Professor Makarewicz’s recently published study, Supporting Parent Engagement in Children’s Learning through Neighborhood Development and Improvements to Accessibility, shines a light on how external community conditions such as household resources, community amenities, housing stability, and accessibility can have a profound effect on parents’ abilities to engage in their children’s learning.
While planners typically do not address school issues, this study shows that officials looking to improve educational outcomes would do well to consider urban planning part of their toolkit. As Makarewicz’s research demonstrates, student achievement rises when families live in neighborhoods with jobs, grocery stores, parks, accessible transit and housing stability. Her findings suggest planning can contribute to student achievement through strategic investments in community amenities and services that bolster parents’ time, energy, and resources for educational engagement in their homes, schools, and communities.The study indicates that external influences explain two-thirds of the income-based student "achievement gap" with parent engagement being especially important. Yet, public school improvements focus on within-school reforms, downplaying community conditions that challenge engagement. This study of seventy diverse parents in Oakland, California, utilized interviews, time-use diaries, neighborhood data, and participant observation to understand how a combination of personal characteristics, household resources, community amenities, housing stability, and accessibility affected parents' abilities to engage in their children's learning. Findings suggest planning can contribute to student achievement through investments and coordination that bolster parents' time, energy, and resources for educational engagement in their homes, schools, and communities.