Education reform is a major challenge facing schools across the Nation today. Although schools play the key role in the national effort to improve the education of our children, they cannot accomplish it alone. Studies show that the extent to which children are ready to learn and to achieve in school depends also on support from families, with greater family involvement in children's learning identified as a critical link to achieving a high-quality education in a safe, disciplined, learning environment (U. S. Department of Education 1994). In recognition of the significant and essential role of parents in their children's education, the Goals 2000: Educate America Act included an eighth goal that calls upon schools to promote partnerships that will increase parent involvement.
Research has focused on various areas in which parents and schools can work together to develop partnerships. The Executive Summary of the National Education Goals Report suggests that these areas include parenting, communicating, volunteering, supporting student academics at home, and decisionmaking (National Educational Goals Panel 1995). To gather related information, the Survey on Family and School Partnerships in Public Schools, K-8 was conducted in spring 1996 for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) through its Fast Response Survey System (FRSS). Data were collected from 810 public elementary schools serving grades kindergarten through eight, and were weighted to produce national estimates of all public schools serving these grades.
This report presents data from the survey on several kinds of activities public elementary schools sponsor to encourage parent involvement, the amount of parent participation in those activities, and the extent to which parent input is considered in decisionmaking related to school issues.
Overall, during the 1995-96 school year the majority of public elementary schools held activities intended to encourage parent involvement (Table 1). Ninety-seven percent of all schools reported holding an open house or back-to-school night, and 92 percent scheduled schoolwide parent-teacher conferences. School programs designed to portray the curriculum in action by displaying students' work, such as arts performances, sports events, and science fairs, were also held by over 80 percent of all schools. There was little variability among schools when these data were examined by various school characteristics.