The headline of an otherwise factual story in the Los Angeles Times gave some people the incorrect impression that the study found that parent involvement doesn’t matter. In fact, parent involvement was found to be positively correlated with API achievement. However, the four strongest practices had a far greater impact on school performance. In other words, the study did not find that parent involvement is not important or not related to student achievement. Rather, within the sample of California elementary schools surveyed, the relationship between student achievement and what the school does to encourage parent involvement is not as pronounced as the relationship between higher student achievement and these other four practices: a coherent curriculum aligned with state standards, availability of instructional resources, prioritizing student achievement, and use of student assessment data to improve instruction and learning
The surveys of principals and teachers included 29 questions about a cluster of practices for involving and supporting parents. These questions did not ask about numbers of parents involved or their hours given. Rather, they asked what activities the school conducted, and how often, to engage and involve parents.
For the elementary schools serving low-income families in our sample, practices designed to involve the parents in their children’s education were more positively correlated with higher school performance than were other efforts to involve parents. Examples of such practices that correlated positively with school performance were the frequency of special subject area (like math or English language arts) events held at a school and the frequency with which parents provide instructional support in classrooms.
More generally, a positive correlation also emerged for schools whose teachers reported most strongly that their district builds the community’s confidence in the school and their principal builds strong relationships with parents.
These findings may suggest that at schools serving low-income children and families, parent involvement strategies should be centered around the school’s instructional program and the child’s progress. This approach could be seen as naturally complementary to the four practices that correlated most positively with school performance – all four have student learning and academic achievement as their focus.