Parental Involvement in Schools

Publication Date:

Sep 16, 2018

Key facts about parental involvement in schools

  • In 2016, the percentages of students whose parents reported attending a general meeting at their child’s school, a parent-teacher conference, or a school or class event reached their highest recorded levels (89, 78, and 79 percent, respectively).
  • That same year, there were large disparities by educational attainment in the percentage of parents who attended school or class events (54 and 93 percent, respectively, for parents with less than a high school degree and those with a graduate/professional degree), and who volunteered or served on a committee at their child’s school (25 and 65 percent, respectively). These disparities have remained relatively constant since 1996.
  • Also in 2016, the percentage of parents who attended school or class events differed by poverty status (62 and 93 percent, respectively, for households in poverty and those not in poverty), as did the share of parents who volunteered or served on a committee (27 and 47 percent, respectively).

Trends in parental involvement in schools

Parental involvement in their child’s school—as measured by attendance at a general meeting, a parent-teacher conference, or a school or class event; or by volunteering or serving on a committee at the school—rose from 1996 to 2007. In 2012, parental involvement fell for most measures, but then rose on all measures in 2016. In 2016, 89 percent of students in kindergarten through twelfth grade had parents who attended a general meeting, compared to 77 percent in 1996; and 78 percent had a parent who attended a scheduled parent-teacher conference, compared to 72 percent in 1996. In 2016, 79 percent of students had a parent who attended a school or class event and 43 percent had a parent who volunteered in school or served on a committee, compared with 67 and 39 percent, respectively, in 1996 (Appendix 1).

Differences by grade

Parents have higher rates of attendance at school meetings, conferences, and events, and of volunteering in their child’s school, when their child is in elementary or middle school. In 2016, at least 90 percent of students in kindergarten through eighth grade had a parent who attended a general meeting with their teachers, compared with 82 percent of students in grades nine through twelve. In the same year, 92 percent of students in kindergarten through second grade and 90 percent of students in third through fifth grade had a parent who attended a scheduled parent-teacher conference, compared with 73 percent of middle school students and 58 percent of high school students. Parent attendance at school or class events is also highest for students in elementary school—at 85 percent of students in kindergarten through second grade and 84 percent of students in third through fifth grade, compared with 76 percent of middle school students and 73 percent of high school students. Among students in kindergarten through second grade, 56 percent had parents who volunteered or served on a committee, compared with 51 percent of students in third through fifth grade, 35 percent of students in sixth through eighth grade, and 32 percent of students in ninth through twelfth grade (Appendix 2).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin[1]

Parents of non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic students had lower rates of attendance at general meetings or school events, or of volunteering their time, relative to parents of non-Hispanic white students. In 2016, 80 percent of non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander students and 87 percent of non-Hispanic black and Hispanic students had parents who attended a general meeting, compared with 91 percent of non-Hispanic white students. Seventy-one percent of Hispanic and non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander students, along with 72 percent of non-Hispanic black students, had a parent who attended school or class events, compared with 86 percent of non-Hispanic white students. Thirty-four percent of non-Hispanic black students, 36 percent of Hispanic students, and 42 percent of non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander students had a parent who volunteered their time, compared with 49 percent of non-Hispanic white students. The lower participation by nonwhite parents may reflect an inability to attend school functions rather than any desire (or lack thereof) to participate in their children’s education. Nonwhite parents are less likely to have flexible work schedules.[2] However, students belonging to marginalized racial and ethnic groups experience similar levels of parental involvement in learning at home (Appendix 1).[3]

 

Differences by parental educational attainment

Parents with higher levels of education have higher rates of involvement in their children’s schools. For example, in 2016, more than 87 percent of parents with a bachelor’s degree or higher attended a school or class event, compared with 54 percent of parents with less than a high school education. This gap is even wider when it comes to volunteering or serving on a committee: 25 percent of parents who did not graduate from high school volunteered or served on a committee at their child’s school, compared with 65 percent of parents who completed graduate or professional school (Appendix 1).

Differences by poverty level

Parents of students living in households with income at or above the federal poverty level (FPL) have higher rates of involvement in school activities than those in households below the FPL. For example, during the 2015–2016 school year, 47 percent of students living at or above the FPL had a parent who volunteered or served on a committee at school, compared with 27 percent of students living below the FPL. Low-income workers tend to have rigid work schedules, which can make it difficult for them to participate in their children’s schools or attend school functions (Appendix 2).[4]

Differences by parents’ language

Parents who do not speak English at home have lower rates of attendance at general school meetings, parent-teacher conferences, or school or class events, relative to English-speaking parents; and lower rates of volunteering or serving on a committee. For example, in 2016, 62 percent of students with two parents who do not speak English had a parent attend a school or class event, compared with 71 percent of students with just one parent who does not speak English and 82 percent of students with two parents who speak English. Parents who do not speak English well may feel uncomfortable getting involved with their children’s schools, or have trouble communicating with school staff. However, school efforts to engage parents who do not speak English in their native language may improve their level of involvement (Appendix 2).[5]

Data and appendices

Data sources

  • Data for 2016: McQuiggan, M. & Megra, M. (2017). Parent and family involvement in education: Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016 (NCES 2017-102) [Table 2], Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2017/2017102.pdf.
  • Data for 2012: Noel, A., Stark, P., & Redford, J. (2013). Parent and family involvement in education, from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012 (NCES 2013-028) [Table 2]. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2013/2013028rev.pdf.
  • Data for 2007: Herrold, K. & O’Donnell, K. (2008). Parent and family involvement in education, 2006–07 school year, from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2007 (NCES 2008-050) [Table 3]. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2008/2008050.pdf.
  • Data for 2003: Vaden-Kiernan, N. & McManus, J. (2005). Parent and family involvement in education: 2002–03 (NCES 2005–043) [Table 3]. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2005043.
  • Data for 1996 and 1999: Wirt, J., Choy, S., Gerald, D., Provasnik, S., Rooney, P., et al. (2001). The condition of education 2001 (NCES 2001–072) [Table 54-1]. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2001/2001072.pdf.

Raw data source

National Household Education Surveys (NHES)

http://nces.ed.gov/nhes/

Appendices

Appendix 1. Percentage of Students in Grades K–12 Whose Parents Reported Involvement in Their Child’s School, by Type of Involvement and Selected Characteristics: Select Years, 1996–2016

Appendix 2. Percentage of Students in Grades K–12 Whose Parents Reported Involvement in Their Child’s School, by Type of Involvement and Selected Characteristics: 2016

Background

Definition

Parental involvement in school is defined as parent-reported participation at least once during the school year: attending a general school meeting, attending a scheduled parent-teacher conference, attending a school or class event, or volunteering in the school or serving on a school committee.

Endnotes

[1] Hispanic students may be of any race. Black, white, and Asian/Pacific Islander estimates do not include Hispanic students in this report.

[2] Golden, L. (2001). Flexible work schedules: Which workers get them? American Behavioral Scientist44(7), 1157–1178.

[3] Robinson, K. & Harris, A. L. (2015). The broken compass: Parental involvement with children’s education. J. Hardie, (Ed.). Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 44(5), 697–699.

[4] Watson, L. & Swanberg, J. E. (2011). Flexible workplace solutions for low-wage hourly workers: A framework for a national conversation. Washington, DC & Lexington, KY: Georgetown Law and University of Kentucky. Retrieved from http://workplaceflexibility2010.org/images/uploads/whatsnew/Flexible%20Workplace%20Solutions%20for%20Low-Wage%20Hourly%20Workers.pdf.

[5] Tarasawa, B. & Waggoner, J. (2015). Increasing parental involvement of English Language Learner families: What the research says. Journal of Children and Poverty, (21)2, 129–134.

Suggested Citation

Child Trends. (2013). Parental involvement in schools. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=parental-involvement-in-schools