Parental Involvement in Low Socioeconomic Schools

Parental involvement, according to a comprehensive study by the Southwest Education Development Laboratory, or SEDL, has a positive impact on student achievement at all socioeconomic levels, though involvement is probably more important for low socioeconomic schools, as they are more likely to have lower test scores and graduation rates 1. But what do we mean when we say, "parental involvement"? How does it influence children's success?

Kinds of Parental Involvement

The Center for Public Education lists six types of parental involvement in schools: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision-making and community collaboration. Parenting includes learning about developmental stages and how to support learning through workshops, meetings or literature. Communicating means that parents discuss their child's progress and needs through conferences and phone calls.

Parent involvement through volunteering means that parents help in the classroom or assist somewhere in the building. Learning at home means that parents assist with homework and educators provide the framework and activities for parents to do with their children. Decision-making, of course, means that parents participate in advisory boards and committees for the school.

Finally, community collaboration is when parents facilitate or are part of community groups that work with the school. The SEDL study discovered that all parents, regardless of education, socioeconomic status or cultural background want to support their children's schools and help their children succeed.

Positive Correlations of Parental Involvement

The SEDL study also found that students who did have involved parents, regardless of socioeconomic status, were more like to graduate and go on to post-secondary education, attend school regularly, earn high grades, have higher test scores, participate in more challenging programs and have better behavior and social skills. The SEDL determined that the most important aspect of parental involvement was learning at home; they found programs that support parents in extending school activities at home were the most indicative of future student success.

Types of Parental Involvement Programs

What this means for low socioeconomic schools, then, is that they need to make parental involvement through learning at home a priority. One program developed by researchers and educators at Johns Hopkins University is TIPS, or Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork. The program supports teachers in developing appropriate work for children and parents to do together at home by providing a framework that works for any subject or grade level. Many parental involvement programs work along a similar vein, by providing ways for teachers to help parents support classwork at home. School support groups, like the Parent-Teacher Organization, or PTO, are another type of parental involvement programs that can also help with learning at home by sponsoring family math, science or literacy nights.

Ways to Improve Parental Involvement

The Center for Public Education suggests that schools gather data about parental involvement and achievement so that they can choose what to specifically focus on. If, for example, reading scores are very low, than parental involvement programs should emphasize literacy. Project Appleseed provides surveys that schools can give to parents to find out what they would like to do to help, if any of them have any expertise they are willing to share and what their concerns are. Project Appleseed also emphasizes the importance of making information accessible to all parents through translation and of providing flexibility in meeting times.