If we can point to anything in education that is “evidence-based” it is that parent involvement boosts student achievement! Studies include:
• The landmark Coleman Report . It documented the impact of both families and schools on educational achievement and found that the impact of families was overwhelmingly more important than that of schools in explaining differences in school achievement. Coleman’s findings have been replicated again and again over the years in the U.S. and around the world.
• The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement study on the differences between the highest- and lowest-achieving schools in mathematics and science in 39 countries.
In the U.S., 64 percent of the differences in achievement from one school to another were attributable to “home” variables including “parental support for academic achievement” and “socioeconomic status.”
Similar results were found in all 39 countries.
• Research that finds that while socioeconomic status is important, the best predictors of student achievement are:
a. A home environment that encourages learning.
b. Parents’ high expectations for achievement and future careers.
c. Parents being involved in a child’s education.
• The landmark Westat study . It found that in schools where teachers reported high levels of “outreach” to the parents of low achieving students, reading and math test scores grew at a rate 40 percent higher than in schools where teachers reported low levels of outreach.
Only one other factor was as consistently linked to student achievement gains—professional development programs that were highly rated by teachers.
So, what were the magic ingredients that the Westat study called “outreach” to parents? It was defined simply as teachers:
1. Meeting regularly with parents.
2. Sending materials home to parents on ways to help their child at home.
3. Telephoning parents, both routinely and when their child was having problems.
Parent involvement research goes on to say that:
• When fathers are involved, children do better in school.
• Student success is related to parent expectations and forcefulness in educational goal- setting.
The research findings on the critical role of parent involvement in no way diminish the importance of schools, great principals and teachers, or a rigorous curriculum. Of course those things are necessary—but they are not sufficient!
Let’s think of it using a health care analogy:
We would never accept a health care system where doctors and hospitals are expected to take total responsibility for a patient’s health—and be solely accountable for it no matter what the patient does or doesn’t do himself!
What the patient does to take care of himself at home is critical. And if the patient is a child, doctors (and society) expect parents to protect and maintain the child’s health through proper hygiene, exercise, food, clothing and shelter—and by carrying out the doctor’s treatment plans.
In education, research shows that the same kind of shared responsibility must also apply to educators, parents and students.
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