“The Best Research Available On Parent Engagement”

There is a substantial amount of research available on parent engagement/involvement, and I thought bringing together a few of the best resources would be useful. You can also see all my parent engagement-related “The Best” lists here.

Here are my picks for The Best Research Available On Parent Engagement:

The Harvard Family Research Project has a wealth of resources.

I discovered a very good article in the “Middle School Journal” that’s about three years old. It’s titled “What Research Says: Varieties of Parent Involvement In Schooling” and was written by Vincent A. Anfara, Jr. & Steven B. Mertens. It gives a good overview of parent involvement research, but what makes this piece particularly unique is its discuss of historical patterns of family involvement in schools over the years.

Awhile back, I wrote a post about a very unusual study. The post, titled Parental Involvement Is Equal To Spending $1,000 More Per Student?, concluded:

“Parental effort is consistently associated with higher levels of achievement, and the magnitude of the effect of parental effort is substantial. We found that schools would need to increase per-pupil spending by more than $1,000 in order to achieve the same results that are gained with parental involvement.”

You can read more about it at that post. Even though it supports my position on the importance of parent engagement, I wrote that I was a little wary of quantifying it in that way.So I contacted Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post about it. She had invited readers to submit research that they had questions about, and she would have other experts review it. Well, she followed through immediately but, for some reason, I missed it then and just by chance discovered what she found. You can read everything she wrote about it here, but this is an excerpt:

The Washington Post’s expert pollster, Jon Cohen, looked at the research and gave it a nod.

He said the methodology is sound and that it is legitimate to estimate in dollar terms the value of parental help in the context of per-pupil school spending.

A belated thank you to Valerie. It seems to me that this research, and that fact that it’s been “validated” can be a very useful tool in encouraging parent involvement/engagement efforts.

Great Expectations Create the Best Young Scholars is an article from Miller-McCune that has some good information about recent parent involvement studies.

Parent Engagement Literature is the title of a useful page on the America’s Promise Alliance website. I was less-than-impressed with their other resources in their “Parent Engagement Toolkit,” but the literature list looks good, and I learned about one or two resources that I hadn’t known before…

The Flamboyan Foundation has developed a very accessible review of the most current parent engagement/involvement research. It includes some surprising info, particularly around issues related to homework. They’ve published it in two parts, and the great thing about it is that both are only two pages long!

The first is called Setting the Stage: The Parent Engagement Field.

The second is titled What Kinds Of Parent Engagement Are Most Effective?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently published What can parents do to help their children
succeed in school?

It’s relatively short, and I think it’s a “must-read.”

Here’s how it ends:

The bottom line: All parents can help their children achieve their full potential by spending some time talking and reading with their children…

The state of California has come up with a series of recommendations that are not very helpful, but includes a great summary of parent involvement/engagement research.

“Improving Parent Involvement in Secondary Schools through Communication Technology” is the title of a new journal article by Laura Bardroff Zieger from New Jersey University. Her thoughts on the possible uses of technology is interesting, but I think the real useful information is in a couple of sections where she provides good summaries and analyses of previous research on parent involvement/engagement.

Sarah Sparks at Education Week has published a very readable summary of new parent involvement research. Her post, Parents Need Differentiated School Engagement, Study Finds, explains that research has:

identified three main types of parents, each of which a school must address to have a successful family-involvement program:

• Help seekers: Roughly 19 percent of parents are most concerned with finding out their own children’s academic progress and learning how they can help their students improve.

• School helpers: This 27 percent of parents is the closest to the traditional picture of the “PTA mom and dad.”

• Potential transformers: Finally, 31 percent of parents said they were interested in and ready to be more involved in shaping how the schools operate.

It’s definitely worth reading her entire post. (also, here’s another very readable summary of the research, Ready, Willing and Able?)

Attendance Works, an organization emphasizing school attendance, has just published a “new toolkit” called Bringing Attendance Home: Engaging Parents in Preventing Chronic Absence. It’s a good piece of work, though most of the ideas in it aren’t anything new. However, one thing did stick out, and that was some recent research done with parents of chronically absent children. It’s in the report, and you can also read about it in a blog post of theirs titled What Parents Really Think About School Attendance.

The National Center For Family Literacy has announced the release of a treasure trove of research on family literacy.

Here’s their announcement:

We are pleased to announce the online publication of the 21st National Conference on Family Literacy Research Strand Conference Proceedings.This document is a collection of research papers from featured sessions presented at the NCFL conference in San Diego in March of this year.

This is the first time a published compendium of the presentations is available. This is possible in partnership with Goodling Institute at Penn State University.

Now more than ever, we must highlight and make accessible research on family literacy. These proceedings are another step in bringing family literacy, as a research-supported issue, to the forefront of policy, academic, and practice-based conversations.

In this publication, you will have the opportunity to explore many facets of the family literacy field as researchers address a range of pertinent topics. These proceedings papers were chosen because they are relevant and informative to teachers, administrators, and scholars.

We were encouraged by the success and feedback we received on the research strand presentations at the conference in March and hope that these proceedings will remind each of us of the work that is being done and continues to be done in the name of family literacy.

The compendium can be accessed on the Goodling Institute website by clicking here.

Anne Henderson, the well-known researcher on parent involvement, made a presentation to the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education (NCPIE) , and was gracious enough to her PowerPoint presentation.

She described her presentation as:

a short update on important new research, including a study from Great Britain that shows dramatic gains for special education students in schools where teachers and parents have collaborative conversations about learning, focused on skills that need to be strengthened. Information about this study is in the PPT…

What Roles Do Parent Involvement, Family Background, and Culture Play in Student Motivation? is from The Center On Education Policy, and, let me tell you, it’s a must-read for anyone interested in parent – and student – engagement.

Parental Involvement and Children’s School Achievement is a study from Canada that looked a parent involvement through a “lens” that I haven’s seen other research use — gender. Here’s a portion of their summary:

Fathers’ academic pressure was predictive of lower achievement, whereas mothers’ encouragement and sup-port predicted higher achievement. Both parents used more academic pressure with their sons, whereas using more encouragement and support with their daughters. The effects of parental involvement were mediated through children’s academic competence. This study demonstrates the interactive influences of parents’ educational involvement and children’s personal characteristics in predicting school achievement.

William H. Jeynes is a California professor who did some exceptional research on parent engagement in 2007 which I cited in my book, Building Parent Engagement In Schools.

He published this newer study I’m highlighting here a year ago and, for the life of me, I can’t believe I haven’t heard about it earlier. It’s titled A Meta-Analysis of the Efficacy of Different Types of Parental Involvement Programs for Urban Students and, like his earlier research, it’s not behind a paywall.

I feel this new study, as did his first one, includes some of the most valuable research on parent engagement that you’re going to find anywhere. It’s a meta-analysis of fifty-one other studies. It’s a typical academic paper but, if you’re interested in parent engagement, it’s definitely worth going through it.

Here’s an excerpt from his conclusions:

It is apparent that parental involvement initiatives that involve parents and their children reading together (i.e., engaging in “ reading”), parents checking their children’s homework, parents and teachers communicating with one another, and partnering with one another have a noteworthy relationship with academic outcomes. In addition, situation specific parental involvement efforts such as Head Start and ESL training for parents yielded effect sizes in the expected direction, albeit falling short of statistical significance.

Lesli Maxwell over at Education Week has written a good summary post, Immigrant Paradox Less Consistent in Young Children, Study Finds, about a new student related to English Language Learners. The study itself is lengthy, but has an interesting section on immigrant parents and schools. I was going to copy and paste that section because it’s pretty short, but it unfortunately is “protected” and won’t allow that action. So, just go to the study link and you’ll find the family involvement section on page 10 and 11. It’s worth a visit.

In my book on parent engagement and my more extended writing on the topic, I emphasize that one key difference between parent “involvement” and parent “engagement” is that we help parents develop their own sense of self-efficacy (confidence and competence) when we “engage.”

A new study reinforces its importance.

How Parents See Themselves May Affect Their Child’s Brain and Stress Level is an article summarizing the researchers conclusions.

Here’s an excerpt:

A mother’s perceived social status predicts her child’s brain development and stress indicators, finds a study at Boston Children’s Hospital. While previous studies going back to the 1950s have linked objective socioeconomic factors — such as parental income or education — to child health, achievement and brain function, the new study is the first to link brain function to maternal self-perception.

In the study, children whose mothers saw themselves as having a low social status were more likely to have increased cortisol levels, an indicator of stress, and less activation of their hippocampus, a structure in the brain responsible for long-term memory formation (required for learning) and reducing stress responses.

The PBS News Hour has done a segment titled Parents study up on how to improve college prospects for their children. I’ve embedded the video below, and you can also read the transcript at this link. In addition, they published a blog post about it. This “Parent College” sounds fine, though it does seem to have the same shortcomings of other parent academies that I’ve pointed out at My Best Posts On Parent “Academies” & “Universities.”

What I find most useful about the PBS report, though, was their discussing a recent study on parent engagement that was new to me. It’s called Does capital at home matter more than capital at school? Social capital effects on academic achievement.

“Five Stereotypes About Poor Families And Education” is a very useful excerpt from a new book by Paul Gorski that highlights some important research on parent engagement. It appears in Valerie Strauss’ blog at The Washington Post.

Here’s an excerpt:

There exist several common stereotypes about poor people in the U.S. that suggest that they are inattentive and, as a result, ineffective parents. Low-income parents or guardians who do not attend parent-teacher conferences can become targets of stereotyping—or worse, targets of blame—by those educators. According to Jervis (2006),

Judgments…can be self-reinforcing as ambiguous evidence is taken not only to be consistent with preexisting beliefs, but to confirm them. Logically, the latter is the case only when the evidence both fits with the belief and does not fit the competing ones. But people rarely probe the latter possibility as carefully as they should. (p. 651)

So, whereas a more well-to-do parent or guardian might be pardoned for missing structured opportunities for family involvement—she’s traveling for work—a low-income parent or guardian’s lack of this sort of involvement might be interpreted as additional evidence of disinterest in her or his child’s schooling (Pattereson, Hale, & Stessman, 2007).

I published a post titled The Importance Of Telling “Family Stories.” In it, I discussed an article that reviewed a number of studies that found value in parents telling their children about family stories.

The Washington Post wrote a more in-depth piece about one of those studies, and included a pretty useful “Do You Know” series of questions that teachers could easily give to students as an assignment. I love projects that require students asking their parents questions, and this one would be perfect.

Meta Analysis of the Studies of High Performing Family Literacy Programs comes from Toyota Family Literacy Program Research Project, and it looks pretty useful.

Here’s a description:

The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) announces the release of Toyota Family Literacy Program Research Project, a meta-analysis of high-performing family literacy programs in a variety of communities/cities across the U.S. NCFL invited seven cities that have shown exemplary development and implementation of Toyota Family Literacy Programs to participate in unique research projects. The research projects represent a culmination of data collected over the course of program implementation and identified positive outcomes related to the program itself, program participants, and program staff. The participating cities are located in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Florida.

Through the research projects, NCFL sought to identify positive outcomes for parents and children, as well as for teachers and other program staff, as a result of family literacy programs. Data collection ranged from scores on standardized assessments and surveys to focus groups, personal interviews, or document review.

The Power Of Parents: Research underscores the impact of parent involvement in schools is a new accessible report from Ed Source (done in collaboration with New America Media.

It provides a well-written summary of a fair amount of parent involvement research, and is definitely one of the best overviews out there. It could have been THE best, but it was a little surprising to me that most of the research it cited (with a few exceptions) was ten years old or more. There have been a fair number of more recent studies (so many, in fact, that I have a lengthy collection to review for a chapter in an upcoming book), and their report could have been the best thing out there if they had incorporated more of them.

Nevertheless, it’s still an excellent piece of work.

Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research looks like a useful review of studies on the topic. It’s a report by the Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth for the Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau.

Parental Involvement in Selected PISA Countries and Economies comes from OECD.

Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework is the title of an article in The Atlantic by Dana Goldstein. It describes research shared in a new book, The Broken Compass:Parental Involvement With Children’s Education by two professors which, at least according to Dana Goldstein, questions most the effectiveness of what most of us would typically consider parent involvement/engagement. Based on what The Atlantic article says, this new research apparently disproves most of what you’ll find shared in this post.I’m not convinced that everybody else is wrong and these professors are right, but I’ve just ordered the book to see for myself what they have found. I also recognized that a short article does not always provide the best summary of a full-length book. I’ll write a future post about my conclusions. (for more info, read “Questioning Parental Involvement”)

The National Center For Families Learning has just published a useful “Family Engagement Brief.”

I don’t think people familiar with parent engagement research will find anything new in it, but it provides a well-written and concise review of research on the topic, along with providing some case studies.

Analysis Offers Insights Into Tapping Parent Power to Increase Achievement is the headline of an Ed Week article that appears to do a very good job of dissecting a major new research study on parent involvement whose results seem to be all over the place.

I’m not going to even try to summarize it, but I was struck that one action researchers highlighted was the positive effect of providing interpreters and translated materials in urban schools.

The Strengths of Latina Mothers in Supporting Their Children’s Education: A Cultural Perspective is a new report from the Child Trends Hispanic Institute.

A new study has been released on the impact teacher/parent communication can impact students.

You can read a good summary of the study, titled ““The Underutilized Potential of Teacher-to-Parent Communication: Evidence from a Field Experiment” — here.

There were several interesting findings, including that fact the messages from the teacher to the parent that included specific suggestions of what their child could do to improve in school were effective in generating student improvement (as opposed to receiving just positive messages). Of course, that’s not a big surprise, but I thought it was particularly interesting that it didn’t result in more conversations between the parent and their child, but the same number with a different content. Those messages also resulted in a less positive teacher/student relationship.

To Help Language Skills of Children, a Study Finds, Text Their Parents With Tips is the headline of a New York Times article about a new study. It found that sending text messages to parents of very young children (like “Let your child hold the book. Ask what it is about. Follow the words with your finger as you read”) were more advanced academically than those whose parents did not receive them.

I thought that was interesting, particularly since another study that I’ve posted about in my other blog where adolescent students received encouraging texts was deemed a failure (I don’t have time right now to find that link but will add it later). Perhaps parents of very young children are in a more motivated frame of mind? I wonder how this experiment would work with parents of older children?

The Harvard Family Research Project has created what they call Family Involvement Bibliographies.

Here’s how they describe it:

Family engagement strategies are changing to respond to innovations in education and technology, concerns about equity and opportunity, and expectations about school readiness. Research continues to provide us with new insights and a solid base for innovation as well as continuity.

We are pleased to share the latest research that can inform policy, professional development, and practice. These new additions to our Family Involvement Bibliographies series include a wide range of research studies published in 2012 and 2013 on such topics as:

Children’s media use in America
Parent and teacher support among Latino immigrant youth
Transition to school
Family-school connectedness and children’s early social development
Preservice teachers’ multicultural teaching concerns and knowledge of parent involvement.

Parental involvement still essential in secondary school is the headline of a report on a new study examining parent involvement in the education of older children.

To no secondary teacher’s surprise, researchers found it was important…

Even though it doesn’t demonstrate anything earthshaking, I’m still adding it to this list because I don’t think there are many parent involvement studies focused on that age group.

Feedback is welcome.

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You might also want to explore the 780 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

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One thought on ““The Best Research Available On Parent Engagement”

  1. I’ve recently started a blog, the information you provide on this web site has helped me greatly. Thanks for all of your time & work.

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