Education Opinion

Parental-Involvement Caveats

By Walt Gardner — April 16, 2014 1 min read
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It’s always good to rethink conventional wisdom about factors affecting academic performance. At the top of the list is parental involvement. An analysis of longitudinal surveys spanning three decades found that the impact of parental involvement is far more nuanced than believed (“Parental Involvement Is Overrrated,” The New York Times, Apr. 13).

Rather than a blanket endorsement, the study reported that race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and the level of engagement determined the outcomes. For example, regularly discussing school experiences with Hispanic children improved their reading and math scores but depressed scores in the same subject for white children, (albeit only during elementary school).

The study concluded that most parental behavior had no benefit on academic performance. I don’t believe that any more than I believe that biology is destiny when it comes to health. There are too many variables in both cases. For example, helicopter parents, who represent one extreme of involvement, have a detrimental effect on their children’s achievement. At the other extreme are absentee parents, who also hurt their children’s achievement. I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. But exactly where is more art than science.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.