Schools with lower student-teacher ratio do a better job of engaging parents

Parents of children in classrooms with low student-teacher ratios are more likely to report that schools try to engage them in their children’s education than parents of children in classrooms with high student-teacher ratios, says a new study in The Journal of Educational Research.  Student-teacher ratio was more important than school size, grade level or school socioeconomic status in parent reports that schools try to engage them in their children’s education.

“For parents of students receiving special education services—and perhaps for all parents—a school’s student-teacher ratio appears to be an important factor associated with the quality of school-family collaborations,” the study says.

Researchers examined parent responses to the Schools’ Efforts to Partner with Parents Scale (SEPPS: Elbaum, Fisher, & Coulter, 2011) for 265 Florida schools. SEPPS is a measurement scale currently used by 40 U.S. states to collect data on facilitating parent involvement.

Parents indicated schools with the lowest student-teacher ratios did a better job communicating with them.  Responses to the following three communication items in SEPPS showed the greatest disparity in parent responses between­­­­­­ schools with the lowest and highest student-teacher ratios:

“The school offers parents a variety of ways to communicate with teachers.”

“Teachers are available to speak with me.”

“The school communicates regularly with me regarding my child’s progress on IEP goals.”

Smaller student-teacher ratios may free up teachers to have more frequent and in-depth parent contacts, the researchers write.  A smaller workload may make it possible for teachers to develop stronger bonds with students and their parents.

Schools with higher student-teacher ratios could free up teacher time to reach out to parents by using traditional coteaching models. A special education teacher working with a general education teacher allows teachers to focus more of their attention on students who need instructional supports and to reach out to their parents.

“The Role of Student-Teacher Ratio in Parents’ Perceptions of Schools’ Engagement Efforts,” by Raymond Rodriguez and Batya Elbaum, The Journal of Educational Research, 2014, 107: 1, pp. 69-80.

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