Schools often do not include parents in school decisionmaking. Overall, an average of about 40 percent of all schools reported that input from parents is considered to a small extent when making decisions on the issues addressed in this report, and on all but one issue, between 5 and 22 percent of schools reported that they do not consider parent input at all (Table 3). Interestingly, schools appear to give input from parents the most consideration in the issue that has a direct impact on parents themselves-the development of parent involvement activities. Approximately one-third (31 percent) of all schools reported that parent input is considered to a great extent on this issue, and another 37 percent reported considering it to a moderate extent. At the other extreme, parents have little say in decisions regarding the monitoring and evaluating of teachers, with 74 percent of all schools indicating that parents have no say at all in this process. Also, approximately 20 percent of all schools indicated that parents have no say on decisions about the allocation of funds or library books and materials. For the remaining four issues (curriculum or instructional program, the design of special programs, discipline policies and procedures, and health-related topics or policies), fewer than 14 percent of schools reported considering parent input to a great extent, and between 34 and 38 percent of schools reported considering it to a moderate extent. There appeared to be no significant relationship between school characteristics and the extent to which schools considered parent input in decisionmaking.
The majority of public elementary schools (79 percent) reported that they have an advisory group or policy council that includes parents (Table 4). Inclusion of parents in such an advisory group appears to be related to the size of the school and the percent of minority students enrolled in the school. Specifically, small schools are less likely than moderately sized or large schools to include parents on such councils, whereas schools with minority enrollments of 20 percent or more are more likely to include parents than are schools with minority enrollments of under 5 percent. Schools in the West are also more likely to include parents in an advisory group than are schools in the Northeast and Central regions of the country. These data on advisory groups were used to determine whether a relationship existed between schools providing a formal group in which parents had more of a say in school matters, and the extent to which schools reported actually considering parent input in school decisionmaking. With the exception of decisions about monitoring or evaluating teachers, schools with advisory groups or policy councils that included parents were significantly more likely to consider parent input to a great or moderate extent when compared with schools without these kinds of groups (Table 5).
Advocates for family-school partnerships in education believe that increasing family involvement will not only help to achieve the specific parent participation goal, but also will significantly help efforts to meet the other seven goals. These views are supported by research showing that when families and schools work together, students achieve higher academic performance. In the recently published Strong Families, Strong Schools (U. S. Department of Education 1994), the authors conclude that when parents are involved in their children's learning, the children earn higher grades and test scores, and they stay in school longer. The most significant ways that parents can influence this learning are through the attitudes, values, and materials found in the home environment. "Three factors over which parents exercise authority-student absenteeism, variety of reading materials in the home, and excessive television watching-explain nearly 90 percent of the differences in performance between high-and low-achieving states." The authors also claim that when parents are involved in a variety of ways at school, the performance of all children in the school tends to improve.
Increasing family involvement in children's learning has become a special focus in all school reform efforts. In addition to the information presented in this report, The Survey on Family and School Partnerships in Public School, K-8 gathered other data regarding the efforts elementary schools are making to actively engage parents and families in partnerships that support the academic work of children. School respondents provided information concerning school-to-home and home-to-school communication, volunteer opportunities for parents, the various resources schools make available to assist parents, the provision of information about school activities and student progress, and perceived barriers to parent involvement. These issues will be examined in a forthcoming analytical report, scheduled for release by the end of the year.