11. Families must be involved as active, essential participants in the assessment process.
In many schools, families stand on the periphery of the school community, some feeling hopeless, helpless, and unwanted. However, the more families understand their children’s progress in school, the more they can contribute to that progress. If teachers are to understand how best to assist children from cultures that are different from their own, families are a particularly important resource. Families must become, and be helped to become, active participants in the assessment process.
Public education today is characterized by unequal funding resources among school districts and by unequal participation of families in all aspects of school activities. The first characteristic is chiefly responsible for the unevenness among school districts in facilities, resources, quality teaching, sound learning, and healthy environments conducive to effective teaching and learning. The second condition contributes significantly to the difference between productive and unproductive schools. Arguably, the most effective schools have highly active participation by families in all aspects of governance and activities. Economic conditions and family participation are closely linked, however.
Family involvement in assessment, which is inseparable from curriculum, instruction, and learning, includes the following:
- Parents and other caregivers should be knowledgeable about assessment. Because of their own schooling backgrounds, many families believe that report-card grades and test results from multiple-choice examinations are the most productive and informative measures of their children’s performance, knowledge base, and achievement. They need to become knowledgeable about the diverse possibilities for assessment, what those possibilities have to offer for understanding and assisting their child’s development, and the uses and misuses of various forms of assessment.
- Families should be active participants in the assessment process and all other aspects of governance in their school community.
- Families have valuable knowledge of their children’s development and situations that can contribute to the assessment process. Sharing this knowledge should be important and encouraged within all school communities.
- Families should seek ways to become more knowledgeable about their children’s development.
Paying taxes alone does not constitute family participation in children’s education. Teachers need the knowledge families have of their children, and school communities need the diversity of perspective that families bring to school problem solving, including assessment. Both families and schools are responsible for family involvement. Families must seek ways to become involved, and schools must organize to include families in their assessment and staff-development programs and actively seek their participation. This is particularly important in the case of families who are frequently marginalized by society in general and by the school system in particular. Newcomer families may need additional support to help them build an understanding of school culture and expectations and to enable them to access financial and social services.
Involving families in the assessment process includes involving them in staff development or community learning projects in which they learn more about reading and writing. It also includes the use of communication and reporting procedures between school and home that enable families to talk in productive ways with their children about their reading and writing. Involving families in the development of new reporting procedures is essential, since they are the primary audience for such reports.
The size and nature of the school community will have an impact on the ease with which families can be involved in schools and on the resources necessary to increase their participation. Consequently, this standard implies adequate and equitable funding of schools.