Team Amherst created and conducted a “Family Engagement Survey” to promote an understanding of involvement in Amherst Street Elementary School’s Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). Our group recognized that the demographics of the school reflected a diverse population. There was a low representation of culturally linguistic diverse parents in school leadership. Our goal was to collect data and analyze where the barriers existed for parent involvement. We recognized that there was a direct correlation between parent engagement and student achievement.
We had to complete a few steps in this project prior to conducting the survey. Our first step was to meet with the administrator of the PTO to inquire about the outreach of parents of ELL students. We noted that the PTO representation did not accurately reflect the school’s population. Knowing this information, we brainstormed different ways we could encourage more school involvement by families of diverse cultures. We didn’t want to make assumptions about why they were not adequately represented. This led us to creating a parent engagement survey to conduct at Amherst Street’s Celebrations of Learning Night, the highest attended family event.
The purpose of the survey was to define the barriers preventing parent involvement. Our team researched and brainstormed multiple methods of questioning to determine an efficient survey. We used mindful reflection over the course of a few team meetings to ensure we would gain information of statistical significance. Once our question bank was established, we met with the PTO administrator and our home-school liaison to translate our survey into Spanish and Hindi. Unfortunately, a Hindi translator was unavailable at the time, but we were able to successfully translate our survey to have both English and Spanish represented. In having this survey translated to Spanish, we are better able to promote parent outreach to the targeted demographic population.
In our project, we wanted to be sure that there was an accurate representation of the student demographic in the parent group. This empowerment of parents will benefit students in that it promotes a level playing field for school wide decision making. The cultural diversity would benefit the group as a whole and parents will make a strong connection to the school community. Students would see their parents as role models and that education is important. In “Involving Parents and the Community”, they highlighted the correlation between student achievement and parent involvement. They discuss parents as governors (Myths and Realities, 2nd edition, 164). The author speaks of the importance of parents and community members in shared decision making. They talk about the positive impact on developing policies for grading homework, and discipline. Our project gives us invaluable information to assist administrators and current PTO members in seeing the barriers to representation.
Our findings were as follows: In asking parents the barriers preventing them from attending PTO meetings/events, work was the most prevalent barrier (39 parents), the second being childcare (19 parents), and third being language barriers (5 parents), followed by transportation (3 parents). We were able to take this information to the PTO administrator and share our analyzed results. In the future, we plan to work side by side with PTO in brainstorming innovative ways to make the PTO more parent accessible at Amherst Street School.