In this week's Sunday New York Times, Professor Keith Robinson and Professor Angel Harris examined ways in which parental involvement had the greatest impact on student achievement. Their work defined student achievement as standardized test scores and grades. While I think that our students and policy makers both need a more nuanced understanding of achievement. I haven't figured out exactly how to quantify it (but that's a subject for another post entirely), and there is still much to learn from the data we do have.
Harris and Robinson found that "observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a
child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework, do not
improve student achievement. In some cases, they actually hinder it." The pairs research also suggests that parents had similar levels of involvement regardless of race which can hopefully lay to rest the old canard that some racial groups care more about eduction than others.
So, how should schools engage parents in ways that will help students become successful? Students from all backgrounds often seem to struggle with seeing their thirteen years of public education as a gift and investment in their futures. Parents can provide wisdom and help students develop positive feelings toward school. Parents can also model respect for teachers and their wisdom as professionals who sometimes see sides of kids not on display at home.
Teachers, what are some of the most meaningful parent interactions you've had? Parents, what do you need from schools to be able to support your children? Do you think we'll ever be able to bridge the divide between home and school?