What an Arizona mom learned about the effects of parental involvement

May 3, 2023

Graduation season is upon us. Last Thursday, Brigham Young University had its commencement, and this week is commencement for many of Utah’s public universities. High schools across the country are preparing for their graduation ceremonies as well. School graduations are considered an important life capstone, one that most often requires significant support from parents and family in order to accomplish. 

Parental involvement matters for student outcomes 

In fact, decades of research show that parental involvement in a child’s education leads to better attendance, behavior, grades, social skills and more. Parent engagement also increases the likelihood of high school and college graduation. 

Aside from research, many parents know firsthand that this is true. 

One Arizona parent – a relative of mine – observed that her son was struggling to speak before starting kindergarten. She sought state-funded speech programs. When he started kindergarten at a public school, she arranged for a specialist to come to their house to build his language skills further. During his early school years, she pursued necessary testing, continued to attend IEP meetings, and worked at home on skills he was learning with his professional educators.  

Today, her son is thriving in a public high school, and in some subjects he has even progressed beyond his grade level. She is certain her early and ongoing involvement in his education is what made the difference. She acknowledges that while schools do the best they can, it was her own awareness and effort that became the consistent variable to help fill gaps for her son.  

Her story is not unique. Parents are often the reason why their students succeed and complete schooling, especially when those students have a specific hurdle to overcome.  

All parents can be involved in their child’s education 

The good news is parents can be involved no matter what type of education they choose for a child: traditional public school, charter school, private school, or a host of parent-driven education options.  

For those who send their kids to a school outside their home, this can be accomplished by seeking out communication with educators and school administrators, volunteering at school events, participating in associations like parent-teacher organizations, and more. 

But for parent-driven education – when parents directly guide, teach and/or host education for their children’s education – parental involvement is baked into the environment in more direct ways. Parent-driven options existed before the COVID-19 pandemic but were catalyzed by school shutdowns across the country. During this period, many parents had to help students, side-by-side, get through online content while schools were closed for in-person instruction – a type of forced parental involvement. But ultimately, what came of that experience were more innovations that put parents more squarely at the center of education. 

Supporting parent involvement  

Parent-driven education is more than being involved through observing what’s being covered in class or asking questions of teachers and their students. Examples of parent-driven education include home schooling, multifamily co-ops, learning pods, microschooling with a parent or paid instructor, or fully remote learning completed at home. In parent-driven education, the parent is the administrator, and sometimes the teacher, in their student’s school. 

Because parental involvement is so important to student outcomes, and because parent-driven options require that to a high degree, policymakers and education leaders should do all that they can to study, understand and support these innovations. In many states, policies exist that allow funding to flow to these forms of schooling. The work of supporting them so they work broadly for students who need them is our next step in education policy. 

Insights: analysis, research, and informed commentary from Sutherland experts. For elected officials and public policy professionals.

  • Parental involvement and engagement in education is good for students
  • There is more than one way to get involved as a parent
  • Policymakers should study innovative ways to involve parents in education

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