The belief that parent involvement in education is related to children's learning and school performance is supported by a growing body of research. For example, in the report Strong Families, Strong Schools (U.S. Department of Education 1994), the authors conclude that when parents are involved in their children's learning, children earn higher grades and test scores, and they stay in school longer. The authors also claim that when parents are involved in a variety of ways at school, the performance of all children in the school tends to improve. Increasing family involvement in children's learning has become a special focus in school reform efforts. Findings from this survey suggest that schools are making efforts to encourage and accommodate parent participation in school programs. First, over 80 percent of all schools report communicating regularly with parents on a variety of topics, ranging from the goals and objectives of the school's instructional program to conveying good news about students' progress. Many schools also are striving to bridge the language barrier that exists for many families with limited English proficiency, with 85 percent of schools with parents of limited English skills providing interpreters for school meetings or conferences.
Second, schools are taking an active role in addressing some of the needs of children and families that go beyond the school walls, such as encouraging learning at home and providing information on parenting and child development issues, through newsletters, workshops, and parent resource centers. Moreover, schools are reaching out to families by sponsoring activities intended to encourage parent participation. During the 1995-96 school year, between 84 and 97 percent of schools held events such as open houses, parent conferences, displays and performances of students' work; over 90 percent provided parents volunteer and involvement opportunities. In general, schools report including parents in decisionmaking to a moderate extent, although schools with advisory groups that include parents are more likely to do so.
Parental response to these school efforts varied depending on the activity offered and across all school characteristics. The most consistent differences were found with concentration of poverty and minority enrollment in the school. In general, schools with high poverty concentrations and minority enrollments reported less parent involvement than schools with lower poverty concentrations and minority enrollments. Future research might address ways schools can more successfully attract parents from these groups.