their child's education, the more their children will be engaged in the......

Research shows that parent involvement is the number one factor in student success. The more parents are engaged in their child's education, the more their children will be engaged in the classroom. Teachers will benefit from the communication tips offered in this eBook.

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  • 1. Engaged Parents Engaged Students Theory and Practice
  • 2. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 2 Contents 3 Introduction Why is Parent Engagement So Crucial in Education? 7 Part One Teacher-Parent Communication Improves Student Engagement: Impact and Evidence 18 Part Two How to Create and Structure Effective Parent Involvement: Tips, Techniques, and Tested Programs 39 Best Practice Bonus Tips
  • 3. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 3 “Teaching. We’re not in it for the income. We’re in it for the outcome.” Let’s start off with a multiple-choice quiz. Which of these statements are true? A. Parents make the difference between a child who is a successful learner and one who never achieves his or her learning potential. B. Parents have more influence over how well a child learns than teachers. C. What parents do with their children accounts for up to 80% of that child’s success in school. D. All of the above. Source: leading2learning.com Congratulate yourself if you picked “d.” It’s a bit frightening to truly realize how much power and influence parents wield over our education system, our students, and our outcomes. If parents are such vital players in students’ academic achievement and engagement, does that mean teachers can’t make a difference? Not at all. However, it does mean that teachers can’t succeed alone, which brings us to our first point. Introduction
  • 4. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 4 1 Teachers and parents must become strategic allies and participate in meaningful, two-way communication that supports student learning both inside and outside the classroom. Communication between teachers and parents is no longer an option; it’s a requirement. As the Goals 2000 Education American Act states, “it [parent communication] is not an option for fed- erally funded schools,” writes Lisa Lyons in An As- sessment of Classroom Communication with Ethni- cally Diverse Parents. “Schools must reach out to parents and seek to promote partnership with them. Since it is a requirement, schools and teachers must figure out a way to best communicate with parents and families.”
  • 5. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 5 2 Effectively engaging parents and families in the education of their children has the potential to be far more transformational than any other type of education reform. It’s no mystery that parent involvement is the key to student progress and academic success. Research over the past thirty years “has proven beyond dis- pute the positive connection between parent in- volvement and student success,” according to the National PTA. The majority of teachers concur with this research, as demonstrated in a report by the Center for Public Education: Two-thirds of teachers surveyed believe their students would perform better in school if their parents were more involved in their child’s education, and 72% of parents say children of uninvolved parents sometimes ‘fall through the cracks’ in schools.
  • 6. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 6 Teacher-parent communication is the missing ingredient of successful student engagement. Without it, student achievement suffers. With it, we can transform education! Let’s Get Started! Part One examines the impact and evidence of quality parent-teacher communi- cation and why it has more power to transform education than any other factor. Part Two provides tools and techniques explaining how to create and structure successful, effective parent involvement. Both sections will demonstrate that communication between home and school should be regular, two-way, and meaningful, and that parents play an integral role in assisting student learning (two of the National PTA standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs). • • •
  • 7. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 7 PART ONE Teacher-Parent Communication Improves Student Engagement: Impact and Evidence
  • 8. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 8 According to the National Center for Education Statistics: ►► Almost 50 million students headed off to approximately 99,000 public elementary and secondary schools last fall. ►► Before this school year ends, almost $600 billion will be spent on the education of these students. The question is, how much of this education money is actually spent on teacher-parent communication, one of the most crucial components of all? As you already know, the NCLB act mandates parent involvement and even distributes money (i.e. Title I) to help schools implement and pay for outreach programs. Despite this resource, many teachers still struggle with implementing programs to strength- en parent communication, programs which will ultimately improve student engagement. The Facts
  • 9. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 9 It’s tough for teachers to take on any more tasks than they already have. Wearing so many different hats – psychologist, nurse, guid- ance counselor, behavior special- ist, bathroom monitor – creates tremendous stress and often hin- ders effective communication with anything that’s not an emergency. Fortunately, implementing effective communication between parents and teachers not only solves a number of classroom issues but also helps prevent problems from happen- ing in the first place. In other words, educational transformation begins with effective parent-teacher communication. Finding the time to effectively communicate with your students’ parents is no longer an option; it’s a necessity to improve student behavior and engagement. A Tough Job
  • 10. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 10 1 Parent Involvement: The Great Equalizer So what have we really learned from the past thirty years of research? Parent involvement is the great educational equalizer! Socio-economic status, ethnic/ra- cial background, parents’ education level—it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that when parents are involved, students achieve more. (National PTA) The most accurate predictor of a student’s achieve- ment in school is not income or social status, but the extent to which that student’s family is able to create a home environment that encourages learn- ing . . . and become involved in their children’s ed- ucation at school and in the community. National PTA
  • 11. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 11 Students will: ►► Have higher grades, test scores, and better attendance ►► Complete homework more consistently ►► Show more positive attitudes and behavior ►► Have higher graduation rates and greater enrollment rates in post- secondary education. ►► Reach levels of improvement and achievement (if they are disadvan- taged students) that are standard for middle-class children. ►► Improve performance when teachers and parents bridge the gap be tween the school and the home (for culturally diverse students) ►► Reduce delinquent student behaviors, such as alcohol use, violence, antisocial behaviors Source: National PTA Students will: Check out the following facts about what happens when parents are involved in their students’ education!
  • 12. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 12 Double Proof The SEDL (Southwest Educational Development Laboratory) report, A New Wave of Evidence, synthesizes research from 51 studies over the preceding decade to reach conclusions about the effect of parent involvement on stu- dent learning. SEDL found that students with involved parents, no matter their income or background, are more likely to: ►► Earn higher grades and test scores and enroll in higher-level programs ►► Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits ►► Attend school regularly ►► Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school ►► Graduate and go on to post-second ary education
  • 13. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 13 2 Regular, Consistent, Steady, Repeated The same report (Back to School) reveals that SEDL later did a meta-analysis on the school/ family connection, reviewing 58 studies con- ducted between 2003 and 2008. One of their conclusions was that regular in- teraction between parents and teachers helps students adjust more easily to school and classroom expectations, which can translate into higher achievement. Regular parent-teacher communication leads to better student behavior, engagement, and performance, which in turn leads to a better, happier classroom.
  • 14. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 14 It Gets Better But a happier classroom isn’t the only benefit for teachers! Lyons mentions the follow- ing personal benefits, such as extra resources and greater job satisfaction, for teach- ers who proactively involve parents: ►► Parents and students tend to have a more positive attitude toward school when communication between home and school is occurring. ►► When parents are communicating with teachers, and when they are involved, they [parents] tend to rate the school higher than they would if they were not in volved. ►► The more parents the teacher communicate[s] with, the more resources the teacher can tap into. ►► Teachers who report excellent parent-teacher relations are more satisfied with their jobs.
  • 15. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 15 3 A Plan Worth the Effort It’s a fact that parent involvement is crucial and has more potential to transform academics than any other type of education reform. However, it takes planning and collaboration to forge effective teacher-parent partnerships, as demonstrated by the following facts from the Na- tional PTA about parent and family involvement program design:
  • 16. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 16 ►► The more the relationship between parents and educators approaches a comprehensive, well-planned partnership, the higher the student achievement. ►► When parents receive frequent and effective communication from the school or program, their involvement increases, their overall evaluation of educators improves, and their attitudes toward the program are more positive. ►► Parents are much more likely to become involved when educators encourage and assist parents in helping their children with their schoolwork. National PTA Plan and Collaborate
  • 17. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 17 What Now? So we know that we must involve parents to in- crease student engagement, and we know that teachers must collaborate with parents in ways that will encourage and assist them as they help their children with schoolwork. But what are some specific ways we can create these meaningful partnerships and programs? The next section will show us how.
  • 18. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 18 PART TWO How to Create and Structure Effective Parent Involvement: Tips, Techniques, and Tested Programs
  • 19. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 19 1 Leading the Way We don’t always know what we want to know until someone teaches us what we want to know. Simply put, parents need guidance about how to effectively contribute and be involved in their child’s education. Most parents want to help, but they simply aren’t sure what to do. You must be their guide and show them the best ways they can promote their child’s engagement in the classroom.
  • 20. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 20 Figuring It Out This struggle is emphasized in Back to school: How parent involvement affects student achievement: “Teachers, parents, and students have little under- standing of each other’s interests in children and schools….Most teachers do not know the goals that parents have for their children, how parents help them learn, or how parents would like to be involved. Most parents do not know much about the educational programs in their children’s school or what teachers require of them.”
  • 21. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 21 Positive Pestering2 Some teachers fear that bombarding parents with communications about their child’s prog- ress, behavior, and engagement is unwelcome or unnecessary, when in fact, the opposite is true. A recent survey of 42,000 parents from the National School Public Relations Association found that parents want more communica- tion on a regular basis about their children’s progress. The survey also found that parents would like this information to be delivered by email and online parent portals. (As a side note, electronic communication is also a great opportunity for schools to save money by go- ing paperless!)
  • 22. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 22 Ideas and Tips Implement meaningful, two-way communication with your students’ parents with the fol- lowing tips (according to the National PTA): ►► Regularly use a variety of communication tools that will promote two-way interac- tion through each channel. ►► Create opportunities for parents and educators to share parenting information, like student strengths and learning preferences. ►► Provide clear information about your curriculum, academic expectations, student placement, school activities, student services, and optional programs. ►► Circulate information on school reforms, policies, discipline procedures, assess- ment tools, and school goals, and include your students’ parents in any related decision-making process. ►► Encourage immediate contact between parents and yourself when concerns develop. ►► Distribute your students’ work for parental comment and review on a regular basis. ►► Communicate with your students’ parents about positive student behavior and achievement, not just regarding misbehavior or failure.
  • 23. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 23 3 Facilitate with Technology Check out the following story about one instructor’s successful experiment to blend technology, education, and parent communication. Let’s call it “Success with Tech.” A few years ago, the instructor of a class called Supervised Tutoring and Reading had an epiphany. The class, which was designed for graduate-level teaching students to get one- on-one tutoring experience with the children of local families, traditionally communicated with the students’ parents through paper-based let- ters and documents that were either mailed, emailed, or hand-delivered.
  • 24. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 24 The instructor discovered that a “secure, web-based technology system could easily be used to help facilitate the communication and sharing of this infor- mation between the parents and tutor” (Enhancing Parent-Teacher Commu- nication Using Technology). An enthusiastic teaching student volunteered to explore this possibility. During the semester, the volunteer tutor used an online forum to “share as- sessment results, informal tutoring updates, artifacts with captions of the child’s work in identified goal areas, as well as audio and video segments from les- sons.” Check out the resulting advantages of this electronic experiment: ►► Proved technology’s potential to enhance communication between school and home ►► Provided “a more powerful venue to showcase the child’s literacy strengths and growth areas” in an online environment ►► Shared child’s work with parents in a timely, up-to-date manner (instead of waiting until the end-of-term parent conference) Success with Tech cont’d
  • 25. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 25 Happy People “The parents had instant and ongoing understanding of what we were doing during the sessions,” declared the volunteer tutor. “They were also able to compare and contrast across activities with a single click of the mouse.” One student’s parent raved about the new electronic communication method; she said that she “could even hear how his comprehension had increased along with his confidence as he read. To see it all here . . . he accomplished so much high quality work!” Success with Tech cont’d
  • 26. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 26 Communication in Action Again In An Assessment of Classroom Communication with Ethnically Diverse Parents, Lyons shares the following story of a teacher who successfully used technology to enhance parent communication and improve student engagement: [A few years ago,] a teacher in Texas tried an email system as a part of her action research in her graduate studies. In her study, she sent messages out weekly to keep families aware of what was happening at school. She found that this system helped parents to feel more involved in their students’ school activities. Busy parents felt that this system made it easy to communicate with their child’s teacher. Parents could easily email questions about homework or let the teacher know why their child was absent.
  • 27. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 27 More Happy People! Not only did this teacher’s study show that this system worked for parents, but it affected students positivelly. “Students increasingly felt that it was important that they turned in their work and homework – they all wanted to have positive notes about their week emailed home.” The results of her research suggest that electronic communication can improve students’ interest in their schoolwork and that it creates a system where parents and teacher can communicate frequently with one another.” Many teachers have had similar success implementing parent communication and involving parents in their student’s learning both at school and at home. The benefits always outweigh the drawbacks! Assessment of Classroom Communication with Ethnically Diverse Parents, cont’d
  • 28. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 28 Kechia’s Tips Kechia Williams is a middle school teacher. She talks about the best communication methods she uses to keep parents engaged in her article 9 Techniques for Building Solid Parent-Teacher Relationships: Using a Variety of Communication Methods Throughout the Year Can Keep Parents Connected to the Middle School Classroom. Read on to check out three of her best tips!
  • 29. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 29 Contact Parents with Good News Regularly “So much time is devoted to students who are not doing what they are supposed to that students who perform well do not receive adequate praise. Parents are so pleased and some- times shocked when you call and say, “It is such a pleasure to have Brian in my classroom.” I attempt to make these calls weekly during a planning peri- od or after school; three to five per week. I found that sched- uling the calls in my planner means I am more likely to do them – and more likely to make a difference in a parent’s and student’s day.” • Kechia’s Tips, cont’d
  • 30. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 30 Utilize Technology Whenever Possible “Parents and teachers both are extremely busy, so I used tech- nology to stay in touch (emails, Web page, homework hotline, and our parent portal that allows them to access student grades via a computer). Of course, not all parents have access to tech- nology, so I provide the same information in different written for- mats: ►► Creating a web site ►► Publishing a pamphlet ►► Sending emails (I email homework/project assignments for a par- ticular week on the Friday before. To make it easy, I create an ad- dress book for each class period, so I am really only sending one email out per period.) ►► Connecting to a parent portal. Allow parents to access their child’s grade via an online portal. Parents have to have an email address in order to access the system. Once signed in, they can see their child’s progress and recognize problem areas.” • Kechia’s Tips, cont’d
  • 31. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 31 Send Out Parent Surveys “Two to three weeks after school starts, I send a parent survey home. The survey asks questions such as: ►► What was your child like as a baby? ►► What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses? ►► What does your child do in his spare time? This information helps me get to know each student as a person and learner. It’s also useful when plan- ning lessons. Even though parents are just as busy as teachers, they eagerly take the time to write as much information about their child as they can. Seeking the advice of parents shows respect and helps gain and sustain their support.” • Kechia’s Tips, cont’d
  • 32. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 32 4 Taking It Home In addition to proactive, two-way com- munication, there’s another way to im- prove student engagement: involving parents in student learning at home. In Back to school: How parent involve- ment affects student achievement, the SEDL found one very important com- mon factor during its research: “Programs and interventions that en- gage families in supporting their chil- dren’s learning at home are linked to higher student achievement.”
  • 33. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 33 Bring on the Data! The same Back to school report reveals that similar findings were uncovered in reviewing National Educational Longitudinal Study data, which focused on “analyzing data on 13,500 families as their children progressed through school.” One primary conclusion was that techniques to enhance learning at home had the strongest effect.
  • 34. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 34 Make It Yours So how do we involve parents in their children’s homework (and make sure it doesn’t end up in a crumpled wad, forgotten at the bottom of their backpacks)? Back to school says that interactive homework assignments that bring parents and children together are quite valuable for elementary and middle school-age children. Read on for a delightful, true story featuring the success of interactive assignments!
  • 35. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 35 Education Week recently published Interactive Homework Spurs Parent Involvement, Study Finds, which reported the findings of an experiment with the parents of middle-school stu- dents in New Jersey. “During a seven-week trial during the 2010-11 school year, 192 students in nine 8th-grade classes were given one assignment each week using the Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork, or TIPS, program, which includes assignments that require students to dis- cuss concepts they learn in class with a family member to complete projects. Half of the teachers also were asked to reach out to parents about the assignments with five-minute personal conversations. ►► [It was found that] the students whose teachers contacted parents turned in 64 per cent of their homework assignments, compared with 45 percent of other students. ►► Parents working on the TIPS homework attended more parent-teacher meetings than parents of students who did not have interactive homework. ►► The teachers . . . continued to use more interactive homework after the study ended, reporting that they were talking to parents they never talked to before.” Story Time
  • 36. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 36 Test Your Knowledge By way of reviewing what we’ve just read about parents’ involvement being a crucial element of education reform, ask yourself if the statements on the next page are true.
  • 37. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 37 True or False? ►► Teachers and parents must become strategic allies and participate in meaningful, two-way communica- tion that supports student learning both inside and outside the classroom. ►► Effectively engaging parents and fami- lies in the education of their children has the potential to be far more trans- formational than any other type of edu- cation reform. ►► Parent involvement is the “great equal- izer” and the most accurate predictor of student achievement in school. ►► Regular parent-teacher interaction helps students adjust more easily to school and classroom expectations, which can produce higher achievement. ►► Forging effective parent-teacher partnerships takes planning and collaboration. ►► Parents need guidance about ways to effectively contribute and be in- volved in their child’s education. ►► Parents want more communication on a regular basis about their child’s progress. ►► Technology has proven its poten- tial to facilitate and enhance parent communication and involvement. ►► Higher student achievement is linked to programs and inter- ventions that engage families in their child’s learning at home.
  • 38. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 38 The Bottom Line The evidence overwhelmingly supports the truth of each and every statement. Teacher-parent communication is the best tool to improve student achievement, engagement, and success. Combined with the right technology, every teacher can improve student outcomes and make an even bigger difference in the lives of your students than you already do! Enhance your existing parent-communication programs by implementing some of the best practices that have enabled schools to improve student achieve- ment. In addition, consider leveraging technology to improve and automate these programs. A bonus section that includes a checklist of these best practices is included on the next page to provide you with a handy reference as you build on your com- munication programs.
  • 39. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 39 Bonus Tips! Parent-Teacher Best Practices “The most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income or social status, but the extent to which that student’s family is able to create a home environment that encourages learning . . . and become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community.” ~ National PTA ►► Regularly use a variety of communication tools that will promote two-way inter- action through each channel. ►► Create opportunities for parents and educators to share parenting information such as student strengths and learning preferences. ►► Provide clear information about your curriculum, academic expectations, student placement, school activities, student services, and optional programs. ►► Circulate information on school reforms, policies, discipline procedures, assess- ment tools, and school goals, and include your students’ parents in any related decision-making process. ►► Encourage immediate contact between parents and yourself when concerns develop. ►► Distribute your students’ work for parental comment and review on a regular basis. ►► Communicate with your students’ parents about positive student behavior and achieve ment, not just regardng misbehavior or failure.
  • 40. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 40 Consider This, Too! Practice the use of technology whenever possible. According to Scale to Measure Parent-Teacher Communication at the K12 Level, parents who were asked to choose which mode of communication they preferred overwhelmingly selected the method that offered the most convenience. And for an overwhelming majority of parents, that means email. The many benefits of electronic communication include: ►► Receiving immediate feedback ►► Sharing up-to-date information in a timely, ongoing manner ►► Reducing the amount of paper being distributed (and lost) ►► Creating and reusing learning materials that can be tracked for recipient understanding
  • 41. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 41 Ving is an all-in-one communication tool that enables educators to send dynamic multi-media communication to parents and deliver content to student mobile devices. A cloud-based application, Ving makes it easy to create, share, and track mes- sages that can include video, audio, documents, pictures, and assessments. Educators use Ving to: ►► Proactively communicate with parents ►► Develop and monitor multi-media assignments ►► Create flipped classrooms ►► Improve student engagement Get started now. Try Ving for free!
  • 42. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 42 Resources ►► National PTA, http://www.pta.org/programs/pfistand.htm#Affirm ►► “Back to school: How parent involvement affects student achievement (full report)”, www.centerforpubliceducation. org ►► “Creating Effective Teacher-Parent Collaborations,” Teaching Today, www.glencoe.com/sec/teaching today/educa tionupclose.phtml/print/5 ►► “An Assessment of Classroom Communication with Ethnically Diverse Parents,” by Lisa M. Lyons, Concordia Uni- versity Portland ►► “9 Techniques for Building Solid Parent-Teacher Relationships: Using a Variety of Communication Methods Throughout the Year Can Keep Parents Connected to the Middle School Classroom” by Kechia Williams ►► “Parent-teacher relationships essential for student success,” www.ocregister.com/ocmoms ►► “Scale to Measure Parent-Teacher Communication at the K-12 Level” ►► “Enhancing Parent-Teacher Communication Using Technology: A Reading Improvement Clinic Example” Merkley, Schmidt, Dirksen, Fuhler. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 6(1), 11-42. ►► http://www.leading2learning.com/three-frightening-factsthat-every-parent-should-know/ “Three Frightening Facts that Every Parent Should Know” by Patricia Porter ►► http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/inside-school-research/2012/12/interactive_homework_parent_involvement.html “Interactive Homework Spurs Parent Involvement, Study Finds” by Sarah D. Sparks ►► National Center for Education Statistics
  • 43. “Engaged Students, Engaged Parents: Theory and Practice” by Rebecca Whittenberger 43 About the Author Rebecca Whittenberger is an eleven-year veteran of working in non- profit organizations and academic institutions. She served as curator of education and education consultant for the Mahoning Valley Historical Society for six years and is currently a communications specialist in marketing and public relations at Ving.