1Encouraging Parent Involvement Through the Use of a Class Website (Chapter One) A Project Presented to the Faculty of the College of Education By Michelle Stephens Touro University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree of MASTERS OF ARTS In Educational Technology By Michelle Stephens December, 2011
2 AbstractIn the face of mounting academic requirements, teachers and parents must cometogether in an educational partnership to better support students.A class websitecan provide teachers and parents with a dynamic venue for collaboration andcommunication. This project provided parents of a second grade class with aninteractive class website. The website promoted parent engagement through theuse of parent blogs, tutorials, weblinks,and educational resources.
3 CHAPTER 1Introduction The ability to communicate using a class websitecould provide teachers withan invaluable tool to connect with parents and gain their support outside of theclassroom. This underutilized venue of communication has the unique potential tobridgethe disconnect that often lies between home and school and tap into a vastresource of parent support. Using a class websitecan help streamlineparent/teachercommunication, clarify what parents can do at home to help their child, and avoidproblems often associated with more traditional forms of communication. It is essential that today’s educators use every resource available to helpfamilies cope with ever-increasing demands on their children. In today’s fast pacedsociety, many families have little time or inclination to focus on their child’sacademics at home. Time is a limitedcommodity, especially when sports and otherextracurricular activities are factored in. Students are being asked to learn at afaster pace, at an earlier age, and learn greater amounts of material than everbefore. Combine all of these factors and a time crunch of epic proportionsemerges.A class websitecan ameliorate this by providingtimely communicationbetween parents, teachers and students.The website can allow parents access to thematerial being covered at school,related educational resources, as well as,offer avenue to communicate with the teacher outside of the classroom at theirconvenience.The ability of a class website to extend learning beyondthe classroomgives it an unmatched advantage as a communication tool.
4 Frequent home/school communication is vital, in light of the dramaticchanges being wrought on our educational system. Parents are at a loss when facedwith the dichotomy of theeducational system of their childhood and the rigors oftoday’s educational expectations. A growing questionamong parents about theirchild’s education is, “Has it always been this academic?” and “I don’t rememberlearning so much at this age.” The current focus on standards andschoolaccountability has risen dramatically in the last 15 years. Teachers need toprovide the support necessary for parents to take an active role in their child’seducation at home by delivering crucial information about the curriculum taught atschool. “The problem is that collaborations like these take great communication andplanning, which, in turn, takes time” (Johnson, 2000, pg.2).Johnson clearly identifiesthe inherent issue with the home/school partnership; the excessive amount of timeand planning required for it to be successful. Aclass website is especially well suitedfor this because itfunctions as a window, providing the transparency needed forparents to see into the classroom and become familiar with the curriculum. Parentscan take a more active role in their child’s education by utilizing tutorials, tips, andother resources,which it provides. The use of a class website also has the advantage of circumventing theinherent drawbacks of other more traditional modes of home/schoolcommunication. Some examples Johnson identifies are: Printed materials notmaking it home or frequently ending up in the bottom of a backpack; and thedifficulty of scheduling parent teacher conferences due to time constraints on bothparties. The use of a class website can help avoid these common pitfalls by
5providing both teachers and parents with a consistent and accessible means ofcommunication. Teachers can use class websites to inform parents of upcomingdue dates, class events, assignments, and even current grades for each student.Also, parents and teachers can avoid the constraints of finding a common time tohave a conference by using a class website to communicate. There is no longer aneed for synchronicity, each participant can access the website when it isconvenient for him or her.Statement of the Problem Teachers are often faced with students working well below their abilitylevels because of deficient parental support. Differing levels of parentalparticipation and academic expectations can have a monumental affect on astudent’s academic success. This discrepancy is often overlooked by educators orviewed as beyond the ability of the teacher to control. Kim Walters-Parker pointsout in her recent article “Communication with Parents to Enhance Learning,” that thisperception may be due to miscommunication between teachers and parents. Whenparents are unclear what the teacher is asking them to do, they don’t take action.Their inaction may be misconstrued by the teacher as indifference.Walters-Parkerstates: “The parent who does not know how to comply with the teachers request may perceive vagueness(of the request) as a reflection of indifference or insensitivity to the parents needs. When the parent does not comply, the teacher perceives the noncompliance as indifference on the part of the parent. In this scenario, what started as
6 a well-intended suggestion resulted in a mutual perception between the parent and the teacher that the other is indifferent to the childs needs” (Walters, Education.com, 2009, pgs. 5-6)This quote identifies how the lack of specific and timely communication can create anegative perception on both the part of the teacher and the parent. This negativeperception can greatly hinder the parent/teacher partnership, and the needs of thechild could remain unmet. The pivotal role that parental involvement and expectations play in astudent’s achievement can best be illustrated by a comparison of two dissimilarstudent case studies. The first case study examines an energetic, curious secondgrade student named Jasper. He is reading below grade level and has beenidentified as “at risk,” meaning his reading level could directly affect his academicsuccess. Jasper currently reads at a fluency level of 23 words per minute. Hefrequently is unable to sound out sight words and struggles to decode multi-syllablewords. Jasper likes school and for the most part is successful. When reminded topractice his reading at home, Jasper has shared that no one has time to read withhim. His mom is taking care of his new baby sister and his dad doesn’t get homeuntil his bedtime. At parent teacher conferences, when the topic of Jasper’s readingcomes up, his mom volunteers that between football practices and play-dates, Jasperis just too tired and busy to find time to read. She inquires, “Is it really thatimportant?” Jasper’s mom wants her son to succeed in school, but doesn’t see theimportance of becoming more involved. The teacher, when faced with seemingly
7indifferent and lacking parent support, lets the issue subside. These factorscontribute to Jaspers’ slow progress in reading. Contrast this family tableaux with the second case study subject, aninquisitive, confident, second grade student named Jenny. She loves school andoften plays “school” with her sister at home. Jenny has been reading independentlysince kindergarten and she now reads at a fluency level of 102 words per minute.One of Jenny’s favorite activities is reading with her father every night. Sheespecially loves the popcorn game where he will stop reading mid-sentence and shehas to take over. Some of Jenny’s earliest memories are reading with her parents.Jenny’s mom often consults with Jenny’s teacher about what books are suited to herlevel and what she can do to challenge her at home. When the two situations are juxtaposed, a glaring difference becomesobvious. Herein lies the crux of the problem, although both sets of parents love theirchildren and want them to succeed, the amount of parent participation and level ofexpectation for their child’s educational achievement varies drastically. Jasper’sparents find it difficult to support his efforts at home and have low expectations forhim academically. Conversely, Jenny’s family has integrated academic support intheir everyday routine. Her parents are active participants in her educationaldevelopment and have high academic expectations for her. This discrepancy plays apivotal role in the academic success of their children. Jasper may not meet thesecond grade reading fluency benchmarkof 90wpm (Dibels, 2011, pg. 5). and will beflagged as “At Risk." Oppositely, Jenny will not only make adequate progress, butwill even exceed the second grade reading fluency standard. In each case, the
8teacher provides the student with individualized attention and support in theclassroom. Both students enjoy reading and want to make progress. However, theteacher did not provide adequate information and motivation to Jasper’s familybecause of the parent’s perceived indifference. Jenny’s family took a more proactiverole and requested the needed information to help their child succeed. Not only canthe differing parent involvement and expectations play a key role on each child’sacademic outcome, but the teacher’s perception of the parent’s interest cancontribute to the situation as well.Background and Need Several significant factors have contributed to the shift of educationextending beyond the walls of the classroom and into the home. Teachers today arefaced with the monumental task of effectively covering a vast amount of standardswithin the time constraint of the average school day. When calculating the mountingnumber of standards teachers are required to address, Marzono and Kendallin theirarticle “Awash in a Sea of Standards”, found that, “If American educators were toadequately cover all of the knowledge identified in the current set of standards forthe core subject areas, it might take as much as 22 years of schooling within thecurrent structure“(Marzano and Kendall, 1998, pg. 1). Savvy administrators,acknowledging the futility of addressing every standard, have instructed teachers tofocus on key standards or “essential standards.” These are typically thestandardsidentified as the most crucial areas for students to master. However,attempts by administrators to staunch the current flood of educational standardsseem to have little or no effect. Teachers remain unable to introduce all the material
9and provide enough time for student masteryeven when focusing solelyon “essentialstandards”. This leads to a challenge for teachers to educate their students as efficientlyas possible. Teachers are utilizing every minute available during school, and evenoutside of school hours to ensure that their students are meeting these “essentialstandards.“ Some teachers work through recess and lunch to offer their studentsthe one–on-one tutoring they need. Others pull students aside before or after schoolto work with them. Even these well-intentioned interventions are sometimes notenough to help students achieve success. Marzano and Kendall, advocate two mainoptions for educators to meet the growing number of standards. The first is toincrease the amount of instructional time or secondly, to decrease the number ofstandards that must be addressed (Marzano and Kendall, 1998, pgs. 11-15). Whilethese two options could remedy the situation, neither option is currently availableto the average teacher. Therefore, teachers need to draw on any and all methodsavailable for improving student success. One proven method of increasing student achievement is to increase parentinvolvement. There is a strong positive correlation between parent involvementand academic achievement. According to Jeynes’ 2005 meta-analysis, which drewfrom 77 studiesandlooked at the effects of parent participation and studentachievement of over 300,000 students in grades 1-12, researchers found thatgreater parent participation led to higher student achievement across all socio-economic and cultural groups. The study also found that the manner of parentinvolvement was a determining factor as well. Parents who invested more time
10reading with their child and had higher expectations for them had a greater impacton student success(Jeynes, 2005, pgs. 241-243). This meta-analysis demonstratesthe potential to improve all students’ academic outcomes by tapping into a moreactive parent support system. It clearly illustrates the benefits of theinterrelationship between teachers, students and parents all working together toachieve a common goal. Teachers must provide parents with the tools necessary tohelp their child successfully navigate through the plethora of increased educationaldemands. Student learning is more effective if it is not solely sequestered to thebrief time students are in the classroom. It is now more crucial than ever to enlistthe support of parents to help educate their child. There is a scarcity of information about the efficacy of the use of classwebsites. Zafer Unal, addressed the shortcomings of the literature on the subject byconducting an online survey of 244 Elementary school teachers and 483 parentsabout the ideal content and favorite features of class websites.According to Unal, themajority of parents and teachers agreed that a class website was the favored form ofcommunication between home and school for three main reasons. The first was thata class website provided parentsaccessto information about class news, upcomingevents, homework and what is happening daily at school in a timely manner.Secondly, some of the parents indicated that the website allowed them to feel moreinvolved in their children’s education by “break(ing) the place and timerequirements and limits of the physical classroom.” Thirdly, the participants feltthat the website provided valuable resources for parents which helped them to“expand the learning possibilities beyond the classroom walls”(Unal,2008, pg. 9).
11These findings demonstrate how both parents and teachers can gain a deepconnection and commitment to the partnership by using a class website. A classwebsite can provide a link between parents(who want to help their child, but don’tknow how,) and teachers (who need their help, but are unable to connect in ameaningful manner.) The need for a flexible, timely, personalized communicationtool for parents and teachers is at hand. Traditional forms of parent/teachercommunication are no longer enough. Parents, teachers, administrators, schoolsand districts must consider this new communication tool in order to reach the nextdevelopmental stage inour ever-changing educational system.Purpose of the Project The purpose of this project is to create and implement an interactive classwebsite, to be used by the teacher, parents and students in a second gradeclassroom at Pleasant Valley Elementary, in Novato, California.Class websites havebeen shown to be an effective communication tool to enhance the home/schoolconnection. The goal is to provide parents with this interactive tool, which willenable them to become more engaged in their child’s education. Based on acompilation of studies, several significant website elements were identified. Thewebsite will contain, but is not be limited to the following key elements which willbe updated and modified frequentlyand as needed: Teacher Information: o E-mail Address o Short Autobiography/Resume o Picture
12 Parent Information: o Parent Blog o Parent Contact Information o Parent Survey o Parent Conference Information o Suggestions for at Home Support Activities o Parent Tutorials for Accessing Web-link Resources Student Information o Student Challenge o Star Student Downloadable PDF General Class Information: o School/Class Calendar of Important Events o Supply List/Class Donation Needs o General Daily Schedule o Class Pictures (Privacy Protected) Homework Information: o Daily Overview/Expectations o TutorialsProject ObjectivesThe class website projectwill meet the following objectives: 1. Parents will use the class website to accesscurrent information about classroom activities and specific ways they can support their child at home.
13 2. Parents willuse the resources provided by the website to work with their childat home. 3. Parent usage and perception of the website will be measured via parent surveys and interviewsconducted before, during, and after implementing the webpage.Definition of TermsAt Risk: A student who doesnot meet grade level standards in a particular area for example, reading, writing or math. This could have a potentially negative impact on their academic progress.Blog:Is a blend of the term “web log” and is a dynamic webpage, which allows users to post comments about a related topic.Class Website: A website which is hosted and managed by the teacher. The website containsa combination of webpages which are either private, password protected (eg. picture gallery or student grades) or public (general class information.)The website is open to the students and parents in the class.Essential Standards: Grade level/content standards that students must master in order to be successful in school. These standards are the highest priority for instructional time, attention and resources.Parent Blog: Is an interactive webpage included on the class website which allows parents to communicate openly with each other and the teacher about classroom questions or issues.Web-link Resources: These are links to educational web resources specifically designed to support parents and help students master thecurriculum.
14Webpage:A webpage is an individual HTML document which may be static (non- changing like a PDF or read only text) or dynamic (interactive or content that can change with each use like a Blog.)Website: A website is a collection of related webpages, which can contain images, text, videos and other electronic resources.Summary Teachers need to provide parents with every educational tool available topromote active academic engagement and high academic expectations. Increasedparent involvement and expectations can positively and directly affect the progressof a struggling student. A class website can offer parents an essential, personalizedteaching tool which is at their disposal any time of day or night. Teachers need toprovide the information, teaching tips, and at home strategies. Parents need towork with their child at home at a convenient time. If both parents and teachersperform their role in this partnership, they create a symbiotic relationship wherethe child reaps the benefits. This project will provide a class website which can beused as a means of communication between parents and the teacher. The websitewill also provide information and resources to parents to enable them to becomemore involved in their child’s education. The project will measure changes in parentusage and perception of the website based on surveys and interviews.
15 ReferencesDibels Next Benchmark Goals and Composite Score (2010). Dynamic Measurement Group Inc, 2, 14.Jeynes, W. H. (2005). A meta-analysis of the relation of parent involvement to urban elementary school student academic achievement. Urban Education, 40, 237- 269.Johnson, D. (2000). Teacher Web Pages That Build Parent Partnerships. Multimedia Schools, 7(4), 48.Marzano, R.,Kendall, J. S. (1998). Awash in A Sea of Standards. mcrel.org, 1-28.Tubin, D.,Sarit, K. (2007). Designing a School Website: Content, Structure and Responsiveness. Planning and Changing. 38, (3&4), 191–207.Unal, Z. (2008). Going The Extra Step For Parental Involvement: Connecting Family And School With The Power Of Teacher Websites. Journal of College Teaching & Learning, 5 (6), 41-49.Walters-Parker, K. (2009). Communication with Parents to Enhance Learning. Education.com, 1-10.