The Effectiveness of Parental Involvement for Improving the Academic Performance of Elementary School Children
Chad Nye, PhD
Jamie Schwartz, PhD
Herb Turner, PhD
UCF Center for Autism & Related Disabilities
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The role of parents has long been thought to be centrally important to the academic achievement of their children. However, this role had neither been analyzed nor systematically studied using an experimental design until the 1960’s. The evaluation of the Head Start Program in the United States (Coleman, Campbell, Hobson, McPartland, Mod, Weinfeld, & York, 1966) fostered a national focus on outcomes related to parental involvement by suggesting a substantial relationship between parental involvement in their child’s education and their child’s success in academic domains. Subsequent studies have been presented which support the findings from Coleman, et al. (Duff & Adams, 1981; Henderson, 1987; 1988). Even so, other studies have reported either mixed or no significant differences between experimental and control groups when measuring the effect of parental involvement on student achievement (Griffith, 1996; Heller, & Fantuzzo, 1993; Henry, 1974; Keith, Reimers, Ferman, Pottenbaum, & Aubrey ,1986; Ryan, 1964; Searles, Lewis & Morrow, 1982). Some of the discrepancy across studies relates to the nature of the data collection and research design. For example, some investigators have studied the relationship between parental involvement and child school success using direct observation (Arbuckle & MacKinnon, 1988), surveys, or questionnaires (Edwards & Warin, 1999). Other investigators have utilized a traditional experimental design to compare student performances across the randomly allocated groups (DeBaryshe, 1993; Woods, Barnard, & TeSelle, 1974).
Another potential source of discrepancies in findings across studies relates to the outcomes measured. Specifically, a variety of dependent variables have been reported in studies on parental involvement including reading achievement (Epstein, 1987; 1991; Tizard, Schofield, & Hewison, 1982; Trovato & Bucher, 1980; Walberg, Bole, & Waxman, 1980; Woods, Barnard, & TeSelle, 1974), math achievement (Fantuzzo, Davis, & Ginsburg,1995; Heller & Fantuzzo, 1993; Morgan & Sorensen, 1999), and perceptual skills training (Garrison, 1977). Furthermore, differences in study findings and the explanatory conclusions often do not take into account other important factors that can affect the validity of study findings such as the reliability of scales and tests; controlling for important child background characteristics such as grade, age, socioeconomic status; and controlling for important parent background characteristics such as socioeconomic status, education and training (Reynolds, Weissberg, & Kasprow, 1992).
In addition, researchers have defined parent involvement inconsistently or so broadly that is difficult to measure. For example, one group of researchers defined parent involvement as parent participation in educational activities at both school and home (Christenson, Rounds, & Gorney, 1992). Epstein (1987) suggested that parent involvement is multi-dimensional and included: (1) home environment that supports learning, (2) communication on classroom performance, (3) active attendance at school activities such as PTA, (4) engagement and monitoring of home learning activities, and (5) participation in school-based decision making such as school committees. Typically, the study of parental involvement in home-school environments has identified educational activities that ranged from participation in parent-teacher organizations and...