In the reform conversation, you hear a lot of talk about the teachers' influence on their students' academic progress, but very little about the role of parents. Teachers have a significant impact on their students, but a recent study suggests, the education reform conversation might need to be reframed.
Parents who want their children to succeed in school have more power and influence over their children academic progress than the schools themselves, according to a study by researchers from three universities.
Researchers compared measures of "family social capital" and "school social capital," discovering that even in schools that had low social capital, students were more likely to excel if their family social capital scores were high.
Measures of family social capital included:
• Does the parent check the student's homework?
• Does the parent attend school meetings?
• Does the parent attend school events?
• How much trust does the parent have in the child?
• How often do students report discussing school programs, activities, and classes with parents?
To measure school social capital, which is defined as a school's ability to serve as a positive environment for learning, the researchers evaluated:
• Student participation in extracurricular activities;
• Whether the school contacted parents;
• The level of teacher morale;
• The level of conflict between teachers and administrators;
• Whether teachers responded to individual student needs; and
• An overall measure of school environment that tapped delinquency, absenteeism, and violence.
"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," Dr. Toby Parcel, professor of sociology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C. and a co-author of the study, told Education Week.
"In part what's going on is that, when the children's parents are engaged in those ways, then the children pick up on it. They think, 'School is important. My parents think it's important,' and that increases their attachment to education, which translates into better achievement," Parcel said.
View the study 'Social capital effects on academic achievement.