Ask Dr. Blank: Do you feel that children of parents who are more involved in their education do better in school?

Although the field of education is rife with controversy, this is a question about which there is amazing unanimity. The data consistently show that parent involvement in a child’s education has a positive association with a child’s academic performance.

The website Family facts.org offers an overview of some of the major findings such as:

School Readiness. Preschoolers whose parents are very involved with their schools score higher than their peers in all aspects of school readiness. 

Academic Achievement. Children whose fathers are involved in their education have greater academic achievement. 

Math and Science Achievement. Children of parents who promote math and science are more likely to study those subjects later on. 

High School Graduation. Students whose parents are highly involved in their education during elementary school are more likely to graduate from high school, complete high-school requirements, or complete a higher grade in high school. 

Academic Enrollment. High school students whose parents are highly involved and have high expectations for them are more likely to enroll in an academic program and complete core courses.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income Students. Low-income children whose parents are involved with their school activities tend to exhibit higher levels of academic achievement.

The data also reflect the unfortunate reality that even if the parental support is there, financial issues can pose serious problems. Between 1996 and 2007, the percentage of “low-income” students typically held back a grade reached 25%, while the percentage of “non-poor” students who were held back remained low and relatively constant.

Fortunately, the solution to these difficulties is less complex than is often imagined as reported in an interesting article in the Atlantic in 2015 titled Give Poor People Cash. It turns out that across many nations, a transfer of cash led to improvements in people’s lives on a range of important life dimensions. The effects were found in the United States as well. For example, our nation tried an unconditional cash-transfer program some years ago when a “negative income tax” provided cash to low-income recipients across five states between 1968 and 1980. Along with many other positive effects, the payments were associated with improved school attendance and improved children’s test scores. With so many families falling out of the middle class in recent years, it seems sensible –not only for the families but also for the nation–to revive the idea.

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