Parent Engagement Improves Student Achievement

A  new report shows that parent engagement in learning improves student achievement, attitudes to school and wellbeing. It says that resourcing and developing parent engagement initiatives is essential to education reform and the future of Australia.

The report found a strong consensus in research evidence over 40 years that positive parent engagement has a significant influence on student achievement. It leads to higher grades and tests scores, higher successful completion of classes, lower dropout rates, higher graduation rates and a greater likelihood of going onto tertiary education. It also results in more regular school attendance, better social skills, improved behaviour, and better adaptation to school.

The report drew a distinction between involving parents in schooling and engaging parents in learning. It found that it is the latter that has the greatest positive impact. While involving parents in school activities may have an important community and social function, the key to facilitating positive change in a child’s academic achievement is the engagement of parents in learning outcomes in the home.

The evidence reviewed in the report indicates that parent engagement interventions have the greatest impact when they are focused on linking behaviours of families, teachers and students to learning outcomes. This can be done by:
• Principals and teachers supporting parents;
• Building consistent trusting relations between the school and parents;
• A clear and shared understanding of the roles of parents and teachers;
• Strategies focused on the needs of the local community; and
• A variety of communication options between parents, teachers, the school and the wider community.

The report found evidence on a variety of ways which have been found to be effective in promoting parental engagement. These include effective communication with parents, parent-teacher meetings, internet and social media, community liaison officers, and homework centres.

The research was conducted by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth and commissioned by the Family-School Partnership Bureau which is jointly operated by the Australian Parents Council and the Australian Council of State School Organisations.

The report was released by the Federal Minister for Education, Peter Garrett. He said that the Government recognises the value of parent engagement. He said that the new Education Bill introduced into the Parliament last month provides for every school to have a School Improvement Plan which will include details of how the school will work with parents and will be developed in consultation with parents and the school community.

Significantly, the Minister did not respond to the report’s support for better resourcing of parent engagement in student learning. This has been the story about parent engagement in Australia for the past 25 years or more. There is always lots of rhetoric from governments and education departments in support of parent engagement but this is never translated into funding support and real resources on the ground in schools.

The new report creates an opportunity to press for systematic funding support for parent engagement in schools. It should be a priority for all parent and teacher organisations.

Trevor Cobbold

Emerson, Lance, Josh Fear, Stacey Fox and Emma Sanders 2012. Parental Engagement in Learning and Schooling: Lessons from Research. A report by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) for the Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau, Canberra.

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