George Lucas Educational Foundation

Parental Involvement Reaps Big Benefits

The National PTA shares findings about the benefits of involving parents in education.
Edutopia Team
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Parent involvement isn't a luxury -- it's an integral component of student achievement and school reform. Decades of research studies on the effect of meaningful parent involvement programs in schools have found that

  • when parents are involved, students achieve more, regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnic/racial background, or the parents' education level.
  • when parents are involved, students exhibit more positive attitudes and behavior.
  • to have long-lasting gains for students, parent involvement activities must be well planned, inclusive, and comprehensive.
  • children from diverse cultural backgrounds tend to do better when parents and professionals collaborate to bridge the gap between the culture at home and the learning institution.
  • schools that work well with families have better teacher morale and higher ratings of teachers by parents.
  • school programs that involve parents outperform identical programs without parent and family involvement.
  • effective programs are led by a team of administrators, educators, and parents and have access to financial resources.
  • when they are treated as partners and given relevant information by people with whom they are comfortable, parents put into practice the involvement strategies they already know are effective but have been hesitant to contribute.
  • collaboration with families is an essential component of a reform strategy, but it is not a substitute for high-quality education programs or comprehensive school improvement.

Research findings courtesy of the National PTA. Go to the National PTA's Web site for more information about parent involvement

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Todd's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I feel your pain in regards to the lack of parental involvement. I teach some lower level classes and work hard to get parents involved in their children's success. I make phone calls home, send emails, try and set up meetings, and also get the counselors and administration involved early and often. We also have online grading that parents can access any time and I update my grades every day.

Many of the responses I get back are "tell me how I should raise my kid." Many of the parents are not surprised by poor performance and do not seem to care. I continue to try, but I take the approach: I have 5-6 hours with this child and try and do as much as physically possible. If the parents will not get involved, I try and get these students in for 1:1 help before or after school. They need and should know that I definitely care.

Nailah's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

"Parental involvement always seems to be lacking in low performing schools and low income neighborhoods. Some of this is because children are raised by one parent usually their mother. These women are often very young and didn't finish high school. Most of the time they only come to school when their kids have been suspended or are in some type of trouble."

A lot of times this is because the first timet he school's contact the parents is when their child is in trouble. I think the first step for parent involvement is for staff and administrator to understand and truly believe that these parent have the best interest of their child at heart (just like we always want the parent to believe that we have their child's best interest at heart) no matter what their educational background or how young they entered the world of parenting. Working from there we have to start trying to build relationships and working with the card that we have been dealt. You might not have a parent that can come in on a regular basis because they can't take off of work, have no transportation or are intimidated of the school environment..but that same parent might be a great person to send in food items, or might know someone who could donate items to the school fair...we just have to be open to what the parents have to offer and not just what we need. IMO lol

Sally's picture

One reason parents fail to become involved in schools is that the parents were failed by the schools in the past. Many do not come to the school eagerly because school has become something to avoid. When schools can help meet the needs of the students and families in harsher neighborhoods, those parents might become less fearful and more interested in working with the school. Keeping the lines of communication open is important even if it was unsuccessful in the past. We should not just throw up our hands and say it is a lost cause.

Jenny's picture
8-12 Grade drama in Boise, Idaho

Everything posted above is true, so true, and thank you for being teachers who care about parent involvement!
Speaking as a parent - I was a very active volunteer when my sons were in elementary school. In fact, my volunteer work was a big factor in my decision to return to college to earn a teaching degree. However, when my older son began to attend junior high, I wanted to volunteer and I let his teachers, the principal and others know that. But the general "feel" at the school was not very welcoming to parents. I was told any number of times that "in junior high we want students to be more independent." They seemed to think that I wanted to shadow my own child or something! I would have been willing to help in any way I could have, but his teachers didn't seem to have any ideas as to "what to do with me." I realized that they had no plan for volunteers.
So, as a teacher, my suggestion is: try to get emails for your students' parents and try to send out a regular "wish list" of things that parents can help with. It helps parents when they know exactly what you need. Sure, there will be those who don't get it and think that you aren't doing your job if you are asking for help - that's a shame. But you may discover a few gems who will be able to help out!
PS: Things have improved at my sons' school. All parents now get weekly emails from the teaching teams with updates and information about what students are doing. I love it! The school now feels much more "parent friendly."

Virginia Jones's picture

Food works, especially in low income areas. What I have seen that became an annual tradition that everyone in the community anticipated were:
Mothers' day breakfast -- each child invites significant women in their lives to the cafeteria for breakfast, where a special meal (mini smokies, cinnamon rolls, and lots of hot drinks) were served.
Fathers' breakfast, same thing with the men, but in a month other than Mothers' day.
Creative carousel -- 1 week where each teacher prepares a special lesson/unit/theme that results in projects that can be displayed for the school "public" at an evening performance/art show with a spaghetti dinner. Each class donated an ingredient (bread, butter, sauce, spaghetti, salad) so that there was no major expense, and the admin did the cooking.
These were very festive, happy events that involved the entire community, and got people involved in the school.

Karen's picture

The thing our school does that is best at attracting all types of parents is having an annual international potluck/show. People bring food from their culture, and kids do a dance or other performance from their culture. We have Tongan kids doing hula dances, Hispanic kids doing Mexican folk dances, and Japanese kids doing Japanese dances. Everyone comes and shares and feels proud of their kids and their cultures. It's just one night, but it's a start. It's organized by the PTA.

And yes, kindergardeners do get homework--our school district has a policy that requires all teachers to assign certain amounts of homework at all grade levels. I think it's a silly policy at best, but there are many who believe it's important.

Karen Russell's picture

I am a parent of a Kindergartner (who gets homework), and I have spent about 5 hours a week at the school volunteering this past year. I can not even express how much I love being involved. I am lucky to not have to work, and only have one child which makes me RARE, but I wouldn't trade those 5 hours a week for anything else.

There have been several days when I have sat in the back (working on my assigned tasks) with tears in my eyes at the love that my son's teacher expresses for each of the children in the class. It is such a joy to have the children come up to me and show me how they learned to whistle, lost a tooth, or got a new shirt.

I really believe that by being in my son's classroom I have developed a great relationship with his teacher. And, I think that the children respond more favorably to my son (not that everyone wouldn't love him ;). I look forward to many more years of being involved in his classroom, and wish that every mother (and/or father) could have this experience.

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