Parent involvement Isn’t priceless – It’s $1000 per pupil

Ed Week had a brief take this week on some new parent involvement research – this time with an economic twist.

The study, which appeared in the May issue of the Journal of Human Resources, 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.”

Ed Week also noted:

Among their other findings, the researchers determined that some types of parental involvement matter more than others for student achievement. Having dinnertime conversations around schoolwork, for example, proved to be more valuable than volunteering at school.

The data analyzed by economists Karen Smith Conway and Andrew Houtenville (both of the U. of New Hampshire) comes from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS) which tracked 10,000 8th graders from public and private schools into early adulthood.

Buried among the sigmas and coefficients are these comments:

This paper explores the theoretical and empirical role that parental effort plays in the production of student achievement. Our simple theoretical framework reveals that parental effort is affected by the level of school resources and, although the effect is theoretically ambiguous, it appears likely to be negative. This suggests that parents may either magnify or diminish the effects of improved school resources on student achievement.

On the basic question “does parental effort improve student achievement?’” the researchers offer “a resounding ‘yes’; parental effort is consistently associated with higher levels of achievement.”

Congress also recognized the importance of parental effort when it passed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act by adding an eighth goal that ‘‘calls on schools to adopt policies and practices that actively engage parents and families in partnerships to support the academic work of children at home and shared educational decision-making at school’.’… Our research indicates that such an emphasis is a promising avenue to improved student achievement.

In looking ahead to additional research around the questions and possibilities raised in this report, the authors state that “The ideal data to study these questions also would contain more detailed parental effort information on much younger children over a long period of time.” Nevertheless, they reiterate, “our results strongly point to the potentially critical role that parental effort plays in the production of student achievement.”