A stakeholder is anyone who is involved in the welfare and success of a school and its students, including administrators, teachers, staff, students, parents, community members, school board members, city councilors and state representatives.
Stakeholders may also be collective entities, such as organizations, initiatives, committees, media outlets, and cultural institutions. They have a stake in the school and its students, which means they have personal, professional, civic, financial interest or concern in the school.
Stakeholder engagement is considered vital to the success and improvement of a school. The involvement of the broader community of the school with it can improve communication and public understanding and allows for the incorporation of the perspectives, experiences and expertise of participating community members to improve reform proposals, strategies, or processes.
Parent, family and community involvement can have a different meaning for different people. A research-based framework developed by Joyce Epstein of John Hopkins University, describes six types of involvement:
- Parenting: Help families by providing them with parenting skills and family support, make them understand the phases of child development, its complexities and ways to cope with it. Help schools understand backgrounds and cultures of families and their goals for children.
- Communicating: Create reliable communication channels between school and home to communicate with families about school programs and student progress.
- Volunteering: Enable educators to work with volunteers who support students and the school. Involve families as volunteers and as audiences at the school.
- Learning at Home: Encourage the involvement of families in their children’s academic learning at home through curriculum-related activities such as including homework and goal setting.
- Decision Making: Make families participants in school decisions, governance and advocacy activities.
- Collaborating with the Community: Co-ordinate resources and services for families, students and the school with community groups such as businesses, cultural and civic organizations, colleges or universities.
The National Education Association (NEA ) is an organization that is committed to advancing public education with members working at every level of education, from pre-school to university, to improve the quality of teaching, increase student achievement and make schools safer and better places to learn. NEA has released several policy publications that focus on improving achievement for students and closing the achievement gaps. One such policy brief is ‘Parent, Family, Community Involvement in Education’ (2008) . It discusses the essential role that the whole community plays in the growth and development of its young people and emphasizes that along with parents and family, the broader community too has a responsibility to assure high-quality education for all students. It discusses some specific ways in which schools can engage more stakeholders such as parents, families and communities in education. They’re listed below:
- Determine the needs, interests and ideas of parents and educators about involvement and partnering through surveys or polls.
- Develop family-friendly policies and laws to encourage participation by diverse families.
- Provide professional development for school teachers on family and community engagement for school.
- Provide training to community stakeholders and parents to help them develop effective communications and partnering skills.
- Provide better information on school and school district policies and procedures.
- Use effective communications tools to ensure timely access to information which is in a format that can be easily comprehended.
- Hire and train school-community intermediaries who are aware of the history, language, and cultural background of communities to contact parents and coordinate activities.
- Collaborate with higher education institutions for teacher and administrator preparation programs to bring out the parent, family, and community involvement in education.
- Develop an outreach strategy to inform families, businesses and community about the school involvement opportunities, policies and programs.
- Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of family involvement programs and activities.
The involvement of the broader community of a school with it leads to higher academic performance and school improvement. When schools, parents, families and communities work together to support learning, students feel more encouraged, attend school more regularly and take part in higher-level programs. This involvement is a key to addressing school drop-out crisis and strong partnerships foster higher educational aspirations and more motivated students.
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