Terms like ‘helicopter parent’ and ‘tiger mom’ have wavered between rallying cry and punchline over the last few years, yet according to new research from the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, the parental impact on student success has been discounted too much in recent education reform thinking. While efforts to improve the quality of teachers are typically front and center any time student achievement is discussed, what is often overlooked is the importance of family involvement to academic achievement.
Data shows parents’ assuming an active rather than a passive role in their children’s education can improve grades, general well-being, chances that students go on to graduate secondary school, and even if they will enroll and then go on to graduate from college. Lance Emerson, from ARACY, pointed out that until reformers move to increase parental engagement with the same gusto they’ve attacked the problem of teacher competency, any serious efforts to improve education will stall.
”I do think it’s the missing piece of the jigsaw in the education reform agenda,” Dr Emerson said. ”There are more gains to be made by implementing strategies that foster effective parental engagement, and strengthen the link between the home and children and community.”
That isn’t to say that the there’s no line to be drawn. Overly involved, pushy and demanding parents still hurt much more than they aid, especially when it comes to students’ self-esteem. It is important that children learn to be self-reliant, and parents who take too much of a hand in their studies rob kids of opportunity to learn that skill.
School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the report came at a crucial time, after the government last week introduced the Australian Education Bill 2012 – the first legislative step towards major national reform in the education system.
“With the National Plan for School Improvement now enshrined in legislation, we are moving forward with historic education reforms,” he said.
Garrett added that the plan calls for every school to come up with a school improvement strategy that outlines how the school plans to involve and engage the parents and the rest of the local community in the effort.
Although the government’s latest move does attempt to take parents into account, overall, Australia is lagging other countries when it comes to taking active steps to get parents involved. Emerson pointed to Parent Information Resource Centers, established in some U.S. schools, especially those located in urban areas, that have become a one-stop-shop for anything school- or district-related as models that more Australian schools should emulate.