The influence of school and parent communication on science attitudes and achievement in fourth graders
Murphy, Susannah Spradlin
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I teach in the community of Frenchtown, Montana. This small, rural school is grappling with the recent loss of the community's largest employer, a large paper mill. Families who were once living quite comfortably are now struggling to survive. Most of the jobs lost were very skill specific, and those skills are not helping those displaced to find meaningful work that can support their families. This stress is played out every day in my fourth grade classroom. Montana's timber economy is shrinking. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nine of the twenty jobs with the fastest projected growth are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related (Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2010). Given better educational background and more flexible skills, the children in my classroom will be more prepared to handle such a catastrophic economic blow if it should strike in their adult life. Students with positive science experiences in their elementary through high school years are more likely to choose science related studies after graduation. The purpose of the study was to improve student achievement in science and student perception of their own abilities by implementing a structured and supportive program of communication between family and school. Using home visits to each child, a class website focusing on science related explorations, and frequent contact via e-mail, newsletters, phone calls, and one-on-one visits, I established a culture of communication. I found that this increased focus on keeping parents and children in close communication and contact with our school and classroom had a significant positive impact on student attitudes and academic performance in science. Hopefully this is one piece of what it takes to help them seek out a challenging future in higher education and beyond.