Better Support for and from Middle School Parents

Ed Week‘s Debra Viadero has a great new piece profiling the work of Harvard University researcher Nancy E. Hill. Hill writes about how schools can better guide parents in supporting the scholarship of their adolescent or middle school-age children.

Hill’s findings show the blanket K–12 recommendations school districts provide for parent involvement often underserve middle schoolers. Instead of helping with homework and chaperoning a field trip, Hill’s research suggests parents beef up at-home support for academics by

  • Communicating their expectations for their children’s achievement.
  • Discussing learning strategies.
  • Fostering career aspirations.
  • Linking what children were learning in school, or were interested in learning, to outside activities.
  • Making plans for the future.

Further, Viadero reports on Hill’s discovery that it is incredibly important for parents, middle, and high school educators to be on the same page about academic pathways from middle school to college—in other words, the courses and academic supports a child needs to get into the high school classes that will prepare them for college.

Certainly the guidance counselor would be a big player in facilitating Hill’s recommendations for parent involvement and making sure that parents and schools are clearly communicating academic pathways, particularly to those students whose parents may be less savy about navigating the system. Yet a recent survey shows a majority of high schools are freezing or cutting back on counseling staff due to budget shortfalls. We imagine middle school counselors are facing the same shortages.

Hill’s research shows how schools can better work with parents and guardians of adolescents, but schools need community support to be able to build this capacity. Help schools better serve families by getting involved as an Educator Advocate or whole child supporter.

Laura Varlas is an ASCD project manager in publishing, and a graduate student in the secondary education: English/language arts program at George Washington University.