“Cornerstone” is defined as an important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends or is based. That’s what parental involvement in education is to a child’s upbringing — a cornerstone.
Thirty years of research (and counting) has proven that parents who are involved with their child’s education is the best predictor of student success.
☝️ That’s amazing! We wrote this blog to find out exactly how parental involvement affects education, and to encourage parents everywhere to get involved. Click any of the bullet points below to jump straight to that section:
- What does parental involvement mean?
- Benefits and importance of parental involvement in education
- 10 Tips for being more involved in your child’s education (+ free downloadable)
What is parental involvement in children’s education?
For some parents, being involved means dropping off or picking up their child from school, or asking whether their homework’s complete. This isn’t to say those things are negative or unhelpful.
But the American Psychology Association calls for something more — a shared responsibility: “[Parents] and school staff working together to support and improve the learning, development and health of children and adolescents.”
In the context of children’s education, parental involvement is a broad term that can take many forms both inside and outside of school. So, what role do parents play in education?
Depending on the schedules, parents can help their children by participating in school functions or obligations, advocating for the school, and improving their children’s schoolwork. For example:
|Home-based activities||School-based activities|
What’s the importance of parental involvement in education?
In 1992, educator Armendia Dixon wrote: “Parental involvement, in almost any form, produces measurable gains in student achievement.” And it holds true today.
According to People for Education, an independent Canadian organization, both types of activities outlined above are crucial. However, research shows that students’ academic achievement and the presence of home-based activities are more closely linked than school-based activities.
What’s more, the National Center for Family & Community Connections with School found students with involved parents saw academic success regardless of income or background. This means parents should be especially intentional about getting involved in their child’s education. Here’s why.
Benefits of parental involvement in education
Getting involved in your child’s education can help them:
1. Earn higher grades and test scores
The stronger the relationship between parental involvement and children’s education, the more likely children are to achieve better grades and score higher on tests.
Evidence: One study of 71 Title I elementary schools aiming to improve low-income students’ academic skills is a perfect example. When teachers met face to face with parents, sent helpful materials home, or discussed the child’s trouble areas over the telephone, children’s achievements in both reading and math improved.
2. Pass classes and earn credits
When parents are involved in education — at home and at school — their children tend to earn higher grades and pass from one grade to the next.
Evidence: After analyzing 700 parent interviews, researchers Wendy Miedel and Arthur Reynolds found that 1st to 8th grade children whose parents participated in more activities consistently got higher grades, spent less time in special education, and passed more grades. These findings held across all family backgrounds.
3. Reduce absenteeism
According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, many parents 1) don’t fully understand the consequences of missing school, and 2) tend to underestimate the number of school days their child has missed. Since absenteeism can hurt children’s immediate and future academic performance, it’s important for parents to be engaged and aware of how much school their children miss.
Evidence: Education policy researchers Carly Robinson and Minoca Lee and psychologists Eric Dearing and Todd Rogers led a 10,900-household study in which schools mailed home six reminders of the importance of attendance throughout the year. Results showed that students in the 6,500 families who received reminders missed 8% fewer school days. Amazingly, mailings to families with the lowest attendance corresponded with a 15% reduction in chronic absenteeism.
4. Improve social skills, behavior, and adaptability
Study after study points toward the idea that parental involvement in education has strong and positive effects on children’s classroom behavior and improved social skills.
Evidence: In a large analysis, non-profit organization Education Northwest found that parent involvement leads to improvements in student attitudes and social behavior. The study stated, generally, “active parent involvement is more beneficial than passive involvement, but passive forms of involvement are better than no involvement at all.”
5. Graduate and pursue postsecondary education
In addition to the benefits above, over 45 years of research has consistently shown that parental involvement in education contributes to graduation rates — regardless of income, race, or ethnicity.
Evidence: Several studies like this one have found that when parents are involved in their children’s education, school success rates increase. School success, in this case, includes fewer students being held back grade levels, lower dropout rates, higher rates of on-time high school graduation, and more participation in advanced courses.
How to be involved in your child’s education (10 simple tips)
1. Learn together
For a child, there’s nothing worse than doing homework alone knowing that their friends are having fun. Sitting with your child during homework can transform something “boring” into a bonding experience.
On top of finding it easier to concentrate, you and your child can work through and solve problems together!
2. Tweak your attitude
Whether they know it or not, you’re likely the most influential person in your child’s life. This is why it’s so important to have a positive attitude toward school and learning in general.
As we highlight in our guide to overcoming math anxiety, for example, “If parents regularly express negative attitudes about math, children can grow up believing math ability is innate and success is tied to giftedness.”
3. Make everyday activities educational
Just because school’s done doesn’t mean learning has to stop! Everything you do can be educational without seeming like schoolwork.
For example: reinforcing math concepts while baking, learning about science while playing outside, or engineering strong structures out of Lego.
4. Try supplemental activities
Pay attention to your child’s learning style — do they struggle with traditional pencil-and-paper assignments? Do they learn best with hands-on or game-based activities? If, for example, you have a child struggling with math, try turning it into something fun — because it can be!
Prodigy — a free, curriculum-aligned, fantasy-based math game used by more than a million teachers, three million parents, and 50 million students around the world — is one such example. As players compete in math duels against in-game characters, it borrows elements from role-playing games (RPGs) such as Pokemon. To win, they must answer sets of math questions that match their skill level and build math confidence.
5. Join a parent group
If you’re unsure how to get involved in your child’s education or you want to make a bigger difference, consider joining a parent group.
Whether it’s a grassroots group with friends or one affiliated with the National Parent-Teacher Association, groups like this give parents a voice in their children’s schools, which can help affect positive change.
6. Monitor your child’s schoolwork
Your child’s backpack — especially if they’re younger — is probably filled with a sea of papers and projects. It’s helpful to ask your child about them as there could be due dates or homework they’re struggling with. Regularly monitoring your child’s schoolwork opens opportunities for you to congratulate, help and encourage your child.
7. Keep communicating
Communication is crucial for successful parental involvement in education. Be it pencil and paper or email, this takes many forms. For example, receiving and reading school communications as well as sending notes to your child’s teacher about what’s going on in their life.
Keeping open lines of communication between families and teachers will help strengthen relationships and the ability to understand children’s moods or behaviors at school.
8. Prioritize parent-teacher conferences
From work to parenting and everything in between, we understand how busy life can get. But, if you can help it, try to make time for parent-teacher conferences because they’re one of the best opportunities to ask questions and raise concerns.
Get the most out of them by taking note of important things the teacher shares. This will help inform and improve how you continue to stay involved in your child’s education.
9. Volunteer at your child’s school
Depending on your schedule, finding time to volunteer at your child’s school can be tough. However, if an opportunity comes up where you can, take it! Let your child’s teacher know when you’re free, for how long, and get excited. Whether you’re helping chaperone a field trip, monitor the lunchroom or anything else, your child will notice — and appreciate — your involvement.
10. Read to and with your children
Research has proven that, early in life, reading to your child every day has a direct positive causal impact on their reading and cognitive skills later in life.
You can take turns reading before bed, in the car, at the library — whenever works best for your family.
Remember these 10 helpful tips for later. Download your free one-page summary now!
Final thought: parental involvement in education is key
While teachers play a huge role in the social and academic development of children, studies have overwhelmingly shown just how powerful parental involvement in education is — at school, but especially at home.
Parents want what’s best for their children. And by getting more involved in their education, you can directly impact their child’s success in school and beyond.
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