Monday, October 15, 2012

Reading Research Monday: Parents' Influence on Student Performance

Today's Reading Research Monday isn't directly related to reading.  It is related to school in general, but implications for improving reading ability can be easily inferred.


Published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility on September 5, 2012, Does Capital at Home Matter More than Capital at School?: Social Capital Effects on Academic Achievement examines how parents influence student performance. The study analyzes results from 10,000 12th graders.

Co-authors Dr. Toby Parcel, Dr. Mikaela Dufur, and Ph.D. student Kelly Troutman found that parents have more influence over student success than schools do.  Parcel summarizes their findings by stating:

The effort that parents are putting in at home in terms of checking homework, reinforcing the importance of school, and stressing the importance of academic achievement is ultimately very important to their children's academic achievement.

This new study is supported by many other sources including: Pamela E Davis-Kean's The Influence of Parent Education and Family Income on Child Achievement: The Indirect Role of Parental Expectations and the Home Environment, and the Michigan Department of Education's What Research says about Parent Involvement in Children's Education in Relation to Academic Achievement.

Both of these resources confirm the recent study's findings by concluding that:
  • Active parental involvement leads to:
    • Higher grades, test scores, and graduation rates
    • Better school attendance
    • Increased motivation, better self-esteem
    • Lower rates of suspension
    • Decreased use of drugs and alcohol
    • Fewer instances of violent behavior
  • Family participation in education was twice as predictive of students’ academic success as family socioeconomic status.
  • The most consistent predictors of children’s academic achievement and social adjustment are parent expectations of the child’s academic attainment and satisfaction with their child’s education at school.


These studies remind me of a welcome letter I've seen from a pediatric dentist office.  In the letter, they remind parents who are bringing their child to the office for his or her first visit that parents should avoid phrases like, "There is nothing to be scared of."  While a phrase like this intends to be positive and put a child at ease, it actually tells a child that there is the potential for something scary to happen.  With no prior knowledge of a dentist office, the child wouldn't have had any correlation between the words "scary" and "dentist," but by trying to help, parents can inadvertently set the wrong expectation for the dental check-up.

This isn't to say that parents alone make or break a child's success.  School still needs to be a safe, learning-centered environment where students participate in a rich variety of activities that are appropriately challenging for them.  However, parents do set the tone for what children should expect and what is expected of them at school.

Teachers and administrators can and should reach out to parents to build awareness of this influence and provide parents with strategies they can use to help promote the importance of education.  

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