The power of parental expectations is expressed in everyday messages

parent expectationsThe importance of parent involvement may be obvious. How schools should harness it remains a bit of a mystery.

In his September Research Matters column for ASCD’s Educational Leadership, McREL CEO Bryan Goodwin observes that research shows home environment heavily influences student achievement.

But what about home environment and parental involvement has the most influence? Nagging kids to do homework? Showing an interest in school? Getting involved with extracurricular activities?

These tactics may be good for parent-child relationships, but none of them makes much difference in student achievement, Goodwin writes. The unsettling consequence? “[M]any schools’ parent involvement efforts may miss the mark.” These include such commonplace requests as checking homework or attending school events.

The thing about home that does have the power to boost achievement, Goodwin stresses, is “parental communication of high expectations.” Such parental expectations may be transmitted quietly, but they work—perhaps because young people internalize them and convert them into their own expectations for themselves.

How can schools leverage this understanding? Citing the work of William H. Jeynes of California State University, Long Beach, Goodwin advocates for “treating parents with kindness and respect”—conversing with them rather than handing them to-do lists.

Kindness and respect are harder to quantify than attendance and permission slips, but it seems they are more effective.

Read the entire column.