Parent Involvement and ‘Stage-Setting’

Vol. 16 No. 5

trustees eletter vol16 no5 parentinvolment

It’s no surprise that research seems to support the notion that students fare better in school when their parents are involved in their education. However, what does “parent involvement” mean? Definitions are elusive.

Studies have typically focused on the degree in which parents supervise homework, communicate with teachers, set high expectations for their children, attend school functions, support schools monetarily, etc. For private-independent schools, it’s essential that administrators and teachers understand not only the importance of parent involvement, but how to aid in their children's success—in school and out. How is this best achieved?

One study, published recently by The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences,A New Framework for Understanding Parental Involvement: Setting the Stage for Academic Success,” sheds new light on this topic.

Angel L. Harris, professor of sociology and director of the Program Research on Education and Development of Youth at Duke University, with researcher Keith Robinson, focused on 63 facets of parent involvement in schools. They determined there was “no clear positive connection between parental involvement and academic outcomes. … In fact, there were more negative associations (27 percent) between parental involvement and achievement than positive associations (20 percent).”

So, then, how do parents best help their children attain academic success?

Based on their research, Harris and Robinson proposed the theory that “stage-setting” by parents—establishing and demonstrating “the importance of schooling and the overall quality of life they create for their children”—yields the best results.

In short, the most powerful parental support occurs when parents convey the value of learning to their children, and provide an environment in which learning can flourish.

Nonschool factors contribute greatly in academic outcomes. If the home lifestyle conveys a message of learning—parents regularly reading, engaging in critical thinking in common discussions, sharing ideas—children usually do well in school, no matter how much their parents are involved in “schooling.”

Hounding students about grades and ratcheting up the stress rarely leads to success. The research indicates that parental actions of attending a child’s music recital, allowing a child to make decisions, and being generally supportive of the child’s life is academically far more effective overall.

For your private-independent school—where parents pay tuition to “buy” the best education they can for their children—it may be time to rethink your expectations of parents. Instead of focusing on traditional forms of parent involvement, consider taking a more active role in helping parents develop home conditions that better “set the stage” for student success.

Impress on parents how their “living by example” can enhance their children’s academic success. Share with them strategies and techniques that will help them show their children, even with subtlety, the importance of learning.

Additional ISM resources:
The Source for Academic Leadership Vol. 11 No. 1 Is Your College Prep School Meeting Placement Expectations?
The Source for Trustees Vol. 14 No. 5 College Expectations and Your Strategic Academic Plan

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 42 No. 1 Solutions for Your Wandering Mission Statement
I&P Vol. 38 No. 1 21st Century Education and Your School’s Parents

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