Parental Involvement

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Parent Involvement Programs In Education

Citing more than 85 studies, these publications document the profound and comprehensive benefits for students, families, and schools, when parents and family members become participants in their children’s education and their lives. The evidence is now beyond dispute. When parents are involved in their children’s education at home, their children do better in school.

Jarene Fluckiger, University of Nebraska at Omaha – Ilona Culshaw, Westside Community Schools – Cecilia Di Masi, Omaha Public Schools. Source:

The Effect Size of Family Support Programs

With respect to children’s cognitive development, programs were more effective when they included an early childhood education component (.48 vs. .25), when they were targeted to special needs children (.54 vs. .26), when there were peer support opportunities for parents (.40 vs. .25), and when there were parent groups rather than home visits (.49 vs. .26). For children’s social and emotional development, programs were more effective when parent self development was a program goal (.56 vs. .25) and when professional staff were used rather than paraprofessionals (.43 vs. .27). Parenting effects were also moderated by program characteristics, such as peer support. 

Evaluating Family Involvement Programs

Vocabulary, math skills, prereading skills, impulse control, relationships with peers, and approaches to learning are the most frequently studied aspects of school readiness. Language and learning materials in the home are the parenting behaviors most highly linked with vocabulary and early school achievement; discipline and nurturance are most closely associated with behavior problems, attention, and impulse control.

Differences in parenting behavior are seen between poor and not-poor children. The variation is especially large for those aspects of parenting most linked to school success: language, materials in the home, and teaching. We estimate that about 1/3 to 1/2 of the variation in school outcomes between poor and not-poor children can be accounted for by differences in parenting.

Harvard Family Research Project, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn is the Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child Development at Teachers College and at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, both at Columbia University. Source:

Family Learning Environments

David Boulton: So, in some respects, how much of what we’re saying is that we need to do this in order to compensate for variations in the family? How much about this is really about the family learning environment?

Arthur Rolnick: I think most of it is. I would talk about it in the environment. It’s basically a poverty issue. It isn’t that early education isn’t important for every kid. But clearly in middle and upper middle class families in most cases, not in all, but in a high percentage, the environment is a very positive one. Children begin school ready for school. They’ve got the language skills.

I’ve heard from all over the country from people in the criminal justice department on this topic. They tell me they most of the children that they end up putting into jail don’t come from middle and upper middle class families. They come from poverty families. They’re well aware of the problem. They see it. They realize that if a kid has a very slow start, or if they’re far behind in kindergarten, odds are they’re going to see them somewhere down the road, five, ten, fifteen years down the road. So they know that.

We’re arguing, and the research kind of shows us, you can get the highest return focusing on the at-risk children. The programs, the ideas are good for all children, of course, in all families. In most cases, middle class and upper middle class families are already doing this.

We’re not talking about taking the children in these low-income families out of the family, just the opposite. We’re talking about working with the family, because the studies show you’ve got to get the parent engaged. Essentially, you’re educating the parent on parenting and it’s a critical component. The programs that we are advocating suggest to get the high return includes a mentor with the parent at a very early age. The brain development people will tell you in the most stressful environments, most at-risk children, you have to get them by three. You can’t wait until four or five, even, that can be too late. So, we’re talking about mentors in families from birth on.

Those kind of programs, they may look expensive. Relatively speaking, they’re not, because the return is so high. 

Harvard Family Research Project, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn is the Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Child Development at Teachers College and at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, both at Columbia University. Source: