Parent Involvement in Education: Benefits, Barriers, and the Role of the School



Presented to

Dr. Dan Coldeway



Prepared by:

Lorna Hofer, Amy Howardson, Gay Pickner



December 15, 2002

Parent Involvement in Education: Benefits, Barriers, and the Role of the School


New legislation, such as the "No Child Left Behind" Act, mandates that every child will succeed. In light of this legislation, parent involvement becomes even more vital to ensure that each child reaches his/her potential. Parent involvement has been shown to influence numerous aspects of a child’s education. Unfortunately, many parents face barriers that may prevent them from becoming involved in their child’s education. This paper looks at the value of parent involvement, the barriers faced by parents, and explores ways that schools can address these barriers.

Definition of Parent Involvement

What is the meaning of the term "parent involvement"? Parent involvement could include anything from assisting a student with homework to volunteering in a child’s classroom. In this paper, the term "parent involvement" includes any action a parent can take to support his child’s schooling both in the home and outside the home. According to Cotton and Wikelund (2001), "the kinds of parent involvement…include telephone and written home-school communications, attending school functions, serving as classroom volunteers, parent-teacher conferences, homework assistance/tutoring, home educational enrichment, and parent involvement in decision making and other aspects of school governance."

Importance of Parental Involvement

"Parents are their child’s best advocates" (State of Texas, 1999). Parental involvement is often thought to be of primary importance during the child’s elementary education only. Research, however, states that involvement is necessary and effective at all levels of education and further shows that the positive effects of parental involvement are even carried into adulthood.

While the level of involvement in a child’s education can be quite varied the positive effects are paramount. It should be the desire of both the school and the parents to see each child succeed. Henderson and Berla (1994) list four keys roles that parents play in order to have a positive effect on their child’s learning and achievement. The roles they describe are as follows:

Teachers provide evidence that parental involvement plays a significant role in a student’s success in school. According to Tammy Roesler (WebBoard Discussion, 2002), "…parental involvement is very important to a student’s success in school. Children want to share their day and let the parents know what happened that day or what they learned. They want to know that mom and dad will be there to help them with homework if it is an educator I still find that parents need to be involved. The students are more motivated to do well in school if they know their parents care."

Barriers to Parental Involvement

Many barriers exist that may prevent parents from being actively involved in a student’s education. "In 1992 The National PTA sent a survey to its 27,000 local and unit presidents and 3,000 council leaders, asking them what barriers they faced when they tried to get parents involved. The chart below recapitulates their responses" (Iowa Dept. of Education):


Percent Giving this Response

Parents do not have enough time

89 %

Parents feel they have nothing to contribute

32 %

Parents don't understand; don't know the system; they don't know how to be involved

32 %

Lack of child care

28 %

Parents feel intimidated

25 %

Parents are not available during the time school functions are scheduled

18 %

Language and cultural differences

15 %

Lack of transportation

11 %

Parents don't feel welcome at school

9 %

Other barriers

21 %

According to a report from the State of Texas (1999), parents tend to be less involved in the educational process as their children grow older. "Volunteerism drops during these years, as well, from 33 percent of involved parents in first grade to 8 percent of involved parents in seventh grade. This decline in involvement is the result in part of a variety of challenges that families face that make their participation difficult." Some of these challenges that can potentially become barriers include:

Positive Effects of Parent Involvement in a Child’s Education

"I see evidence every day in teaching that indicates parental involvement in the lives of children plays a significant role in development. There are exceptions to every situation, but the majority of students who are developing as quality human beings with good character and successful life skills have parents "lurking" in the wings who are interested, involved, and active in their lives. Kids who are floundering in life usually have parents who don’t take the time to be an involved parent. We’ve all seen this first hand when it comes to conferences with students who are successful and doing well in class. I almost never see the parents of students I NEED to see. Parental involvement sends a message of caring to a child – about them, about school, about life in general. The negative, I-don’t-care attitude spreads very quickly to a child, as does a positive can-do, this-is-important attitude. So, YES! I think parental involvement is vital. (Barb Schmidt, WebBoard, 2002).

Parent involvement affects the education of a child in numerous ways. Research and literature document the positive influence parental involvement has on areas such as student achievement, classroom behavior, and attendance.

Student attitude and behavior is one area that is greatly influenced by parent involvement. According to Cotton and Wikelund (2001), "…all active forms of parent involvement seem more or less equally effective in bringing about improvements in students’ attitudes and behavior."

A study by the San Diego County Office of Education (1997) states that student achievement improves:

    1. in a home environment which encourages learning.

    2. when parents express high (but not unrealistic) expectations for their child’s achievement and future careers.

    3. when parents become involved in their child’s education at school and in the community.

"When schools work together with families to support learning, children tend to succeed, not just in school, but throughout life. In fact, the most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income or social status, but the extent to which that student’s family is involved" (San Diego, 1997).

The Role of Technology in Fostering Parent Involvement

The use of technology provides the capability for parents to be more involved in their child’s education. Technology fosters communication between the home and school by using such tools as e-mail and web pages as well as providing access to on-line grading and attendance programs.

E-mail can be a powerful tool that provides for immediate communication between the parent and school. Due to parent and teacher schedules, it is often difficult to contact one another during the school day. Technological tools such as e-mail provide a viable solution to this barrier to parent involvement.

Teacher webpages are another way that parents can be involved in their child’s education. A teacher webpage can provide access to student projects, homework assignments, classroom calendars, etc. Web pages can be used to provide parents access to information that may have traditionally only been sent home with the student.

On-line attendance and grading programs such as Dakota Campus provide parents with up-to-date information about their child’s attendance and grades. Through the use of parent portals parents can access their child’s data anytime, anyplace via the Internet. One South Dakota high school teacher stated, "imagine being able to see each day, period by period, if your child is on time for his classes, or even if they were in class at all, as well as their current grade report!!" (Robert Gill, WebBoard, 2002).

The School’s Role in Fostering Parent Involvement

In light of the importance of parental involvement, schools should communicate a genuine desire to involve parents. "School staff wishing to institute effective programs will need to be both open-minded and well-organized in their approach to engaging parent participation" (Cotton & Wikelund, 2001). Some steps that schools can take to foster parental involvement include:


"Family involvement in the education of children is essential to academic success. Research shows that several barriers stand in the way of parent involvement." (State of Texas, 1999). In order to foster parental involvement in each child’s education, schools must address the barriers to parent involvement. Until these barriers are addressed and eliminated, children will not reap the benefits of parents who actively participate in the educational process.



Chaska Public Schools (1996, April). Policy guidance for Title I, Part A: Improving basic

    programs operated by local educational agencies. Retrieved December 10, 2002

    Web site:

Cotton, K. & Wikelund, K. (2001). Close-up #6: Parental involvement in education.

    Retrieved December 10, 2002 NW Regional Educational Library Web site:

Henderson, A.T., & Berla, N. (Eds) (1994). A new generation of evidence: The family is

critical to student achievement. (a report from the National Committee for Citizens in Education). Washington, DC. Center for Law and Education.

Iowa Department of Education. Parent Involvement in Education: A Resource for Parents,

    Educators, and Communities. Chapter 1 Retrieved December 15, 2002.

    Web site:

San Diego County Office of Education (1997). Parent involvement and student achievement.

    Retrieved December 10, 2002. Web site:

State of Texas Education (1999, June 28). Parental involvement in education. Retrieved

    December 10, 2002

Web site:

    WebBoard for LT785. (2002, December). Dakota State University.

Web site:

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