Most Effective Parental Involvement

By Patte Barth

School leaders, educators, and certainly parents all believe parent involvement is a key element in school success. But for all of the PTA meetings, back-to-school nights, parenting classes, and classroom volunteering, what, if anything, does parent involvement contribute to making successful students?

NSBA’s Center for Public Education (CPE) set out to answer this question in its recent report, Back to School: How parent involvement affects student achievement. What it found is somewhat surprising: Parent involvement can take many forms, but only a few of them relate to higher student performance. Of those that work, parental actions that support children’s learning at home are most likely to have an impact on academic achievement at school.

This is not to say that other forms of involvement don’t have value. They do. Good relationships between public schools and parents go a long way toward maintaining the school’s central place in the community. Effective two-way communication cultivates more parental support for the school’s priorities and policies. And setting out the welcome mat for parents helps them feel secure about sending their children to school every day knowing they are with adults committed to their learning. But research has not yet shown that such outreach efforts produce better student achievement.

Indeed, researchers agree that even effective parent involvement is not a substitute for good classroom instruction. But families can make teaching and learning much easier for everyone -- teachers, parents and guardians, and students -- when they reinforce the message at home that school is important.

This can be as simple as monitoring homework, making sure their kids get to school, rewarding their efforts, and talking up going to college. All of these actions can contribute to better student performance as measured by grades, test scores, attendance, college preparation, and attendance.

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