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Parent Involvement in Children's Education: Efforts by Public Elementary Schools
NCES: 98032
February 1998

Highlights

  • Most public elementary schools (K-8) initiated communications with parents to inform them about school curricula and student performance. Between 83 and 85 percent provided information about the school's overall performance on standardized tests, furnished information about the goals and objectives of the instructional program, and issued interim reports on students' progress during grading periods (Figure 1).
  • Between 82 and 89 percent of all public elementary schools provided parents with information designed to promote learning at home and on topics related to child-rearing issues (Table 1). Information on community services was more available in larger schools, schools in cities, and schools with minority enrollments of 50 percent or more (Figure 2).
  • During the 1995-96 school year, the majority of public elementary schools (84 to 97 percent) held various activities intended to encourage parent involvement (Table 4). These included open houses or back-to-school nights, scheduled parent-teacher conferences, arts events, athletic demonstrations, and academic exhibitions.
  • Schools reported that parents were more likely to attend events that featured some interaction with students' teachers. Half or more indicated that "most or all" parents attended conferences with teachers and school open houses or back-to-school nights (Table 4).
  • Parent attendance at school-sponsored events varied by geographic region, poverty concentration, and minority enrollment in the school (Table 5). For example, while 72 percent of schools with a low concentration of poverty reported that "most or all" parents attended the school open house, 28 percent of schools with a high poverty concentration reported such high parent attendance. Similar differences were found on this variable when schools with low minority enrollments were compared to those with high minority enrollments (63 versus 30 percent). Schools in the Southeast also had considerably lower rates of parent attendance at the school open house than schools in other geographic regions (25 versus 46 to 67 percent).
  • In general, public elementary schools do not include parents in school decisionmaking to a great extent. One-quarter to one-third of all schools included parents to a moderate extent in most decisionmaking, with input on the development of parent involvement activities taken into consideration to a great extent by 31 percent of schools (Table 6).
  • The majority of public elementary schools (79 percent) reported having an advisory group or policy council that includes parents (Table 7). With the exception of decisions about evaluating teachers, schools with parents on advisory groups were more likely to consider parent input on all issues when compared to schools without these kinds of groups (Figure 8).
  • During the 1995-96 school year, over 90 percent of all elementary schools provided parents opportunities to volunteer both inside and outside the classroom, to assist in fundraising, and to attend meetings of the parent-teacher organization (not shown in tables). However, the percentage of schools satisfied with the degree of parent involvement in different activities decreased as the minority enrollment or the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch reached 50 percent or more (Table 10).
  • Given a list of concerns that might impede parent involvement in schools, the barrier named by the highest percentage of schools was lack of time on the part of parents (87 percent) (Figure 12). Lack of time on the part of school staff created barriers for 56 percent of schools, and
  • 48 percent indicated that lack of staff training in working with parents was a significant barrier. Lack of parent education to help with schoolwork, cultural/ socioeconomic and language differences between parents and staff, parent and staff attitudes, and safety in the area after school hours were considered barriers in a higher percentage of schools with poverty concentrations and minority enrollments of 50 percent or more than in schools low on these characteristics (Table 13).

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