Given that the best teachers have been shown to raise students’ lifetime earnings and to decrease the likelihood of teen pregnancy, this is no small intervention.
Given that the best teachers have been shown to raise students’ lifetime earnings and to decrease the likelihood of teen pregnancy, this is no small intervention.All in all, these findings should relieve anxious parents struggling to make time to volunteer at the PTA bake sale.Harris, a sociology professor at Duke, mostly found that it doesn’t.
Robinson and Harris’s data, published in The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education, show that this won’t help her score higher on standardized tests.
Once kids enter middle school, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down, an effect Robinson says could be caused by the fact that many parents may have forgotten, or never truly understood, the material their children learn in school.
In an attempt to show whether the kids of more-involved parents improved over time, the researchers indexed these measures to children’s academic performance, including test scores in reading and math. Most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire—regardless of a parent’s race, class, or level of education.
Do you review your daughter’s homework every night?
This kind of meddling could leave children more anxious than enthusiastic about school, Robinson speculates. Since the late 1960s, the federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on programs that seek to engage parents—especially low-income parents—with their children’s schools.
“Ask them ‘Do you want to see me volunteering more? In 2001, No Child Left Behind required schools to establish parent committees and communicate with parents in their native languages.Robinson and Harris chose not to address a few potentially powerful types of parental involvement, from hiring tutors or therapists for kids who are struggling, to opening college savings accounts.And there’s the fact that, regardless of socioeconomic status, some parents go to great lengths to seek out effective schools for their children, while others accept the status quo at the school around the corner.Although Robinson and Harris didn’t look at school choice, they did find that one of the few ways parents can improve their kids’ academic performance—by as much as eight points on a reading or math test—is by getting them placed in the classroom of a teacher with a good reputation.This is one example for which race did seem to matter: white parents are at least twice as likely as black and Latino parents to request a specific teacher.Instead, students described mothers and fathers who set high expectations and then stepped back. Lareau found that in poor and working-class households, children were urged to stay quiet and show deference to adult authority figures such as teachers.In middle-class households, kids learned to ask critical questions and to advocate for themselves—behaviors that served them well in the classroom.But valuing parental involvement via test scores alone misses one of the ways in which parents most impact schools.Pesky parents are often effective, especially in public schools, at securing better textbooks, new playgrounds, and all the “extras” that make an educational community come to life, like art, music, theater, and after-school clubs.As part of his research, Robinson conducted informal focus groups with his undergraduate statistics students at the University of Texas, asking them about how their parents contributed to their achievements.He found that most had few or no memories of their parents pushing or prodding them or getting involved at school in formal ways. “You’d expect they’d have the type of parental involvement we’re promoting at the national level. It really blew me away.”Robinson and Harris’s findings add to what we know from previous research by the sociologist Annette Lareau, who observed conversations in homes between parents and kids during the 1990s.