Why Parents Matter

  • How parent involvement affects student achievement

    It may be one of the least controversial statements in American education: Parent involvement can make a difference in a child’s education. The conflict can come, though, on how to define that involvement. Do all the PTA meetings, take-home flyers and Back to School nights actually generate increases in student achievement? The Center for Public Education examined the research and found that creating a partnership between parents and schools focused on academics truly does have significant impact on student achievement.

    The six types of parent involvement

    Joyce Epstein of the Johns Hopkins University, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, one of the nation’s leading experts on parent involvement, divided school parent involvement programs into six broad categories:

    1. Parenting, in which schools help families with their parenting skills by providing information on children’s developmental stages and offering advice on learning-friendly home environments;
    2. Communicating, or working to educate families about their child’s progress and school services and providing opportunities for parents to communicate with the school;
    3. Volunteering, which ranges from offering opportunities for parents to visit their child’s school to finding ways to recruit and train them to work in the school or classroom;
    4. Learning at home, in which schools and educators share ideas to promote at-home learning through high expectations and strategies so parents can monitor and help with homework.
    5. Decision-making, in which schools include families as partners in school organizations, advisory panels, and similar committees.
    6. Community collaboration, a two-way outreach strategy in which community or business groups are involved in education and schools encourage family participation in the community.

    What kind of involvement works best?

    When determining what types of involvement work best, a major report by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) found one common factor: “Programs and interventions that engage families in supporting their children’s learning at home are linked to higher student achievement.” Examples abound:

    • A literacy program in Minnesota that included home and school activities on literacy for kindergartners and their families generated significant positive gains. In addition, children who began the program with the lowest scores recorded the greatest gains.
    • In West Virginia, nine schools sought to enhance parents’ skills by offering workshops at school entrance at which the adults received learning packets in reading and math and training on how to use them. Students with more highly involved parents made stronger reading and math gains than less involved parents. The finding was apparent across all income levels. In addition, family income had no effect on involvement, as low-income families were just as likely to attend the workshops as higher-income families.

    For older students, parent involvement with academics largely focused on enabling parents to convey high expectations to their children, encouraging them to take and succeed in rigorous courses with an eye toward college. For example:

    • When families knew about and guided high school students to classes that would lead to higher education, students were more likely to enroll in a higher-level program, earn credits, and score higher on tests. Regardless of family background, the issue of parent expectations had the strongest effect on grade 12 test scores in all subjects. (Catasambis, 1998)

    But how do schools engage families in supporting learning at home? Interactive homework assignments that bring together parents and their children work well. One of the leading examples is an initiative designed by Epstein and her Johns Hopkins colleagues called TIPS.

    • At the elementary level, the parent describes their child’s work on the activities and whether the child understands a concept or needs more assistance.
    • At the high school level, the activities require specific parent involvement to complete, and parents answer whether the assignment helped them learn what their child is doing in class.

    Reference: http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/research/back-school-how-parent-involvement-affects-student-achievement