School System

Parent Involvement Truths: The evidence that parent involvement can make a significant difference in student achievement is beyond question.

PARENT INVOLVEMENT, SCHOOL PROGRAM, SCHOOL SYSTEMIf 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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Truths Parent Involvement: Truth #1: Parent involvement is all about the children.

ParentInvolvement, SchoolPrograms, SchoolSystemIt’s important to be clear about the purpose of parent involvement.  It is all about making sure that children get the best education possible.

Dr. Joyce Epstein at the Johns Hopkins University Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships makes the point very well when she says:

“The way schools care about children is reflected in the way schools care about the children’s families.

If educators view children simply as students, they are likely to see the family as separate from the school. That is, the family is expected to do its job and leave the education of children to the schools.

If educators view students as children, they are likely to see both the family and the community as partners with the school in children’s education and development.”


Our schools alone cannot provide the complete education children must have.

Parent involvement is all about the children and making sure they receive the kind of education they deserve and must have to be successful in this ever-changing world  as we prepare for the future.


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Perceived Barriers to Parent Involvement in School Program


Given a list of concerns that might impede parent involvement in schools, schools indicated to what extent they perceived that each was a barrier.


Among the parent-centered barriers, the highest percentage of schools perceived lack of time on the part of parents as a barrier to a great or moderate extent. This was followed by lack of parent education to help with school work.



Parent Involvement, School Program, parent involvement, School SystemCultural or socioeconomic differences and parent attitudes about the school were perceived to be barriers in 23 percent of schools.


Language differences between parents and staff was perceived as a barrier by 12 percent of schools.


Of the barriers considered to be centered at the school, more than half of schools (56 percent) perceived that lack of time on the part of school staff created a barrier to parent involvement to a great or moderate extent.


About half perceived that lack of staff training in working with parents was also a barrier to parent programs. Staff attitudes towards parents was perceived as a barrier by 18 percent of schools.


Concerns about safety in the area after school hours was reported as a barrier in 9 percent of all schools.


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