Get parents involved in their children’s education, and good things are bound to happen. That’s a statement that most everyone invested in the public schools — including parents, teachers, administrators, and school board members – can support.
But “parent involvement,” though widely praised, is a rather nebulous term encompassing a broad range of activities, from volunteering in the classroom, to helping children with homework, to serving on the PTA. Are certain types volunteering more effective than others when it comes to supporting a school’s most basic mission: raising student achievement?
The Center for Public Education — a research arm of the National School Boards Association – looked at this question by examining dozens of studies on various types of parent involvement. Its conclusion: The best things school leaders can do to improve achievement is to involve parents in the academic life of their children — by asking parents to monitor homework assignments, for example, and by setting high goals and encouraging college preparation.
“Families working in close partnerships with teachers can have a measurable impact on their children’s academic achievement, particularly when they are focused on helping students do well in school,” said Patte Barth, director of the Center. “While parent involvement is no substitute for good classroom instruction, it can make the job much easier for everyone — teachers, parents, guardians, and students themselves.”
Parents want to be involved in their children’s education, something that holds true regardless of their race and ethnicity or income level. For example, the study found that 82 percent of white parents checked their children’s homework. And those numbers were even higher for African-American parents (94 percent) and Hispanics (91 percent.) According to the report’s Executive Summary, studies “have shown that lower-income and minority parents often have the same level of involvement in education as others – even though it may not necessarily be reflected at PTA meetings or school fundraisers.”
“The vast majority of parents are involved and want their children to succeed,” Barth said. “However, the school may not be seeing it.”
The report — “Back to School: How Parent Involvement Affects Student Achievement” — looked at literacy programs in Minnesota and initiatives in West Virginia in which parents received learning packages in reading and math and training on how to use them. Among of the most effective programs, the report said, is an initiative run by Johns Hopkins University called TIPS (Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork).
A study of a TIPS writing program in Baltimore found that parent involvement at two middle schools increased the writing scores for 700 sixth- and eighth-grade students. And the more TIPS homework the students did, the better their language arts grades.