The image of a tired child, slumped in the back of the car as their parent gazes in the rearview mirror and begs, “What did you do in school today?” is not a new one. Almost every parent has lived this scenario out, word for word, moment by moment. Their children’s half-hearted response is often the only glimpse into the inner workings of their child’s school or education that they have. In an age where every parent-school communication is mediated by a screen, it is easy to become disconnected with the arduous process of educating a child. However, the mention of school and education should not stop at the car ride home. Students need reinforcement; they need parental figures and educators working together to round out their educational experience.
An annual synthesis created by the National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools titled, “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement” states “For many children, home and school are two very different worlds.” The two seldom interact let alone work together. And as students get older, the two worlds move further and further apart as parents no longer feel the need to engage in their child’s education (according to “Parent Involvement in Education”). As such, students are forced to isolate their worlds wherein education and educational behaviors start and cease at school. While this trend may be popular and commonplace, there is significant evidence that proves the benefit of fusing the two worlds.
“Across fifty different studies on parental engagement, educational researchers found a connection between family involvement and academic achievement,” states Waterford’s “How Parent Involvement Leads to Student Success”. Students with families involved in their education results in an increased likelihood of graduation and moving on to a secondary institution, less grade retention, and higher math and reading scores. While these statistics alone are quite impressive, parental involvement can also decrease behavioral problems, produce better attitudes among students, and create more effective programs within the school (according to the study, “Parental Involvement: The Missing Link in School Achievement”). What’s more, “The Family Engagement Partnership Student Outcome Evaluation” found that parents who were deliberately involved in their student’s education influenced a 24% decrease in overall student absences.
When parents involve themselves in the process, the community as a whole, benefits. Schools are run more efficiently, teachers develop rapport with parents, and families improve. Research article by Ralph B. McNeal Jr. explains the importance of Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTO). He explains, “PTO involvement improves a parent’s level of cultural capital by increasing their familiarity with school dynamics and specific teacher’s strengths and weaknesses.” In addition, PTOs help parents understand how to best reinforce the lessons taught in the classroom at home. “Parent Involvement in Education” mentions the positive correlation between parental involvement and parental approval of the school. When parents spend time volunteering at their students’ schools, they are more likely to become advocates for the school. Parent advocacy can be extremely beneficial as “community support of the educational process is considered one of the characteristics common to high-performing schools” (according to the NEA’s article “Parent, Family, Community Involvement in Education”). Other studies have found that involved parents, themselves, begin to “seek additional education for themselves” (according to Delores C. Peña’s research in “Parent Involvement: Influencing Factors and Implications”).
The phrase “parental involvement” itself can feel a little vague. However, the phrase relates to a multitude of activities and behaviors. “Parent Involvement and Family Engagement” created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services broadly defined parent involvement as “when parents participate in activities and take advantage of opportunities at their child’s early care and learning setting.” More specifically, “A New Wave of Evidence” condenses a few definitions across studies for parental involvement in relation to elementary school. They definition elementary school parent involvement in a few activities:
- Engaging in learning activities at home, including helping with reading skills and checking homework.
- Supervising children and monitoring how they spend their time out of school Talking about school and what children are learning.
- Attending school events, going to parent-teacher conferences, meeting with teachers, and volunteering in the classroom or school.
There are many ways to involve oneself in students’ education. It’s not enough to ask point our eyes in the direction of our students and ask them to tell us what they learned in school. We must know what they learned in school. We must stand in the midst of our students’ education and fuse the two worlds together. We must involve ourselves and improve students’ odds!