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How Parental Involvement in Education Helps Children in School

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Parental involvement in education is a cornerstone of a child’s upbringing.

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.

This family involvement is essential to students staying committed to their education - not only through a school year, but through the entire course of schooling. Research backs that this is true through any school district or education program.

We wanted to take a deeper look at exactly how parent involvement affects education, and to encourage parents everywhere to get involved. So we studied the research and did a deep dive into the connection between family engagement and the outcome it has on children’s learning.

What does parental involvement in children’s schools mean?

Parent sitting with child working together on a laptop.

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 schedules, parents can help their children by participating in school functions or obligations, advocating for the school, and improving their children’s schoolwork.

Examples of getting involved at home include:

  • Helping with homework
  • Modeling desired behavior
  • Providing ongoing encouragement
  • Monitoring homework completion
  • Creating a time and space for study

Parents can be more involved in their child's school by:

  • Communicating with teachers
  • Volunteering for school activities
  • Attending parent-teacher conferences
  • Helping with the governance of a school council

What’s the importance of parental involvement in education?

dad and son learning together

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.

Benefits of parental involvement in education

You really can bolster a child’s education by creating a supportive learning environment at home. You can also do so by becoming more involved in the school community.

The research is clear: parent and family involvement creates better outcomes for students. We wanted to dive deeper into this research and show you the tangible effect it has. Here are five key ways parent engagement helps students.

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

A classroom filled with empty chairs.

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

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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.

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Did you know?

Students at Clifton Public Schools in New Jersey mastered 68% more math skills in 2019-20 on average when they used Prodigy Math compared to 2018-19.

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How to be involved in your child’s education (11 simple tips)

It’s clear getting involved in your child’s education can help them - however not all schools have an existing environment where high-quality, high-impact parent involvement thrives.

Sometimes it is up to both the parents and those in the community to create that environment. While most private or public schools actively welcome parent engagement - sometimes it is up to the parents to initiate it.

As we said before, parent involvement in education can take many forms. Sometimes it takes place with teachers in the classroom and sometimes it takes place out of school and in the home.

Below are 11 simple tips to get started on parent involvement - all of which, if done correctly, can result in school improvement for your children.

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. Recognize yourself as a role model

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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.

Examples of making everyday activities educational include:

  • Encouraging your child to take measurements while baking
  • Explaining scientific concepts like force and gravity while playing ball games
  • Challenging your child to build the strongest or tallest structure with building blocks

4. Try supplemental activities

A father helps his two young daughters with a science experiment.

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!

You can also try out Prodigy.

Prodigy is a curriculum-aligned, fantasy-based math game used by millions of parents, teachers and children around the world. As players compete in math duels against in-game characters, they must answer math questions which include geometry, arithmetic and more. Each math question is algorithmically selected to match their skill level and help build their math confidence.

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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. They can either be in-person or virtual.

Joining a National PTA, for example, is not only a great way to get involved in your child’s education, but it also creates school partnerships between parents and teachers. 

Parent involvement programs like this can affect the decision-making of your local schools positively, and create lasting community partnerships.

You can also join our very own Prodigy Parent Community on Facebook.

6. Monitor your child’s schoolwork

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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

Parent shaking hands with teacher.

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.

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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 helping out with other school events, your child will notice – and appreciate – your involvement.

10. Read to and with your children

Dad reading storybook to his two daughters.

Research has proven that, early in life, reading to your child every day has a direct positive causal impact on their own 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.

11. Help your kids study

More impactful than helping your kids with their homework is laying the groundwork for them to succeed independently. 

By helping your kids study, you can instill habits that can lead to future success. It can be difficult for young students to come up with effective study strategies on their own. 

But having a parent or other family members help them can go a long way into ensuring they are well equipped as middle school and high school students, and even beyond into college.

Remember these 11 helpful tips for later. Download your free summary now!

Parental involvement in education is key to successful outcomes

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, parents can directly impact their child’s success in school and beyond.

Support your child as they learn math with a Prodigy Parent Account!

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