How Can Parents and Teachers Partner to Improve Student Achievement?

Secretary Duncan often repeats the call that parents need to be in full partnership with teachers in learning and understanding, making the education of their child a shared responsibility that includes teachers, parents and students.

For teachers– whose schedules are often quite full—finding ways to engage and partner with parents can seem overwhelming. Secretary Duncan recently took to Twitter to hear directly from teachers on the most effective ways to build partnerships with families and communities. Arne received an overwhelming response from teachers across the country, and most who responded felt communication early in the year and positive communication throughout the year were beneficial ways to partner with parents, families, and communities.

Below are just a few of the responses from teachers who suggested ways in which the school may effectively build partnerships with parents, families, and communities.

Incorporating these suggestions may add just a few more minutes to a teacher’s day, but will bring about benefits to the student-teacher-parent relationship that will last a lifetime.

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Carrie Jasper

Carrie Jasper works in the Office of Communications and Outreach


  1. I have been following education reform for more than three decades at varying levels of interest, and we have arrived at the point where we have become repetitive, and are repeating ourselves, expecting different results.

    I intend no disrespect to the people who are advocating for the renamed and repackaged reforms, but could we try something truly different?

    With your indulgence, and patience, I would suggest that we start by focusing on discovering the Purpose of education.

    One would assume we know the Purpose of education, yet where is it stated? We state Strategic Plans, mission, goals, values, and beliefs to name the most common, but where do we state Purpose.

    How can we even develop Strategic Plans, mission, goals, values, and beliefs; if we have no Purpose?

    A stated Purpose would give us a unifying cohesiveness, transcending all geographical and social boundaries. So if we have Purpose, why not state it?

    Second, we must “Build Better Students,” by teaching them a defined set of skills. I call them “Academic Discipline Skills,” and after mastering them, the student learns faster. Some are also called soft skills, applicable to the work environment, making them a dual Purpose life skill.

    Lets take this outside of education for a moment and look at this point from a different perspective.

    You are a contractor, and you have to dig a trench six feet deep and three hundred yards long. You have two choices. You can hire a trained digger operator to complete the trench in three to five days. Or you can hire twenty men with shovels and take three weeks to a month to dig the trench.

    Which solution works best; the laborers who struggle to get the job done, or the trained worker who used those skills to get the job done quickly and efficiently?

    Third, and to the point of this post. Too many parents have few if any “Academic Parenting Skills.” They are the product of our declining education system, of the last half century. And yes it has roots that deep.

    They are for to many reasons to list here, unable to provide the necessary “Academic Parenting” required for their children. They simply have not learned the skills, or if they have, do not have the tools necessary to make them effective “Partners in Education.”

    We must provide parents with simple basic tools, and the training as necessary to use them. The tools must allow them to be on Task, and on Target with the instruction their child is receiving in the classroom.

    I appreciate your patience, and strived to keep this short.

    Purpose, Building Better Students, and Academic Parenting are the three key points we must address, if we really want to make more than marginal improvement in the quality of education.

    If we do, assessment will take care of itself.

    Then again what do I know? I’m only a parent.

  2. Foster Grandparents and RSVP volunteers, part of Senior Corps (, provide an extended family to children whose parents may not be involved in their education. The reasons parents are not involved in their children’s education are many and varied. Senior Corps volunteers are matched with at-risk children and teens including children in foster care, those who have experienced abuse and neglect, children with incarcerated parents and those with learning and emotional disabilities. In a perfect world, each child has a parent closely involved in their education. For those who do not, thousands of specially trained Foster Grandparent and RSVP volunteers serving in classrooms across the country provide one-on-one attention, nurturing and love.

  3. I have been fighting for years to get my learning disabled son an appropriate education; court battles, the works. The school district just can’t be bothered to meet the challenge. Bottom line is parents can’t be involved when there is such a toxic environment and schools don’t want them involved.

  4. These are excellent teacher suggestions. It also points to the fact that our teachers are not 100% accountable for student achievement in isolation. It’s a community effort and we need to have appropriate measures to evaluate teachers. It is not appropriate to evaluate teachers based on high stakes test scores. These test scores represent an overall achievement factor based on all the education a child receives in their lifetime up until that point in time. However, when we evaluate a teacher based on this child’s high stakes test score, we are saying that the person who happens to sit in the teacher’s desk on the day of that test was solely and completely responsible for all the child’s education up until that point. This is wrong. I hope you will consider how we can bring parents into the equation of evaluation. I have seen how high stakes testing negatively affects my child’s education. A more fair and wholistic approach to teacher and school evaluation would reduce the high stakes frenzy and improve our education system.

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