How Much Should Parents Be Involved in Their Children's Education?

Placing blame is an exercise we never shy away from. When schools are failing, we may be quick to point our finger to teachers. And for some, we may hold the parents or the lack of good parenting accountable. It takes a village to raise a child so I guess we are all indeed responsible. In response to the recent school shooting in Florida, there is a Facebook post made by a schoolteacher that caught my attention. Amie Diprima Brown, a teacher in Cartersville Middle School, notices how much has changed in terms of how involved parents are in their children's growth and development. 

Amie Diprima BrownFebruary 22 at 8:50pmRome, GAWith all of the talk about guns in schools, why it’s happening, and how to solve the issue let me offer a little different perspective. I’ve been teaching since 2003. This marks my 15th year in the classroom. Everybody always talks about how schools have changed, and it’s true, they have. Yes, there’s the “crazy new math” and “bring your own device” changes. However, there are some other changes that I think the general population is not aware of.
Every year for 15 years I have sent home the same assignment on the first day of school. I send a letter home asking parents to tell me about their child in a million words or less. I go on to explain that I want to learn the child’s hopes, dreams, fears, challenges, etc and jokingly ask parents to limit it to less than a million words since we all know we could talk forever about our children. I go on to say I’m not grading these, not looking at handwriting or grammar and don’t care if they send them back with their child, email them, drop them off at the office, etc. These letters have been so beneficial to me as a teacher and getting to know my students on a personal level. I have learned about eating disorders, seizures, jealousy issues between twins, depression, adoption, abuse...just to name a few things. These letters give me a huge head start on getting to truly know my students. I often pull them out when a child has a sudden change in behavior or issue that comes up. Just this week I had 2 students lose their mother unexpectedly. Brother and sister, I taught one last year and one this year. As I have done before, i immediately went to my folders to pull the letters that mom sent for her children. It’s a beautiful gift that I feel I can give students to get a glimpse into how much a parent loved and adored them. As I was putting the folders back in the file cabinet I noticed something. I know that the percentage of parents that complete this assignment each year has gotten lower and lower, but looking at the size of the folders shocked me. That first year I had 98% of the parents send back some type of letter on their child. This year... 22%. That’s a lot of opportunities lost for me to get to know students. Sadly, more parents have access to an electronic device that makes this task even easier and less time consuming.
On another note, this year’s average for homework turned in is riding at 67%. I’m talking a twice monthly 5 sentence summary of what the student is reading in their own time. I remind students daily, I send text messages through Remind, it’s on my website. The only other thing I could do is do it for them. Parents continue to let their child rack up zero after zero. But then again, that average used to be around 98% as well. It was rare for more than 1-2 students to not have their homework 15 years ago. Now, it’s just frustrating.
With all of our other responsibilities in our profession, how are we supposed to get to know students so that we can identify the ones with the mentality and disposition to become a school shooter if parents are checking out of the academic process? How are we supposed to educate children when their parents don’t require, expect and demand their child complete their homework?
Don’t wait until your child is the school shooter to let us know your child is struggling mentally. Don’t wait until your child is ineligible for sports or the day before report cards to check grades and question the teacher on why your child is failing.
Be a parent. Be involved in your child’s life so that you can help them through the issues with friends, the possible suicidal thoughts, and problems academically. I promise you, if parents spent more time with their children and got involved in their lives, we would see drastic improvements in our schools and our society.
As parents, our job is to grow the most amazing humans possible. Its the most important job in the world. The education and emotional stability a parent provides is priceless.
Amie Diprima Brown also provides the following photo to illustrate vividly the dramatic change she has noticed:

Above photo copied from Amie Diprima Brown
These are letters from parents of her students in 2017 compared against letters she received in 2003

Brown ends her post with "The education and emotional stability a parent provides is priceless." This statement is in fact supported strongly by research. In a recent study that includes more than 500 third grade children in HongKong, the correlation between parental involvement and a child's academic and emotional learning is clear:

Above copied from
Wong, R.S.M., Ho, F.K.W., Wong, W.H.S. et al. J Child Fam Stud (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-017-1011-2

Parental involvement correlates positively with language and mathematics outcomes. As important, children with parents involved in their education demonstrate less emotional and conduct problems. The authors explain the home-based parental involvement score as follows:
The Home-Based Involvement Scale includes four items which assess the extent to which parents spend time with children in educational activities outside of school (e.g. “During the current school year, how often did you or your spouse encourage your child to do homework independently?” and “How often did you or your spouse discuss with your child on materials learned in class each week?”). Items within this home-based scale were rated by parents on a 4-point scale, ranging from 0 = never to 3 = five times or above each week.
The score therefore measures just the number of times a parent gets involved in a child's education. I am sure that the quality of this involvement is also important but, in a study, is perhaps more difficult to measure. Nonetheless, one thing that is obvious in the above graphs is that there is a plateau when it comes to academic outcomes. It appears at around 2, which is still quite close to five times a week (or everyday). So when addressing the title of this blog post;  "How Much Should Parents Be Involved in Their Children's Education?". The answer is "almost on a daily basis".

Parental involvement is indeed important. However, one thing the study also covers is the relationship between these outcomes and a child's engagement in school. And here, the correlation is stronger. In this study, how a child's engagement in school is measured is described as follows:
The scale has total ten items, with four items measuring
children’s effort and participation in school and six items
assessing children’s attitudes and enjoyment at school. All
the items were rated by child participants on a 5-point scale
ranging from 0 = never to 4 = always.
So, I guess we are all correct, parental involvement does count, but we also should not lose sight of the fact that how a child experiences school is likewise important.


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