Whether you’ve been teaching for one year or twenty, you have likely witnessed a broad spectrum of parental involvement. Some parents are extremely cognizant of their child’s progress and are heavily committed to hands-on support. Other parents may take a less collaborative and integrated approach — and some parents fall somewhere in the middle. Read on to learn what researchers have to say about optimal levels of parental involvement, and how to boost engagement levels to improve student outcomes.
Defining Parental Engagement
Let us begin our exploration of ideal parental involvement levels by understanding what engagement means when we talk about parents and the classroom. When we talk about participation in a child’s education, the range of involvement activities is broad and includes everything from:
- Helping a child with his/her homework or projects.
- Attending a parent-teacher conference.
- Attending a school event.
- Preparing a child for school daily.
- Proactively checking student grades and progress using parental portal tools.
- Attending a parent group or joining in school committees.
The Benefits of Parental Involvement
There are dozens of studies published around this topic. Educational researchers have found a connection between family involvement and academic achievement across fifty different studies on parental engagement.1 According to an article published by Public School Review in 20182, “extensive research has shown that students achieve more in school when their parents are involved in their education.”
Children whose parents are involved in their academic progress benefit from:
- More consistent attendance. (For example, in a 2015 study, The Family Engagement Partnership Student Outcome Evaluation by John Hopkins found that when teachers engaged with parents through home visits, for example, student absences dropped by 20%.3)
- Maintaining a positive attitude about their education.
- Higher academic performance.
- Better in-class behavior.
- Building stronger bonds with their parents.
How Much Should Parents and Guardians be Involved in Their Child’s Education?
When it comes to parental involvement, how do experts define ideal levels of engagement? Is there a tipping point when parents become too involved, to the detriment of their child’s academic progress? While data shows that the more parents are involved in their child’s education, the better the child’s performance, there is a point when too much involvement creates a barrier to developmental independence. In these cases, children may fail to develop the self-sufficiency needed to accomplish work or advocate for opportunities without parental guidance (or even total intervention).
Tips for teachers to get parents more involved in the next school year.
The National Education Association (NEA) recommends the following tactics to engage parents in their child’s academic progress:
- Survey educators and families to better understand engagement needs and identify partnership opportunities.
- Develop and pass family-friendly policies. For example, create flexible participation schedules to enable involvement by all families with unique needs.
- Educate faculty and staff on the importance of parental engagement, and support them with tools and resources to maintain a two-way dialogue with parents and guardians.
- Hold training opportunities that engage parents and guardians so they can learn about the critical role they play in their child’s achievement and how to become and stay involved.
- Provide regular communications that reinforce engagement expectations for both parents and educators.
- Provide information to parents promptly, using a variety of practical communication tools. Diverse communities should also enable multilingual communications.
- Develop a proactive, multi-channel communication strategy to keep parents and community members informed about school initiatives and student success. A varied communication plan should include email newsletters, social media, and open forums.
- Regularly reevaluate communication methods, policies, and strategies, and make adjustments based on parent and staff feedback, to optimize results.
It Takes a Village
Students need the engagement of their parents to succeed academically4, and parents and guardians need easily accessible communications and dialogue opportunities with schools to understand their role and become engaged. By encouraging parental involvement and making it easy for parents to take part in activities and assist student learning opportunities, your students will, at a young age, develop the confidence and motivation needed to prioritize their education long-term.
It’s Your Turn!
Do you have any tips or ideas to help other teachers create a more parent-involved classroom? What are your thoughts on what defines too little or too much parent involvement? Please share your ideas and experiences below. We’d love to hear from you!
1. Hill, N. E., & Tyson, D. F. (2009). Parental involvement in middle school: a meta-analytic assessment of the strategies that promote achievement. Developmental psychology, 45(3), 740-63.↩
2. Chen, G. (2008, March 26). Parental Involvement is Key to Student Success. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.publicschoolreview.com/blog/parental-involvement-is-key-to-student-success↩
3. Sheldon, Steven & Bee, Sol. (2015). The Family Engagement Partnership Student Outcome Evaluation. ↩
4. Waterford.org. (2018, November 01). How Parent Involvement Leads to Student Success. Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.waterford.org/education/how-parent-involvment-leads-to-student-success/↩