Partnering With Parents: Establishing an Ethic of Care With Families

Partnering With Parents: Establishing an Ethic of Care With Families

Heidi Lee Henderson (The Balance Between, Inc., USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5748-7.ch007

Abstract is time for the voice of the mother to be heard in education. (, p. 200) Nel Noddings frequently employs the idea of the teacher displaying behaviors of the mother in training students in the art of caring. This chapter argues that the converse is also true – the “mother” (or family unit) should display behaviors of the teacher as well. To accomplish this, schools and educators should work together with parents to create multifaceted “Parent Support Plans” that are continuously revised and updated. In practice, the teacher and family become “partners” in the education of the cared-for child.
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Nel Noddings’(2003) pioneering research in the Ethics of Care makes one thing very clear: creating a caring environment is absolutely necessary for learning to occur. Connecting with and involving parents, caregivers, and the community is essential to achieving this type of environment. Because connecting with parents can be challenging, schools need to employ various strategies, and this starts with a Parent Involvement Action Plan (PIAP). Discussed here will be potential contents of that plan. To provide a truly caring environment, it is necessary for schools to partner with parents as often as possible and in a variety of ways. The plan should include ways in which schools can interact with parents, how parents can be useful when volunteering, and ideas that parents can use at home to enhance their child’s education. These plans for parental involvement should be multifaceted, systematically implemented, and revisited every year.

Many important skills that are often valued within the home are ignored in formal, traditional educational systems. This undermines the child’s education and educational experiences. Specifically, these practices can lead to a lack of consistency from home community to school community and often the self-esteem of the parent may diminish when he or she does not feel that what they have to offer is worthy. However, when schools have a Parent Involvement Action Plan in place, more ideal educational opportunities can be realized in a more caring environment.


One of the things we know with virtual certainty from educational research is that there is no single factor more important in a child’s success than the home. (Noddings, 2002, p. 289)

Research consistently supports family involvement in education (Hill & Taylor, 2004). Many studies cite gains in student achievement, retention, and graduation rates after parent outreach (Henderson & Mapp 2002). In one study, parent outreach led to gains in both math and reading more than any other factor, and as much as teacher professional development (Westat & Policy Studies Associates, 2001). The work of Joyce Epstein found that schools with highly rated partnership programs in an urban city made significant gains in writing and math scores (Epstein, Clark, Salinas, & Sanders, 1997). We even see that family involvement affects various factors and is important all the way through adolescence (Hill & Taylor, 2004) and high school (Epstein, Sanders, Simon, Salinas, Jansorn, & Van Voorhis, 2002). Achievement was evidenced by fewer behavior problems and better academic performance. Students whose parents are involved are more likely to complete high school than those whose parents are not involved (Child Trends, 2013). There is also a correlation between the amount of involvement and achievement; the more a family supports its children’s learning and educational progress, the more the children tend to do well in school and continue their education (Henderson & Mapp, 2002). Even just acknowledging that minority students and their families prioritize educational success, regardless of actual time in the building, can lead to gains in academic success (Sattler, 2014).

There are many ways in which family involvement helps students. One way is by increasing what is called “social capital,” or parents’ skills and information. What is valuable to students must be agreed upon and must be able to be acted on collectively (Warren, Hong, Rubin & Uy, 2009). A parent who is better informed can better advocate for his or her children. The other mechanism through which parental involvement increases academic achievement is called “social control.” This term refers to the ability of a society as a whole to communicate appropriate behaviors to children consistently at home and at school, and indeed, across the community (Hill & Taylor, 2004).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Parent: For the purposes of this chapter, “parent” was used to refer to any adult living with and/ or caring for the child. This includes mothers, fathers, step parents, teenage and adult age siblings, grandparents, or any other guardians.

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